The Liszt Recital from La Scala (Barenboim) (2007) (NTSC)

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Released 18-Oct-2007

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Classical Main Menu Audio & Animation
Booklet
Trailer-4
Rating Rated E
Year Of Production 2007
Running Time 85:50
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (52:10) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Tiziano Mancini
Studio
Distributor
Euroarts
Select Audio-Visual Distrib
Starring Daniel Barenboim
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $59.95 Music Franz Liszt


Video (NTSC) Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None Audio Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Audio dts 5.1 (768Kb/s)
Audio 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 None Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

    Daniel Barenboim is a Argentinean pianist and conductor who is domiciled in Berlin, though his musical interests have taken him to various locales such as Israel, Chicago, Bayreuth and now Milan. In May 2006 he was appointed principal guest conductor at La Scala, following the acrimonious dispute that led to the resignation of long-time conductor Riccardo Muti. Twelve months later Barenboim gave a solo recital in the La Scala theatre, which was recorded for posterity on this DVD.

    The concert is an all-Liszt programme, and all works have an Italian connection. The first half features the three Petrarch Sonnets which come from the Italian book of the Années de pèlerinage; St. François d'Assise: La prédication aux oiseaux from the Legendes; and the Dante Sonata. The second half has three works inspired by Verdi's operas Aida, Rigoletto and Il Trovatore.

    Barenboim is a pianist of the old school, favouring personal interpretation over historical authenticity. As such he is anathema to the Gramophone school of musical criticism, as they now favour musicians who play the notes as written without imposing much of their own selves on the works (or who have "British" stamped on their passports). Barenboim charts his own path through the pieces that he plays, much the same way as great pianists of the past have done. However this is a two-edged sword, as this really requires someone who is a pianist first and foremost. Barenboim is probably more highly regarded these days as a conductor and seems to devote much of his energies to the baton. The effect of this can be seen in these performances, where at times the melodic line seems to waver or disappear. This is especially the case in several parts of the Dante Sonata, which simply does not come off as well as it should, and can in more virtuosic hands. To be more charitable, it may be that his interpretation has changed over time, as his recording of this work from more than a decade ago is more convincing.

    The rest of the performances are of a high quality. His best is saved for last with the pieces on themes by Verdi well done indeed. Not well enough for the notoriously demanding La Scala audience, as boos can be heard among the applause and cheers at the end of the concert. Whether these were for the playing or for Barenboim's persistent criticism of Israeli politics (he is both Jewish and has an Israeli passport but openly disagrees with many of that country's policies) is unknown.

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Track Listing

1. Sonetto 47 del Petrarca
2. Sonetto 104 del Petrarca
3. Sonetto 123 del Petrarca
4. Après une lecture de Dante
5. St. François d'Assise
6. Miserere du Trovatore
7. Aida. Danza sacra e duetto
8. Rigoletto. Paraphrase de concert

Transfer Quality

Video

    The concert was recorded in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is 16x9 enhanced. It is in NTSC format and I watched it upscaled to 1280x720p.

    The video quality is very good, with the only quibble being frequent aliasing. This is visible on the piano keys and the wires inside the instrument. Otherwise the clarity is good, so much so that you can clearly see the stitching on the pianist's cuffs. Is that a good thing? Flesh tones are okay and black levels are good. There is a slight black crush but shadow detail is not greatly affected.

    No subtitles are provided apart from the burned-in titles preceding each work. The disc is RSDL-formatted, with the layer break at 52:10 immediately before the Aida piece.

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

Audio

    As is usual with Euroarts there are three audio tracks. I listened to the DTS 5.1 track in full.

    There are no directional effects of course, the front channels being used for the bulk of the sound and the rears to portray the acoustic of the hall and for applause. The piano sounds as though it is in the centre of the screen. The audio quality is good, though the upper notes on the piano sound a little hard. I did not notice any subwoofer activity, though there is a low frequency effects channel. Either the volume is low or it is very discreetly blended into the overall sound mix.

    This is one time where I thought the Dolby Digital 5.1 track was slightly better than the DTS. It sounded more realistic and focused, while the DTS is a little woolly, the individual sounds not as clean and distinct. The PCM track is better in this regard than both of the other tracks. It sounds as good as a CD track, though it does lack the breadth of sound that the surround tracks provide.

    I should also note that the piano is closely miked, and with the Steinway placed on a wooden platform over the orchestra pit there are many thumps and other noises that are picked up by the microphones.

    There were no issues with audio sync.

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

Extras

Main Menu Audio and Animation

    The audio comes from the first of the Petrarch Sonnets, but it is only heard when the menu is displayed for the first time. If you navigate back to the menu from any part of the disc the audio is silent.

Booklet

    The booklet has a two page essay on the music followed by a single page biography of Barenboim. These are repeated in several languages.

Trailers (10:32)

    A selection of trailers featuring Barenboim in one or another guise, as pianist or conductor.

R4 vs R1

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

    As usual with these classical DVDs the release and packaging appears to be the same everywhere.

Summary

    A fine all-Liszt performance that is satisfying, although it does not approach the recorded performances of the great pianists.

    The video quality is excellent.

    The audio quality is very good.

    A couple of minor extras.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Philip Sawyer (Bio available.)
Monday, December 17, 2007
Review Equipment
DVDSony DVP-NS9100ES, using HDMI output
DisplaySony VPL-VW60 SXRD projector with 95" screen. Calibrated with Digital Video Essentials (PAL). This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
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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