Beethoven-Symphonies Nos. 7 & 8 (Daniel Berenboim) (DVD-Audio) (2000) (NTSC)

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Released 4-Jun-2001

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Classical Gallery-Photo
Notes-Beethoven's Works In Their Time
Featurette-Barenboim on DVD
Trailer-3
DVD Credits
Booklet
Rating Rated E
Year Of Production 2000
Running Time 67:24
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Daniel Barenboim
Studio
Distributor

Warner Vision
Starring Berliner Staatskapelle
Case DVD-Audio Jewel
RPI $34.95 Music Ludwig Van Beethoven


Video (NTSC) Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame Audio MLP 96/24 5.0
Audio Dolby Digital 5.0 (448Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 480i (NTSC)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

    It is with tremendous pleasure that I begin my first review of a DVD-Audio title for this site – it’s been a long wait. It is equally pleasing that I should be able to review a classical piece of music, certainly a form of art which cannot help but be enhanced significantly by the qualities afforded to it via this new medium. Whichever way you look at it, DVD-Audio holds the promise to do for CD what DVD-Video did for VHS – essentially allow us to at last hear and feel what we have been missing for so long.

    Recorded solely with DVD-Audio in mind in 1999, the Barenboim collection of Beethoven symphonies is an instantly collectable series of the major composer’s work, something very important to have around when trying to establish a new format. Indeed, Beethoven’s 9th can be found shipping freely with many new DVD-Audio players as a wonderful introduction to the format. Few people can fail to be touched by his music, and it is for this reason his symphonies attract so much attention by artists, studios and the public.

     Both the 7th and the 8th symphonies are perfect partners, being composed in the same year (1812) and taking up only little more than an hour when played back-to-back. Perhaps the 7th is the more well-known of the two, and certainly it is the more sombre in some respects, with the 2nd movement Allegretto being positively devastating in its gut-wrenching emotion. The 8th is livelier, shorter and somewhat easier to take in.

     The performances for both are superb, and although I do find that Barenboim’s interpretation can be at times slightly dry, I also find a great deal of satisfaction can be gained with each new listening session. I think one could do a lot worse than have the complete Teldec Barenboim cycle of Beethoven symphonies in their collection, and the 7th and 8th continue the level of quality I have come to expect from them.

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Track Listing

1. Poco sostenuto Vivace
2. Allegretto
3. Presto
4. Allegro con brio
5. Allegro vivace e con brio
6. Allegretto scherzando
7. Tempo di Menuetto
8. Allegro vivace

Transfer Quality

Video

    Quality across the board, from stills to the short video. The video content is presented in NTSC in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 and is of perfectly fine quality.

     Stills are available for browsing whilst the MLP tracks are playing - which it should be noted are not available when listening to this in DVD-V mode with Dolby Digital where only the jacket image is presented. They are finely detailed and worth a look, if only once. The video clip is equally well presented, with no significant artefacts worth noting.

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

Audio

    There is one DVD-Audio MLP 5.0 soundtrack on this disc, and one DVD-Video compatible Dolby Digital 5.0 soundtrack. Any form of DVD player can play this disc, however only DVD-Audio compatible players will actually hear the kind of quality which makes this format worthwhile, that being 5 channel 96kHz / 24 bit PPCM.

     The sound quality is nothing short of breathtaking in almost every respect. Perhaps the first quality which is conveyed is a sense of “ease” with which instruments are portrayed. Timbre and tonality are presented with discretion and truth, something greatly lacking when compared with CDs which tend to clump instruments together and homogenize them. The next is depth and environment – you truly get to feel people in the room during quieter moments, hear the creaking of chairs, the turning of pages, and even breathing. Delicate passages are conveyed with poignancy, and indeed the orchestra can at times become very quiet and yet instruments still sound superb – and then in true Beethoven fashion can be in the very next instant an all-out assault, handled with aplomb by the generous dynamic range of this format.

     The soundstage is expansive in width and depth, though a conservative approach to multi-channel presentation has been employed. The orchestra is very much to the front, with the the front channels doing most of the work. The surrounds provide ambience and environment cues in a manner which adds warmth and life to the recording, and this is the preferred and most natural way to present a symphonic orchestra as a “live” performance.

     By way of contrast, the Dolby Digital 5.0 soundtrack merely goes through the motions, and in particular is robbed of fine left-to-right and front-to-back imaging accuracy. Certainly you can still enjoy the performance to a degree, but it ultimately lacks the subtlety and raw emotion which the PPCM track so effectively communicates.

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

Extras

    Now video and extras on a DVD-Audio title are, for me, somewhat contentious. However, I can appreciate where they are useful as long as they do not interfere with the basic operation of the disc, which I am pleased to say is the case here. That is not to say that simply inserting the disc and pressing play is enough, because it isn’t – however, when you have become familiar with DVD-Audio discs you also come to expect that there will be a top menu, then probably another menu and then a play list – and simply pressing “select” or “play” a few times will always get the ball rolling. It’s not perfect, but it works and becomes second nature to operate in the absence of a television screen.

Gallery-Photo

    Some fairly generic images, including a bust of Beethoven.

Notes

    6 pages of very sparse text informing us of other events going on in the world around the time the music was written (1811-1814 in this case).

Featurette

    Running for 3:48 minutes, this is part DVD-Audio promotion, part Barenboim behind-the-scenes. The famous conductor extols the human virtues of the format, and his engineer tells us of the new technical capabilities. It doesn’t say much, and wouldn’t be missed.

Trailer

    Now this is a worthwhile extra, and a great marketing tool. Here you can selectively listen to a sample from three other DVD-Audio releases and see the cover image. They are:

DVD Credits

Booklet

    A nice 20-page booklet detailing the composer, the conductor and the works themselves, along with generic DVD-Audio operating procedures and a list of some other classical titles you might enjoy.

R4 vs R1

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

    The R1 and R4 releases are one and the same, down to NTSC video formatting.

Summary

    Any of the Teldec Barenboim Beethoven symphonies are highly recommended, and the combined 7th and 8th is certainly no exception. Recorded with stunning fidelity and impact, this is a fine example of tasteful multi-channel recording of classical music. Certainly there are even nicer examples out there, but that just means it's a win-win for music lovers who lust for that leap in sound quality and emotional involvement from their music which CD often fails to provide. Highly recommended.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Paul Cordingley (bio)
Wednesday, June 26, 2002
Review Equipment
DVDToshiba SD-900E, using RGB output
DisplayPioneer SD-T43W1 16:9 RPTV. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD player. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationSony STR DB-930
SpeakersFront & Rears: B&W DM603 S2, Centre: B&W LCR6, Sub: B&W ASW500

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