Beethoven-Symphonies Nos. 3 & 9 (Berliner Philharmoniker/Abbado) (2001) (NTSC)

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Released 31-May-2007

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Classical Main Menu Audio & Animation
Multiple Angles-Conductor Camera
Rating Rated E
Year Of Production 2001
Running Time 122:32
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (43:55) 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 $59.95 Music Ludwig Van Beethoven

Video (NTSC) Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None German dts 5.1 (768Kb/s)
German Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
German Linear PCM 48/16 2.0 (1536Kb/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 German
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    Beethoven wrote his Third Symphony in 1803 and 1804, and it was first publicly performed, conducted by him, in 1805. It was originally dedicated to Napoleon Bonaparte, but when it was reported that the Frenchman had proclaimed himself Emperor Beethoven removed the dedication in a rage. The subtitle Eroica (Heroic) was given to it by the composer.

    The Third is not merely an heroic symphony, it is a revolutionary work in this orchestral form. At fifty minutes much longer than any symphony before it, it contains several harmonic and structural innovations. It also includes an emotional aspect, to the extent that it is generally regarded as the watershed work that divides the Classical and Romantic periods in music. There is no official programme to the music although it has been speculated that it represents Beethoven's response to his increasing deafness, triumph growing out of despair or something like that.

    The Ninth Symphony is perhaps his most famous after the Fifth, the Ode to Joy finale being one of the most familiar tunes in classical music. Easily the longest symphony ever written at the time, its influence has been profound, and even in some cases banal - reportedly the compact disc was designed to accommodate its length. It was famously played in the shadow of the Brandenburg Gate after the collapse of the Berlin Wall, with Freiheit (freedom) substituted for Freude (joy) in the words of the final movement. And that final movement sets this symphony apart from any symphony written before: it includes parts for several vocalists and a large chorus. The text comes from a poem by Friedrich Schiller with amendments and additions by Beethoven.

    It was started on a commission in 1817 by the Philharmonic Society of London and was completed in 1824. Beethoven was profoundly deaf by this time and at the premiere, which he conducted (or so he thought, it was probably conducted by the kapellmeister), he had to be turned around to the audience to receive the applause to which he had been oblivious.

    The performances on this disc come from two concerts by the Berlin Philharmonic. The Ninth was recorded in May 2000 in the Philharmonie in Berlin, while the Third was recorded at the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia in Rome in February 2001. The first thing that viewers will note is the change in appearance of the conductor Claudio Abbado, whose bout with cancer in between the two concerts leaves him looking much thinner and older, if no less energetic. While he beat the cancer and was able to resume his conducting career he has recently cancelled all engagements on the advice of his doctors.

    The Ninth features prominent soloists in Karita Mattila, Thomas Moser, Violetta Urmana and Eike Wilm Schulte. The performance is very good but also very fast. Excluding the preliminaries and concluding applause it runs almost exactly 63 minutes, faster even than Toscanini's hectic recordings. The music suffers slightly as a result as some portions seem rushed, but the drama and excitement still comes across. The Third is better even though Abbado launches into the finale very quickly after the scherzo. Despite these reservations this disc is well worth the cost and will be getting more than one spin in the player.

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Transfer Quality


    Both symphonies are shown in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and the NTSC video is 16x9 enhanced.

    The video quality is good without being anywhere near reference quality. It is not especially sharp, and wide angle shots are blurry and indistinct. Closer in and the issues are not nearly as pronounced. Colour is a little muted and only approximates reality. Black levels are good and shadow detail is more than acceptable.

    There are a few video artefacts, with some minor edge enhancement resulting in thin haloes at times. There is some pixelation and aliasing is visible on the stringed instruments.

    There is a subtitle stream for the Ode to Joy, which seems to be verbatim from the written text. The subtitles are slightly smaller than normal but can still be read without much difficulty.

    The disc is RSDL-formatted, and the layer change is a problem. The layer break is at 43:55 during the Eroica. At this point there is a slight break in the music, but the break is too short for the layer break to be placed here. There is a slight interruption to the audio which is very distracting. Considering the symphony only runs another six minutes, and there is also a slightly longer break in the music a couple of minutes after the layer change, it should have been possible to place the break in a better location.

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


    There are three audio tracks. I listened to the DTS 5.1 track in full and sampled the Dolby Digital 5.1 and Linear PCM 2.0 tracks.

    The DTS audio is very good. The timbre of the strings is especially well caught. The soundstage is not delineated as well as I would have liked, and the instruments do not stand out as individually as would be ideal. The sound is geared to the front channels with the rears only used to create an impression of the concert hall acoustic. The low frequency effects channel does not result in much discernable subwoofer activity until the finale of the Ninth, where the drumbeats are heavily reinforced.

    The Dolby Digital channel has a slightly less rich sound but not by much. The Linear PCM track is superior to both, with better definition of the instruments and a more palatable balance to the recorded sound. For example in the choral section of the Ninth the soloists can be clearly heard, whereas in the DTS mix they tend to be swamped by the chorus and the orchestra.

    There were no issues with audio sync.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


Main Menu Audio & Animation

    There is an inset on the main menu with some video and audio from the Sixth.


    The booklet features a track listing, introductions to the works and performances and the text of the Ode to Joy, all in several languages.

Multiple Angles-Conductor Camera

    On the Third Symphony there is an option to watch just the conductor at work.

R4 vs R1

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

    This release is designed for worldwide distribution, and is the same in all countries. It was previously released with a different cover and as a two disc set, the symphonies being on one DVD each.


    Two very good performances of these great symphonies. Pity about the layer change, though.

    The video quality is acceptable.

    The audio quality is excellent, at least on the stereo track.

    One significant extra of dubious value to most people.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Philip Sawyer (Bio available.)
Tuesday, October 30, 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

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add)
2 disc set may still be available - penguin (there is no bio)