|Year Released||1989||Commentary Tracks||None|
|Running Time||59:58 minutes||Other Extras||Programme Notes
|Region||1,2,3,4,5,6||Director||Herbert Von Karajan|
Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||Full Frame||MPEG||None|
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||None||Dolby Digital||4.0|
|16x9 Enhancement||No||Soundtrack Languages||"English" (Linear PCM 2.0, 1536Kb/s)
"English" (Dolby Digital 4.0 L-R-LS-RS, 448Kb/s)
|Theatrical Aspect Ratio||1.33:1||
|Subtitles||None||Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
Both of these pieces are highly listenable, and are uncluttered by the pretence and waffle which can often be found in classical music. Although the running time is slightly under one hour, it felt like only ten minutes, and I was quite upset for it to finish! Of note is the pianist for the second piece, the 17-year old Evgeny Kissin, who played the piano with absolute gusto and vigour. As is correct for someone as obviously eccentric as Kissin who can lead a full orchestra at such a young age, he is replete with an unkempt shock of hair, a somewhat confused and dazed expression, the odd facial tick, and a propensity for mumbling to himself. He is also clearly a genius in the motor function department, and typically his fingers were a blur as he performed some of the most strenuous and demanding playing I have been witness to.
The transfer is wanting in its sharpness and clarity, which is most definitely sub par. This is mostly the result of excessive edge enhancement which in this case simply smears away any detail, fine or otherwise. Long shots suffer from this problem the most, with the grandeur that should be the whole Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra becoming just a mess of blotches. Close camera work fares much better, and as usual with this series, the focus is very close such that anything not directly in sight is blurred, which is neither here nor there as far as I am concerned. There is no low-level noise in this image, and shadow detail is excellent.
Colours are muted, with only the violins offering any relief from what is otherwise a black and white event.
There are no MPEG artefacts whatsoever, unsurprisingly given the quite static nature of the image.
In keeping with the fine tradition of these classical recordings featuring Karajan, the audio is superb, and every bit as good as could be hoped for. I found the Dolby Digital 4.0 track to be superior in every way to the PCM track, which indicates that a great amount of care has gone into the surround mix. With the Dolby Digital 4.0 track being able to share the full 448 Kilobits per second around just four speakers, as opposed to the typical six, the bit-rate per channel is effectively very high relative to standard 5.1 mixes. This translates into a highly detailed soundfield, with instruments being clearly localisable within the very wide front soundstage. The sound is very warm, with strings sounding sweet and delicate. High frequencies are resolved with effortless clarity, without a hint of compression artefacting. This recording also has a tremendous dynamic range, with the opening segment of Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No. 1 having a huge weight behind it. Other passages are very soft and serene, whilst still sounding warm and detailed.
My singular complaint with this recording is with the way the piano has been recorded. Being an audio engineer from way back (was it that long ago?), I am probably more demanding than most, but I was surprised to find the piano presented in a variable way. Typically, a piano is recorded in stereo, with a natural spread from left speaker to right, low key to high. Evgeny Kissin's piano was indeed recorded like this at times, though being from centre to right, whilst at other times being presented mono only. I found this to be a minor but noteworthy observation.
The split surrounds were used for ambience and environmental cues only, and actual instruments did not make their way into the mix behind me. I am seemingly in a minority with regards to multi-channel recordings, since I like to have discrete placements of instruments around me. However, in the case of live recordings such as this, I am more than happy to have the orchestra up front. Any applause was omnipresent, being full strength in all speakers, which seemed a little odd, and really they should have been mixed behind to maintain the natural acoustics of the venue.
Whilst there is no discrete LFE track, there is plenty
of low frequency information contained within the Dolby Digital 4.0 track,
and well enough to keep my passive subwoofer happy. There is a perfect
balance between the frequency spread, and I found the level of bass to
be a nice counter to the high strings. I am also a sucker for simultaneous
bass and plucked strings, of which there are many examples in this recording.
|Surround Channel Use|
The video transfer is not the greatest, but don't be dismayed.
The Dolby Digital 4.0 soundtrack is excellent, and of the highest quality.
There are no extras to really speak of, save for
|DVD||Panasonic A360 (S-Video output)|
|Display||Pioneer SD-T43W1 125cm Rear-Projection Widescreen (16x9)|
|Amplification||Sony STRDB-930 (Optically connected)|
|Speakers||Centre: Sony SS-CN35 100-watt, Main & Surrounds: Pioneer CS-R390-K 150-watt floorstanders, Subwoofer: Optimus 100-watt passive|