Orff-Carmina Burana/Beethoven 'Choral' Symphony (Seiji Ozawa) (NTSC)

If you create a user account, you can add your own review of this DVD

Released 9-May-2004

Cover Art

This review is sponsored by
BUY IT

Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Classical Booklet
Rating Rated E
Year Of Production ?
Running Time 134:57
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Barrie Gavin
Yutaka Oishi
Studio
Distributor
Cami Video
Universal Pictures Home Video
Starring Seiji Ozawa
Kathleen Battle
Frank Lopardo
Anne Schwanewilms
Barbara Dever
Paul Groves
Franz Hawlata
Case Flexbox
RPI ? Music Ludwig Van Beethoven
Carl Orff


Video (NTSC) Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None Latin Linear PCM 48/16 2.0 (1536Kb/s)
Latin dts 5.1 (1536Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio Varies
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 480i (NTSC)
Original Aspect Ratio Varies Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    This release includes two of the most popular works from the classical repertoire, with the link being that both performances are conducted by the Japanese maestro Seiji Ozawa. The performances were recorded a decade apart, which you can see from the conductor's slightly grey hair in 1990 becoming a mop of grey in 2002.

    The first item on this disc is the Carmina Burana by Carl Orff (1895-1982). This cantata is based on secular songs from a 14th century manuscript discovered in a monastery in 1803 and was first performed in 1937. The famous opening and closing sequence Fortuna Imperatrix Mundi (Fortune, Empress of the World) laments the vicissitudes of fate and would be familiar to many from its use in countless TV programmes, advertisements and films, most notably a series of coffee commercials in the 1970s and 1980s, and the film Excalibur.

    Aside from the dramatic bookends to the cantata which represent the turning wheel of fortune, the work is divided into three parts, based on the classification of the songs, sung in their original Latin. The first section deals with Nature under the title Springtime, the second with the pleasures of drinking (In the Tavern) and the last with Love (The Court of Love).

    The second work on this disc is the ninth and last symphony by Ludwig van Beethoven, composed in 1823 when the composer was virtually deaf. Probably the longest symphony composed to that time, it was the first to include the human voice, with a lengthy choral finale setting the words of the Ode to Joy by Friedrich Schiller. The first performance on May 7, 1824 was a success, despite the deaf Beethoven's insistence on conducting it himself. It was said that he could not hear the performers or the audience, and had to be prompted to turn around and acknowledge the applause. The symphony has become one of the most famous and most often recorded pieces of music. My own collection of recordings of this work extends to twelve CDs, one DVD-Audio and one Super Audio CD, which only barely scratches the surface of available discs.

    Performance-wise both are quite good without being out of the top drawer. The symphony is well done, and while the key central movement is a little less intense than it should be, the remainder is quite powerfully rendered. There is a slight problem with the balance of the soloists in the final movement, with the soprano either being closer to a microphone or just being louder than the rest. The two male singers do not stand out as they should.

    The cantata features some excellent orchestral playing, as you would expect from the Berlin Philharmonic, and the soloists are both very good, especially American prima donna Kathleen Battle, who makes some wonderful sounds. British baritone Thomas Allen (now Sir Thomas) is good, although he seemed to be dwelling too much on his phrasing for mine. The only drawback to this recording is the chorus, which lacks bite and sharpness in comparison to the best recordings. Despite any reservations, this is still an excellent introduction to the work.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality

Video

    The Carmina Burana is taken from a videotape recording and is in the original aspect ratio of 1.33:1. The Symphony is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is not 16x9 enhanced. The disc is NTSC-formatted.

    The image is not very sharp on the cantata, reflecting the fact that it was filmed on video. The video is quite soft and lacking in detail. That being said, it is perfectly acceptable given the origin of the material. Shadow detail is not an issue in either of the two works, as it rarely is in concert material in a well-lit auditorium. Colour is fine on the later video but the earlier one looks a little drained of life.

    The image is much sharper on the later video. However, there are problems visible in the transfer even when it is displayed in 4x3 mode. There is considerable aliasing, on every visible straight or clearly defined line, such as the instruments, particularly the strings, bows, music stands, collars and so on. Even the conductor's hair shows aliasing. The other major artefact on display is Gibb Effect, which is omnipresent. There is a slight halo made up of an irregular pattern of dots. This is especially visible in wide shots, where you can see this against the pale background of the rear of the stage, for example at 5:48.

    Disappointingly, there are no subtitles provided, although the text of both works and an English translation is included in the accompanying booklet.

    This is a dual-layer disc with each work placed on its own layer, meaning that there is no layer change to contend with.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    There are two audio tracks provided for each work, a Linear PCM stereo track and a DTS 5.1 track. I listened to both, and the comments for each work are much the same.

    The DTS track is excellent in both cases, but I have some reservations about the surround mix for the earlier recording. In the Symphony, the soundstage is much as you would expect in the concert hall. The bulk of the musical information comes from the three front speakers, with the soloists emanating from the centre channel and the choristers and orchestra spread across the mains and centre. The rear channels are used to create a concert hall ambience, with the sound at a lower level and mainly echoing the orchestra and choir. The subwoofer is used, but at a very low level to add a bottom end to the sound, without overemphasising bass sounds. In fact the only time where the subwoofer was noticeable was after the conclusion of the work where it thumped a few times for stage noises. Overall this mix sounds as though it was recorded specifically with a surround presentation in mind.

    The Carmina Burana mix on the other hand sounds very much like something that has been re-engineered in a studio. Not that there is no real feeling that this is a concert performance as it was experienced by the audience, but it does sound slightly unnatural. The subwoofer is overused in my opinion, with the bass sound being overemphasised in relation to the overall sound picture. The various channels do not effectively convey an integrated soundstage, and it feels to this reviewer that the engineers have pushed certain sounds to the rears without too much concern for the overall effect. The choral sound is a little muddy, and at times I had trouble isolating individual voices within it.

    Generally speaking though, the DTS tracks are very good sonically, with fine representation of the various instrumental sounds as well as the voices. The Linear PCM tracks lack the surround effects, but sound just as good as the DTS tracks to me. Neither approaches CD quality, but being able to see the concert more than compensates for this.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Booklet

    The 24 page booklet includes some information about the works and complete texts in the original languages plus English translations, but disappointingly no photographs of the performers apart from the back cover which shows some of the choir and orchestra.

R4 vs R1

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

    This disc appears to be identical in all regions.

Summary

    A couple of fine performances of these popular works.

    The video transfer is problematic.

    The audio is very good.

    Little in the way of extras.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Philip Sawyer (Bio available.)
Friday, August 06, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-S733A, using Component output
DisplaySony 86CM Trinitron Wega KVHR36M31. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable.
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

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add) NONE