450 Years Sachsische Staatskapelle Dresden-Live (1998)

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Released 4-Oct-2000

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Classical Booklet
Rating Rated G
Year Of Production 1998
Running Time 90:05
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (45:55) Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Elisabeth Birke-Malzer
Studio
Distributor

Select Audio-Visual Distrib
Starring Sachsische Staatskapelle Dresden
Giuseppe Sinopoli
Case Amaray-Opaque
RPI $39.95 Music Antonio Vivaldi
Carl Maria von Weber
Richard Wagner


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None Audio Linear PCM 48/16 2.0 (1536Kb/s)
Audio Dolby Digital 2.0 (256Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.78:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits Yes, minor in credits

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

Plot Synopsis

   Delving into some of the more esoteric of the DVD releases that have thus far escaped review, we happen upon a rather eclectic collection of classical music celebrating one of the longest established orchestras in the world. It is often difficult for people of the New Worlds to comprehend the age of some of the institutions of the Old World, and so it is with the Saxon State Ensemble Dresden or Sachsische Staatskapelle Dresden. Established way back on 22nd September, 1548, the orchestra and its current leader Giuseppe Sinopoli gathered at the wonderful Semperoper in Dresden for this celebration. Over the years, the orchestra has performed many a world premiere and been the dedicatee of many a piece of music. And that is in fact the common thread with the four rather diverse pieces of music that make up this concert.

   The concert comprises the following four pieces:

   And so there is some wonderful music here to indulge the talents of the Staatskapelle Dresden right? Well I truly wish that I could be somewhat more enthusiastic about the performances. Unfortunately, the common word that popped into my head throughout the watching of this DVD was "flat". The performances really lack anything in the way of sparkle at all and to honest most of the problem lies with the conducting of Giuseppe Sinopoli. He tends to take a rather relaxed approach to the music, which really does not work well with the three smaller pieces here. Indeed, rarely have I heard Vivaldi played with such lack of relish and bite to the music, with the result that it sounds all rather perfunctory. Thankfully the rather lengthier Eine Alpensinfonie suffers less with the relaxed approach. There are few really good performances of this work on CD and unfortunately it looks like DVD is not going to provide an immediate addressing of that situation. Interestingly, the audience for the performances seem to have a rather similar attitude towards the performances as they are far from enthusiastic about the works apart from the larger Richard Strauss work.

   Ultimately, I cannot help but feel that this is an underwhelming performance of what should have been a somewhat more rapturous concert. After all, how often does an orchestra celebrate its 450th birthday? Whilst presented on a good DVD, the lack of sparkle here is really a serious deterrent to a really enthusiastic welcome for the DVD. If you are a fan of the pieces offered, then perhaps you might find more enjoyment here than I.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    I might have some concerns regarding the performances contained on the DVD, but there are certainly no qualms at all regarding the video transfer. There is hardly a blemish in this regard, and whilst it is not quite top drawer, it does not fall far short. Certainly when comparing it to say the somewhat older Herbert von Karajan performances available from Sony Music, this is vastly better in all respects.

    The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, reflecting the fact that this was recorded for Japanese television. I would suspect that it is a high definition recording too. The transfer is 16x9 enhanced.

    Whilst it is not quite of reference quality, it is certainly not too far short thereof. This is a consistently sharp and detailed transfer, which really brings out every detail in the venue as well as the orchestra. There is hardly any lapses here in focus and shadow detail is generally excellent throughout. Clarity is excellent and there is no issue whatsoever with grain or low level noise in the transfer.

    Obviously with a concert recording of this nature, we do not expect to see plenty of bright, vibrant colours - which is just as well, as we do not get any. What we do look for is some nice saturation of colours and a decently consistent depth to the black tones in particular. That is precisely what we do get. The result is a very natural looking transfer with just the right sort of touch as far as vibrancy is concerned. I guess if I were to be super critical, the colours are just a tad undersaturated at times and just once or twice I felt that perhaps we could have seen a bit more sharpness in the blacks. Overall though, I seriously doubt that there is much here that would raise the hackles of anyone but the most ultra-fastidious. There is no evidence at all of oversaturation and colour bleed is not an issue at all.

    There are no MPEG artefacts in the transfer. Apart from some really exceedingly minor aliasing issues, there are no film-to-video artefacts present in the transfer. However, I cannot stress enough that these really are very minor and on a 68 cm display device I would suggest that they would be unnoticeable. Even the usual culprits of strings simply do not create an issue here. There were no noticeable film artefacts in the transfer.

    However, all is not quite perfect with the DVD and we now get to the big disappointment of the whole package. This is an RSDL formatted DVD, and I was dumbstruck to find the layer change occurring mid-scene at 45:55. Basically this is one of the most horrendous layer changes I have seen. Given the length of the programming, it would seem entirely feasible to place the layer change in the break between the the Rienzi Overture and Eine Alpensinfonie, which would have been at the very least completely non-disruptive. Instead, the change is placed right in the middle of one of the scenes in the tone poem and right as Giuseppe Sinopoli is flourishing his baton! Result? A noticeable pause in the music and a completely disruptive pause in the flow of a work of music that lives by the flow it creates.

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

Audio

    Whilst the video transfer is generally very good, the same unfortunately cannot be said of the audio transfer. Whilst there is nothing really desperately wrong here, the consistent impression was once again "flat".

    There are two soundtracks on offer on the DVD, being Linear PCM 48/16 2.0 and Dolby Digital 2.0 efforts. Obviously these are not language tracks but plain old music tracks. I listened to the Linear PCM soundtrack whilst also extensively sampling the Dolby Digital soundtrack.

    The music comes up pretty well in both soundtracks, although it has to be said that the Dolby Digital soundtrack in particular does really lack a lot of body and comes over in an almost recessed manner. The uncompressed Linear PCM soundtrack also slightly suffers from a lack of sparkle at times, so I am guessing that perhaps part of the problem is the source material itself. Of the two soundtracks, the Linear PCM is the obviously better sounding effort. There did not appear to be any sync problems in either soundtrack.

    Obviously there is nothing in the way of surround channel and bass channel use in these two soundtracks, and really there is not much more to say about them. They are free of any distortion or other blemishes.

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

Extras

    Not an awful lot on offer here and this is a disappointment, as I am sure most would appreciate a much lengthier history of this orchestra and its conductors than the three paragraphs that are included in the booklet.

Menu

    Nothing much to write home about, but at least in a consistent style with other releases from this source.

Booklet

    Reasonable I suppose, albeit shortish since it contains the same short notes in three languages.

R4 vs R1

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

    Like most Arthaus Musik DVDs, this is available in Region 1 in an NTSC formatted version that is otherwise the same as the Region 4 version. The Region 4 version would be the version of choice owing to PAL formatting.

Summary

    450 Years Sachsische Staatskapelle Dresden is ultimately something of a disappointment. The concert itself does not reach any great heights with some rather relaxed interpretations of the works, which is a pity since this is a great orchestra and I have some wonderful CDs featuring it. Whilst the video transfer is generally excellent, it is marred by an appalling layer change and the audio transfer is not really a high point either. The lack of a decent extras package rounds out what really is a disappointing package. I cannot help but feel that this could have been something better.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ian Morris (Biological imperfection run amok)
Thursday, May 10, 2001
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-515, using S-Video output
DisplaySony Trinitron Wega (80cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationYamaha RXV-795
SpeakersEnergy Speakers: centre EXLC; left and right C-2; rears EXLR; and subwoofer ES-12XL

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