Liszt-A Faust Symphony (Riegel, Boston SO, Bernstein) (1976) (NTSC)

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Released 16-Jan-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 1976
Running Time 81:00 (Case: 83)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (54:33) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Humphrey Burton
Studio
Distributor
Euroarts
Select Audio-Visual Distrib
Starring None Given
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $59.95 Music Franz Liszt


Video (NTSC) Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None German Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
German dts 5.1 (768Kb/s)
German Linear PCM 48/16 2.0 (1536Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.29:1
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 480i (NTSC)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.29:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
German
French
Spanish
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

    The legend of Faust has inspired many works including not just literary, theatrical and cinematic versions of the story but also musical ones. There have been several operas such as those by Gounod and Boito, Berlioz's dramatic cantata, Schumann's Scenes from Goethe's Faust, Mahler's Eighth Symphony and purely orchestral works such as Wagner's Faust Overture. Wagner's father-in-law Liszt was inspired to write a symphony based on the drama by Goethe, which is his longest concert work and which is not that often performed or recorded.

    A Faust Symphony takes the form of three long movements, which are entitled Faust, Gretchen and Mephistopheles. The last of these ends with a setting of text from the second part of Goethe's drama in a chorus mysticus which is for chorus and tenor.

    This performance dates from a 1976 concert in Boston's Symphony Hall and features the Boston Symphony Orchestra conducted by Leonard Bernstein. Bernstein recorded the work twice. I have the second of these recordings which was made about the same time with the same forces, though it was a studio recording, not the soundtrack of this concert. And in fact it runs about five minutes faster on disc than it does on video.

    The video is quite well directed by Humphrey Burton. Although there are many shots of the conductor we also get to see most of the orchestra and chorus, with shots held for a reasonable length of time and no attempt at any experimentation that might become distracting. The performance itself is not quite as convincing as that on disc, but I found it enjoyable. Bernstein looks a lot livelier than he did in later years (watch the trailer for the Beethoven Ninth on this disc to see him as he was just before his death, looking much older, heavier and more haggard). While this is an expensive disc, as nearly all discs from these European companies are, this would be a worthwhile investment for Bernstein-fanciers and Liszt completists.

    The disc comes from the Euroarts catalogue and is distributed in Australia by Select Audio-Visual.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The concert is presented in what would have been the original aspect ratio of 1.29:1 and is not of course 16x9 enhanced. The video format is NTSC.

    The concert was recorded by Unitel, who generally recorded their concerts on film. This is one of the exceptions where the recording was done on video tape and this transfer shows most of the artefacts associated with that medium.

    There is a below average amount of detail. There is so little variability between close-ups and wide shots that the discrepancy in detail between them is not as great as I usually find it to be in recorded concerts, so the lack of detail is not as distracting as it would normally be. Nevertheless it is on the poor side of adequate.

    Colours are generally not very good at all. Everything looks lifeless and lacks vibrancy. Flesh tones vary from reddish to a waxy greenish, often in the same shot which suggests that it may be due to the lighting. Some of the orchestral players look like they just walked off the set of some zombie movie.

    Artefacts abound. Aliasing is occasionally visible, and sometimes there is a filmy gauze across the picture. Compression artefacts can be seen in backgrounds. All manner of video artefacts are on display, the most notable being cross colouration, microphony in the louder passages and some brief analogue tape tracking errors.

    Optional subtitles are provided for the relatively brief vocal passages at the end, which basically consist of eight lines of text repeated several times. The subtitles are clear and in easily read white text.

    The disc is RSDL-formatted with the layer break ideally placed at 54:33 in the break between the second and third movements.

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

Audio

    Three audio tracks are provided, being Linear PCM stereo, Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1.

    The audio is certainly better than the video, though this is not true of every track. The DTS track seems to be transferred at a higher level than normal, as I had to turn the volume down from my usual reference level.

    I found the DTS track a little disappointing. While it does have some good points, with plenty of bass and some rasping brass, it seems unfocused. Solo instruments that spotlighted in the score don't sound as if they are coming from a specific location in the soundstage and the bass is somewhat amorphous. The Dolby Digital track suffers from the same issues, though at a lower recorded level and with less definition to the brass.

    The rear channels are used mainly for applause, though the the music is there at a low level in order to bring the overall soundstage forward. I only noticed the subwoofer at those times when Bernstein jumped and landed with a pronounced thud while emphasising some musical phrase or another.

    The PCM track is more pleasing, with better definition of the instruments and a more rounded sound. I would recommend listening to this track in lieu of the others.

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

Extras

Main Menu Audio and Animation

    Some music from the concert as well as brief footage.

Booklet

    The booklet contains a short essay in English, German and French.

Trailers (10:45)

    Four trailers for other Euroarts DVDs are included. Three of these feature Bernstein conducting; two Brahms symphonies, a Mozart symphony and the Clarinet Concerto, and the Berlin celebration concert featuring Beethoven's Ninth. A trailer of Pierre Boulez conducting Bruckner rounds out the trailers section.

R4 vs R1

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

    This disc is manufactured in Europe for worldwide release, so there would appear to be no differences between regions.

Summary

    A good performance by a champion of this work.

    The video quality is disappointing.

    The audio quality is variable, with the stereo track being the best.

    A little extra material.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Philip Sawyer (Bio available.)
Tuesday, July 08, 2008
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 into HD DVD Player, Dolby Digital Plus and Dolby TrueHD. 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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