Herbert Von Karajan

Sergei Prokofiev Symphony No. 1 &

Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 1

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Details At A Glance

Category Music Theatrical Trailer(s) None
Rating Other Trailer(s) None
Year Released 1989 Commentary Tracks None
Running Time 59:58 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 Classical
Sony Music
RPI $34.95 Music Sergei Prokofiev
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
Macrovision Yes Smoking No
Subtitles None Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

Plot Synopsis

    I am thrilled to be able to review another Herbert Von Karajan recording from Sony's classical range of DVDs. On offer this time are two composers' works - Sergei Prokofiev's Symphony No. 1, and Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No. 1.

    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.

Transfer Quality


     This is essentially the same quality as previous discs in this collection, being somewhat poor in absolute terms due to both the age and the nature of the source material.

     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. 

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


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

    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.

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



    The menu is rather plain, but easy to navigate.

Movement Selections (7) + Chapter Stops (1)

Programme Notes

    Very readable notes, not quite as flowery as others in this series. I recommend reading these first, then listening to the performance.


R4 vs R1

    Both versions are effectively identical, and neither would be preferred based on video quality anyway. Stick with the local product.


    The last public performance by Herbert Von Karajan, and a most excellent performance by the Berlin Philharmonic. I loved it.

    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 some notes.

Ratings (out of 5)

© Paul Cordingley (bio)
20th August, 2000. 
Review Equipment
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