Igor Markevitch (EMI Classic Archive Series) (2003) (NTSC)

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Released 1-May-2005

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Music Bonus Track-Stravinsky - The Firebird, Suite
Trailer-Teresa Berganza
Trailer-Alfred Brendel
Trailer-Andre Cluytens / Emil Gilels
Trailer-Carlo Maria Giulini
Trailer-Glenn Gould
Trailer-Herbert von Karajan
Trailer-Igor Markevitch
Trailer-Nathan Milstein
Trailer-Mstislav Rostropovitch
Rating Rated E
Year Of Production 2003
Running Time 112:55
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Denise Billon
Brian Large
Ideale Audience
EMI Music
Starring Igor Markevitch
Igor Stravinsky
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $34.95 Music Richard Wagner
Dmitri Shostakovich
Igor Stravinsky

Video (NTSC) Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame Audio Linear PCM 48/16 1.0 (768Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 480i (NTSC)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

     The Classic Archive series from EMI features historical classical music performances originally broadcast on television. The source material comes mainly from the archives of the BBC and the French broadcaster INA. These DVDs are the video equivalent of historical music recordings on CD: allowance must be made for both the visual and sound quality. If you are familiar with historical CD recordings from the pre-LP era you will know what to expect.

    The series has so far concentrated on broadcasts from the 1950s and 1960s, when video technology was in its infancy. Black and white, monaural recordings are standard fare. These DVDs are therefore aimed more at collectors and enthusiasts than at the general music consumer. As virtually all of the highlighted artists are now dead or retired from the concert stage, this is the only way to see them as well as hear them.

    At the time of writing there are 27 titles available in Region 4, with more planned to be released. Volume 10 is dedicated to Igor Markevitch (1912-1983). Markevitch was born in Kiev, but left Russia with his family at the age of two and was raised in Switzerland. He achieved early success as a pianist and composer, but gradually became more interested in conducting. In his late twenties Markevitch gave up composing altogether and devoted himself to the podium.

    While not generally considered one of the greatest conductors of the 20th century (he is not featured in either of the two volumes of The Art of Conducting), Markevitch has achieved something of a cult following and his recordings continue to be reissued on CD. In appearance he is a slender, somewhat sombre figure, and his conducting style suits his appearance.

    The video direction is satisfactory, giving a reasonable view of the conductor as well as spotlighting individual players and groups in the orchestra.

    The works included on this DVD are:

    Richard Wagner (1813-1883)
    Overture to Tannhäuser (14:04)
    Prelude and Liebestod from Tristan und Isolde (18:44)

    The Wagner items are performed by the Orchestre National de l'ORTF and were taped by the French television station INA at a festival concert in 1968. Both are fine performances.

    Multiple cameras were used and consequently there are regular changes to the viewing angle. On some of the telephoto shots the camera wobbles distractingly, and some of the zooms and pans are less than smooth.

    Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975)
    Symphony No 1 in F minor Op. 10 (28:59)

    The symphony, again with the Orchestre National de l'ORTF, was recorded in a bare television studio in 1963 without an audience. Markevitch specialised in 20th century works, and this performance is workmanlike if uninspiring.

    Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971)
    Symphony of Psalms (20:05)

    This symphony is a setting of three psalms in Latin. There are no subtitles, but the original texts with English translation are included in the accompanying booklet. I'm not familiar with this work, so I can't give a evaluation of the performance, although the work as a whole makes a favourable impression. However, even having the Latin text in front of me, I found it difficult to determine what the choir was singing.

    The Orchestre Philharmonique et Choeurs de l'ORTF are the performers in this 1967 recording.

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Transfer Quality


    The video transfer of this material is very good, although allowances need to be made for the source material. The performances were recorded on video tape, which means that the visual quality is restricted by the limitations of the technology of the time. The 1963 material is of a noticeably lesser quality than the later items.

    All of the works on this NTSC DVD are in black and white and are presented in the original aspect ratio of 1.33:1.

    The image is not ideally sharp, but is sufficiently detailed to allow for undistracted viewing. As is usual with video of this vintage, there is almost no shadow detail. Whites are excessively bright. The transfer is often grainy.

    I could not detect any artefacts that might have been introduced by the digital transfer. There are various small defects, such as microphony several times during the Shostakovich symphony, for example at 11:12, as if there were interference problems with the source material. These are mercifully brief and only mildly distracting.

    There are no subtitles.

    This is a dual-layered DVD with no apparent layer change, indicating that each work is contained entirely on one or other of the layers.

    EMI have done a satisfactory job in presenting this problematic material and I do not see how it could be improved upon.

