Herbert Von Karajan

New Year's Concert - Vienna 1987

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Details At A Glance

Category Music Theatrical Trailer(s) None
Rating Other Trailer(s) None
Year Released 1999 Commentary Tracks None
Running Time 97:55 minutes Other Extras Programme Notes
RSDL/Flipper No/No
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region 1,2,3,4,5,6 Director Herbert Von Karajan 
Sony Pictures Classic
Sony Music
RPI $34.95 Music Johann Strauss (Father and Son)
Josef Strauss

Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame MPEG None
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None Dolby Digital 4.0
16x9 Enhancement No Soundtrack Languages "English" (LPCM 2.0, 1536Kb/s)
"English" (Dolby Digital 4.0, 448Kb/s)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio 1.33:1
Macrovision Yes Smoking No
Subtitles None Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

Plot Synopsis

    Yikes, I never thought I would be reviewing so much classical music, least of all on DVD. Well, I am, and so far it is going from strength to strength. This time we have Strauss on offer, played with enthusiasm and vigour by the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, and conducted in kind by Herbert Von Karajan in 1987. Something of a tradition, the "New Year's Concert" is a crowd pleaser in Vienna, and indeed is broadcast worldwide, and is exclusively Strauss material - of which there is much to draw upon, and contains some of my favourite pieces.

    We are treated to front row seats in the great Vienna Concert Hall whilst Karajan does his thing, and I must say that this is a most pleasing and uplifting performance. Predominantly polkas and waltzes, this is a very lively and energetic concert and one which Karajan himself was most anxious to be part of. Indeed, not being a young man, he was in ill-health leading up to this time, and many feared he would not be well enough to work since he cancelled many performances leading up to this. In fact, he was saving his strength and gave his all for this bash, and it shows, with his arms waving around even more vigorously than usual.

    The thing which really pleases me about this DVD, however, is that it has the incredible An der schonen, blauen Donau, otherwise known as the Blue Danube waltz. This is my all-time favourite classical piece, quite simply because I have heard it countless times since it is the backbone of Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey, and every time I hear it I cannot help but visualize that part of the movie. Considering that I have only every heard that piece in mono, from a well-worn VHS, the clarity, force, detail and presence of the version here made the hairs on my neck stand up and was thrilling.

    The performance consists of the following pieces:

1. Opening
2. Der Zigeunerbaaron Overture
3. "Sphärenklänge" Op. 235 Waltzer
4. "Annen-Polka" Op.117 Polka francaise
5. "Deliren-Walzer" Op.212
6. Die Fledermaus Overture
7. "Beliebte Annen-Polka" Op.137 Polka francaise
8. "Vergnügungszug" Op.281 Polka schnell
9. "Pizzicato Polka"
10. "Kaiser-Walzer" Op.43
11. "Perpetuum mobile" Op.257 Musikalischer Scherz
12. "Unter Donner und Blitz" Op.324 Polka Schnell
13. "Frühlingsstimmen" Op.410 Walzer
14. "Ohne Sorgen" Op.271 Polka Schnell
15. "An der schönen, blauen Donau" Op.314 Walzer
16. "Radetzky-Marsch" Op.228

Transfer Quality


     The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, and it is not 16x9 enhanced.

     Quite unlike the closed quarter studio recordings of the previous discs in this series which I have reviewed, the live video recording on offer here is of rather poor quality by comparison, even though this is PAL where the others were NTSC. The main problem with this transfer is the lack of sharpness. Indeed, the very first opening long shots of the concert hall filled with people gave me a sense of dread which I never really recovered from for the rest of the performance, at least visually. The image is at time dreadfully soft depending on which angle is being presented, which tends to suggest that not all cameras were equal when this was shot. Too much edge-enhancement also goes a long way in reducing fine detail to a washed out, almost VHS-looking picture. However, the picture is certainly watchable, although how many times you will want to see ballerinas doing their thing is something of a variable, and something I really only want to watch once.

    The colours were a bit variable, mostly being slightly undersaturated. Skin tones were also a problem at times, sometimes appearing reddish in hue.

    There were no MPEG nasties, nor were there any other standout artefacts. They were probably hidden by the poor image quality anyway. 

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-to-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    There are two soundtracks on this disc. The first and default soundtrack is Linear PCM, coded at 1,536 Kilobits per second. The second is Dolby Digital 4.0, coded at 448 Kilobits per second and channel configured as left, right and split surrounds with no centre and no subwoofer. I listened to the 4.0 mix.

    The recording is claimed to be entirely digital, from start to finish, earning it a DDD status, something only usually seen on CDs when the producers can be bothered to list it. Given that Karajan was somewhat of a pioneer in the field of digital recordings, I believe this statement implicitly. Certainly, the sound quality is very good and if turned up will grace your living room with a full sound that is sure to please.

    As with other discs in this series, the Dolby Digital soundtrack is wonderful and a testament to the format's ability to reproduce high quality multi-channel music recordings. I truly felt a part of this performance, almost as if I were there in the crowd. As musicians prepare for each piece, small taps, coughs and sundry noises are sprinkled around the room, giving a very real sense of "being there." Helping this effect further is a great sense of imaging from the front stage, with particular instrument groups localizable, and ambience from the rather large performance hall spilling into the rears. There are no discrete instruments in the rears, rather reverberations and echoes from the front filling out the rear quarters with just enough presence to widen the front stage yet still keeping the performance firmly in front. It goes without saying that this effect is simply not present in the otherwise very good Linear PCM mix.

    My subwoofer, being driven from the left and right speakers, had a lovely evening with this disc, although it is important to note that there is no dedicated .1 channel, and this may or may not be a problem for you depending on your configuration. Suffice it to say that there is bass-a-plenty on this recording, and to fully appreciate this you should have either full range speakers for all channels and/or an integrated subwoofer.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue N/A
Audio Sync N/A
Surround Channel Use



Performance Selections (16)

Programme Notes

    Very interesting, and a very good read, giving a good insight into the performance and how much importance Karajan placed on it.


R4 vs R1

    The Region 4 and Region 1 versions of this DVD are identically-featured.


    Another remarkable recording from this series, and my favourite thus far since it has The Blue Danube. Very lively and as spirited music as you will ever hear.

    The video transfer is quite poor, with the main problem being a lack of detail and sharpness. Still, it is watchable.

    The Dolby Digital soundtrack is excellent, and imparts a real sense of space and live presence.

    There are some notes, but nothing much in the extras section.

Ratings (out of 5)

© Paul Cordingley (bio)
27th July, 2000. 
Review Equipment
DVD Panasonic A360 (S-Video output)
Display Rear-Projection Pioneer SD-T43W1 125cm Widescreen 16x9
Audio Decoder d t s 5.1 & Dolby Digital 5.1 (DVD Player internal decoder)
Amplification Sony STRDE-525 5x100 watts Dolby Pro-Logic / 5.1 Ready Receiver; 4 x Optimus 10-band Graphic EQ
Speakers Centre: Sony SS-CN35 100 watt; Main & Surrounds: Pioneer CS-R390-K 150-watt floorstanders; Subwoofer: Optimus 100-watt passive