Beethoven-Symphonies 2 & 5 (Berlin Philharmonic/Abbado) (2001) (NTSC)

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Released 15-Aug-2007

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Classical Booklet
Multiple Angles
Rating Rated E
Year Of Production 2001
Running Time 76:15 (Case: 78)
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Bob Coles
Select Audio-Visual Distrib
Starring None Given
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI ? Music Ludwig Van Beethoven

Video (NTSC) Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None Audio Linear PCM 48/16 2.0 (1536Kb/s)
Audio Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
Audio dts 5.1 (768Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 480i (NTSC)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.78:1 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

    The Second Symphony was written during a difficult period in Beethoven's life. He had just been diagnosed with the hearing impairment that would lead to his eventual profound deafness. He completed the work in 1802 while resting in the village of Heiligenstadt near Vienna. The "holy city" did not lead to a cure for his hearing troubles, but t did allow him to complete a work that was his first major symphony. While not as innovative as his future symphonic works it was still regarded as unusual because of its form. It ends with a triumphant Allegro that belies the physical and mental state of the composer.

    The Fifth Symphony is perhaps his most famous, with the familiar "fate knocking at the door" them with which it begins. It was composed over a period of four years and premiered in 1808, conducted by the composer himself. Little need be said about this symphony, which is with the Ninth at the zenith of the symphonic repertoire. The transition from C minor to C major at the end of the third movement leads to an exultant finale.

    The performances on this disc, and the other three discs containing the rest of the Beethoven symphonies, were recorded at the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia in Rome in 2001. The orchestra is the Berlin Philharmonic, for many years one of the premier orchestras in the world and now celebrating its 125th anniversary. Upon the resignation of Herbert von Karajan in 1989 after 35 years at the helm, Claudio Abbado was elected the chief conductor, a post he held until 2002. In 2000 Abbado was diagnosed with stomach cancer, but after successful treatment he was able to resume conducting.

    This explains his haggard and somewhat emaciated look in these two performances, though he is still energetic and his conducting is not affected adversely. Perhaps his conducting of these life-affirming works was improved by his brush with death. Perhaps not. In any case these are two splendid performances, the Fifth being particularly thrilling. The video direction is well done for a change and the music is the whole focus of these video recordings. While I may have some misgivings about the video artefacts these did not truly affect my enjoyment of the music, and I'm looking forward to watching the rest in the series. While there are almost no ideal sets of these symphonies on record this particular set has gotten off to an excellent start.

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Transfer Quality


    This is an NTSC transfer which is 16x9 enhanced and in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1.

    As with most classical music DVDs I find that the sharpness varies proportionally with the width of the shot. Close-ups are reasonably sharp but wide shots are lacking in detail and clarity. There are occasional shots from the back of the hall where the orchestra is an amorphous mass on the distant stage. Some of this would be caused by the imperatives of filming with a live audience, the cameras having to be further away from the action than would be ideal. The lighting is quite good so that nothing is missed due to dim lighting or being in shadow. Colours are okay, with flesh tones being approximate but black levels good.

    There are plenty of video artefacts. There is a lot of aliasing. The aliasing is not severe but when a string player is on screen you can bank on some jagged-looking strings being there also. There is noticeable Gibb Effect throughout, and low level noise is present in some backgrounds. Also in some shots there is a lot of edge enhancement, for example in any shot from an elevated position where the conductor can be seen against a lighter background. His dark suit is surrounded by a thin halo.

    The disc is dual-layered but there is no layer change during either of the symphonies. There are no subtitles.

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


    There are three audio tracks. I listened in full to the DTS 5.1 track and sampled the Dolby Digital 5.1 and Linear PCM stereo tracks.

    All three tracks are very good indeed. The DTS gives a good approximation of the concert hall acoustics, with the rears being used for ambience and audience sounds. The front channels are well blended together with the instruments clear and distinct in the mix. The upper register of sounds does seem to have a little of that digital edge to it, more so in the DTS track than in the PCM, but the lower register has warmth to it. The double-basses and bassoons sound very rich and realistic. The PCM track has the best representation of the sounds of the instruments, but this is at the expense of a narrower soundstage and less forward presentation.

    There is a low frequency effects channel and it is often quite prominent in the mix. On the DTS track the subwoofer blends smoothly, while on the Dolby Digital audio the subwoofer is a bit more obvious and the bass is slightly less taut.

    There were no issues with audio sync.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use



    The fourteen-page booklet contains a page about the performances on this series of discs and a half page each about the symphonies.

Conductor Camera

    This is the first time I have seen the angle feature used on a classical music disc. When this option is selected, the entire performance of the Fifth Symphony is seen through a camera pointed at the conductor. I'm not sure that this is something that most people will want to watch, but perhaps for students of conducting this will be a useful feature.

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 so there are no differences between regions.


    Excellent performances of these two Beethoven symphonies.

    The video quality is good but could have been better,

    The audio quality is excellent.

    The substantial extra is not going to be useful for everyone.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Philip Sawyer (Bio available.)
Saturday, October 13, 2007
Review Equipment
DVDSony DVP-NS9100ES, using HDMI output
DisplaySony VPL-HS60 LCD projector, 95 inch screen. Calibrated with Digital Video Essentials (PAL). This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 720p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD Player, Dolby Digital and DTS. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationReceiver: Pioneer VSX-AX4ASIS; Power Amplifiers: Elektra Reference (mains), Elektra Theatron (centre/rears)
SpeakersMain: B&W Nautilus 800; Centre: Tannoy Sensys DCC; Rear: Tannoy Revolution R3; Subwoofer: Richter Thor Mk IV

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