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


    None of this material on this DVD approaches the quality achievable in the recording studio during the same era. The sound is comparable to mono recordings from the early LP era, and thus is listenable without being spectacular. As with the visual quality, the sonic limitations are intrinsic to the source material and thus listeners will need to make the necessary adjustments. If your ears are attuned to listening to historical performances on CD, this will all be very familiar.

    There is one audio track, a Linear PCM 1.0 track (a very unusual configuration). I understand that certain older DVD players outputted this single channel through the left main speaker rather than through both left and right main channels, and that this has been a problem with other DVDs in this series.

    All items are reasonably well recorded in monaural sound, although the dynamic range is limited by the video recording technology of the time. The sound is slightly constricted, and there is occasional mild distortion. There is some reverberation, especially in the Wagner pieces.

    There is low-level tape hiss present. I could not hear this from my normal listening position, but when I placed my ear nearer the speakers it was quite apparent. The level of hiss was higher in the bonus item. This may be an issue if you prefer listening at a high volume level, but as the hiss is at a consistent level the ear soon adjusts.

    Audio sync is not an issue with this transfer.

    There is no surround or subwoofer activity.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


    There is only one extra of any note on this disc.


    The first menu displayed is a language selection, with a choice of English, French, German or Spanish. The menus in each language are otherwise identical. The main menu lists each work. There is a choice of playing the entire programme or each work by itself. There are submenus allowing selection of individual movements.

StravinskyThe Firebird, Suite (31:03)

   All Classic Archive releases feature bonus material. The bonus on this disc is substantial: a performance by the New Philharmonia Orchestra of Stravinsky's Suite from the 1910 ballet The Firebird, conducted by Stravinsky himself. This performance was filmed in London in 1965 by the BBC, when the composer was 83.

    As with all of Stravinsky's own later performances of the The Firebird Suite, the 1945 revised text is used, as the better known 1919 version did not provide Stravinsky with performance royalties.

    The video director is the ubiquitous Brian Large. Thankfully, Large concentrates his camera on the composer, so that we get a good look at Stravinsky and his conducting technique. Despite his age and frailty, Stravinsky is alert and concentrates intently while conducting music he composed more than half a century earlier. At the conclusion of the work, the audience responds with rapturous applause.

    While the level of audio hiss seems higher in this work, the sound quality is quite good.

    This bonus is substantial enough to alone be worth the price of the disc.


    There is a booklet of 20 pages included with this DVD. This contains slightly more than two pages of English text, which is then repeated in French, German and Spanish. There are several black and white photographs of Markevitch and one of Stravinsky. The booklet gives track timings and recording dates and locations. The Latin text of the psalms used in the Symphony of Psalms is included, side-by-side with a translation of the text into English. The psalms are not translated into the other booklet languages.

Previews of other titles

    This DVD was released simultaneously with 8 other volumes. A preview of approximately one minute in duration is included for each of the 9 DVDs, including this one.

    Teresa Berganza (1:16)
    Alfred Brendel (0:57)
    Andre Cluytens / Emil Gilels (0:59)
    Carlo Maria Giulini (0:58)
    Glenn Gould (1:13)
    Herbert von Karajan (1:11)
    Igor Markevitch (1:08)
    Nathan Milstein (0:54)
    Mstislav Rostropovitch (1:02)
    All of these excerpts, including the preview for the Markevitch DVD,  are presented with Dolby Digital 1.0 sound, with the audio directed to the centre speaker.

    There is also a Further Titles screen which lists earlier releases in the series.


    A list of the recording and DVD credits. This information is also available in the booklet.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    This is a worldwide release with identical content in all Regions. The only difference between Region 1 and Region 4 is the colour system. A few NTSC discs appear to have made their way to our shores, such as my copy. However the PAL version has also been released here, and prospective buyers should check the cover carefully before purchase. The PAL version of this DVD would normally be preferable given the increased resolution, however the source material is such that there may be no noticeable difference.


    This is another valuable release in the Classic Archive series.

    The video quality is satisfactory given the source material.

    The audio quality is good given the source material.

    The Stravinsky extra alone is worth the price of the disc.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Philip Sawyer (Bio available.)
Tuesday, February 03, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-S733A, using Component output
DisplaySony KV-XS29M33 68cm Trinitron Wega. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD player, Dolby Digital, dts and DVD-Audio. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationYamaha RX-V596 for surround channels; Yamaha AX-590 as power amp for mains
SpeakersMain: Tannoy Revolution R3; Centre: Richter Harlequin; Rear: Pioneer S-R9; Subwoofer: JBL SUB175

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