The Art of Conducting-Great Conductors of the Past (1993)

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Released 8-Oct-2002

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Documentary Booklet
Featurette-Artists' Commentary (20)
Rating Rated E
Year Of Production 1993
Running Time 116:57 (Case: 164)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (79:13) Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Menu
Region Coding 2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Sue Knussen

Warner Vision
Starring Michael Gambon
Sir Thomas Beecham
Arthur Nikisch
Richard Strauss
Felix Weingärtner
Fritz Brusch
Bruno Walter
Otto Klemperer
Wilhelm Furtwängler
Arturo Toscanini
Leopold Stokowski
Serge Koussevitzky
Fritz Reiner
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $39.95 Music Various

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    If you don't mind watching a two hour documentary of famous musical conductors, look no further. The Art of Conducting – Great Conductors of the Past is a programme featuring sixteen famous conductors. The DVD feature actually contains an edited set of highlights from the TV series, and is narrated by Michael Gambon.

    There is lots of archival footage interspersed with interviews (historical and contemporary) with musicians discussing various aspects of conducting. Interviews include:

    Historical film/video footage of conductors include:

    The historical footage is a combination of performance excerpts and rehearsal sessions. I particularly liked the latter because it gave me a unique insight into the idiosyncrasies of each conductor and how he managed to coax a particular sound or performance from the orchestra, ranging from empathy to outright bullying.

    I found this documentary a bit disappointing and uneven. I would have preferred more extensive coverage of fewer conductors, rather than the superficial and rather cursory overviews of lots of conductors. Too often, the historical footage excerpt is all too short, but then occasionally we get long excerpts such as those of Felix Weingartner and the Felix Busch. I guess I'm pining to watch the full TV series instead of just the highlights featured on this disc.

    Also, the interview excerpts are all too brief and only gives me a glimpse of the personality behind each musician. Still, it was good to be able to finally witness some of these great conductors in action - some of whom I have only listened to and others only heard about.

    Musical excerpts include:

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Transfer Quality


    This is a 1.33:1 full frame transfer of variable quality.

    The contemporary interviews are in colour and were recorded onto videotape. They look fairly good apart from minor edge enhancement and Gibb's effect ringing. The historical footage tends to be in black and white and ranges from quite good looking to terrible and grainy.

    For example, the segment around 10:10-11:26 suffers from frequent and annoying analogue videotape glitches and pixelization. Also, the segment around 70:31-73:35 is extremely pixelated, and the segment from 112:28-113:19 seems to contain a fair amount of combing.

    There are a number of subtitle tracks available: English, French, and German. I turned on the English subtitle track briefly. Accuracy is slightly below average and many fast dialogue lines are abbreviated. There are also numerous examples of burned-in subtitles and captions embedded in the video stream.

    This is a single sided dual layered disc (RSDL). The layer change occurs at 79:13 and is very well placed as it occurs during a natural pause on a still.

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


    There is only one audio track on this disc: English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s).

    The audio track is broadcast TV in quality and is recorded at a fairly high level (about 2dB louder than normal).

    Some of the historical footage features audio that has rolled-off high and low frequencies, wow and flutter, strident midrange and distorted highlights. For example, the Weingärtner excerpt has a rather noisy background. This is consistent with the age of the material and is no more nor less than expected. The contemporary interviews feature better sonics.

    Dialogue in general is easy to understand, apart from some speakers who have a strong accent. I did not notice any audio synchronization issues.

    Most of the audio is monaural in nature and there is very little stereo material present. The surrounds and subwoofer were not used.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


    There are over 45 minutes worth of additional interviews with various people which must have also been taken from the TV series.


    The menus are full frame and static.


    This is a fairly thick 36 page booklet containing:

Featurette-Artists' Commentary (47:28)

    This features interviews with the following musicians/producers on famous conductors they have worked with:

    All interviews are in full frame and Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s). All interviews are joined together in a single DVD title with about 20 chapter stops.

R4 vs R1

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

    This title is yet to be released in R1 (the announced release date is 19 November 2002), but it appears to be similar in terms of features and content to the R4 release (which is actually multi-region coded for Regions 2-6).


    The Art of Conducting – Great Conductors of the Past contains highlights from the BBC co-produced TV series of the same name. It features historical footage of great conductors in performance and rehearsal as well as contemporary interviews.

    The video quality is variable dependent upon the age of the source material.

    The audio quality is also variable.

    Extras include extensive interviews with additional artists about conductors they have worked with.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Christine Tham (read my biography)
Friday, November 15, 2002
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-626D, using Component output
DisplaySony VPL-VW11HT LCD Projector, ScreenTechnics 16x9 matte white screen (254cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials/Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationDenon AVC-A1SE (upgraded)
SpeakersFront and rears: B&W CDM7NT; centre: B&W CDMCNT; subwoofer: B&W ASW2500

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Comments (Add)
Some corrections regarding the alleged TV series - REPLY POSTED
Not the DVD I saw. -