Live Concert from the Church of St. Nicolai, Leipzig (1999)

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Released 4-Oct-2000

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Music Booklet
Menu Animation
Featurette-Protest Of Silence (29:36)
Rating Rated G
Year Of Production 1999
Running Time 86:16 (Case: 116)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (55:01) Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Bob Coles
Studio
Distributor

Select Audio-Visual Distrib
Starring Victoria Mullova
Nancy Argenta
Jurgen Wolf
Thomaner Chor Leipzig
Gewandhausorchester Leipzig
Herbert Blomstedt
Case Super Jewel
RPI $39.95 Music Ludwig Van Beethoven
Johann Sebastian Bach
Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Auto Pan & Scan Encoded Audio Linear PCM 48/16 2.0 (1536Kb/s)
Audio Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/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 No

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

Plot Synopsis

    "Leipzig commemorates 9th October, 1989". So how many of you are guessing exactly what they are commemorating in this concert recorded in Leipziger Nikolaikirche on 9th October, 1999? Well, in the broad scheme of 20th century German history, it shall be recorded that Leipzig was the birthplace of the revolution that saw, in a very rapid manner, the fall of the German Democratic Republic and the reunification of Germany. And if Leipzig is so recorded, then the main place in Leipzig that played such a pivotal role in this historic event is none other than Leipziger Nikolaikirche. For this church was the centre of the non-violent protest of the people of the city that brought a regime to its knees. It was the ultimate demonstration of people power.

    Ten years on, they gathered at the same church to enjoy a celebration in music, with some pretty handy musicians. The performers and the music that they perform for us is:

    We start the programme off with perhaps the most famous piece of organ music ever written, made popularly famous some years back in a pop version done by the band Sky. Jurgen Wolf is the local Cantor and Organist at Leipziger Nikolaikirche and it has to be said that this is not the greatest performance of this well-known work that you will ever hear. After the bass assault of the organ, we move onto a decidedly more lightweight motet in the hands of Thomaner Chor Leipzig, a choir whose history can apparently be traced back well over 700 years. Johann Sebastian Bach was himself a Cantor of this choir for many years. The lightness of the motet is soon forgotten once the Ice Maiden, Viktoria Mullova, sets off on the quite difficult Chaconne. This is again not the greatest performance I have ever heard and the Ice Maiden's generally passionless playing has in any case always left me a little cold. Technically she is a very fine fiddler, though. After the somewhat grating fiddling, more lightweight stuff in the form of two pieces from Mendelssohn's oratorio Elias. The aria is nicely sung by Nancy Argenta, whilst the chorus is an apt coupling since it is another setting of Furchte dich nicht. This one is somewhat different in execution though.

    Once the warm ups are out of the way, we have the main work in perhaps the most famous symphony ever written, Beethoven's Symphony No.5 - you know the one; da da da dummmm, da da da dummmm. There are many great performances of this work in circulation, none more so than the magnificent recording of Carlos Kleiber, and it has to be said that this is not one of them. Very lightweight stuff indeed, as befitting the more modest-sized Gewandhaus Orchester I suppose. After the slightly disappointing main work, we end the programme with a nice piece from the wonderful Mass in B minor from Johann Sebastian Bach.

    Whilst there is certainly nothing wrong with celebrating the tenth anniversary of the German Democratic Republic's version of people power at one of the instrumental locations in that revolution, certainly a more entertaining programme could have been imagined. The choice of music was not too bad, but the performances just left me completely cold. There simply was not an ounce of excitement here, and that ultimately is a necessity for successful live classical music.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, reflecting the fact that this was recorded in conjunction with NHK in Japan for broadcast on HDTV. It is of course 16x9 enhanced. Note that the DVD is Auto Pan and Scan encoded.

    At one stage I was about to elect this as one of the finest transfers I have ever seen, but then reality struck. Nonetheless, this is a generally excellent transfer that is denied reference quality in only a few areas: there are noticeable instances of minor aliasing throughout the transfer, and one stage camera looking back towards the conductor is pointed right at a floodlight and the resultant image has a slight flare to it. Apart from that - brilliant. Exquisitely sharp with some lovely definition, other than of long shots of the musicians on the "stage". You could scarcely wish for better here and this is made all the more memorable for the fact that there is hardly any issue at all with shadow detail problems and the transfer is remarkably clear. Indeed, just a few odd instances of very minor grain are all that impinge in the slightest on a crystal clear transfer. There are no problems with low level noise here.

    This is one gorgeously saturated transfer, with some lovely vibrancy on show. Colours are beautifully handled without an ounce of oversaturation or bleed problems at all. The only bummer is that the blacks could have been just a tad more solid at times.

    There are no significant MPEG artefacts in the transfer. Aliasing is the only issue as far as film-to-video artefacts go, and it is the usual culprits that rear their heads: violin strings, picture frames, edges of instruments and the like. None of the instances are that worrying, but the excellence in every other respect just heightens their presence in the transfer. There were no film artefacts in the transfer as far as I could tell.

    This is an RSDL formatted DVD with the layer change coming at 55:01. This is a poorly chosen layer change as it comes during the andante of the symphony. Given the length of the programme, there would have been a couple of better places to stick the layer change, not the least of which was during the pause between the first and second movements of the symphony.

    Regrettably, there are no subtitle options on the DVD for the vocal works.

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

Audio

    There are two soundtracks on the DVD, being an Audio Linear PCM 48/16 2.0 soundtrack and an Audio Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. I listened to the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack and only briefly sampled the Linear PCM 48/16 2.0 soundtrack.

    The music and vocals come up fairly well in the transfer, although there were one or two spots (notably during the quieter portions of the symphony) where the music was a little too soft and could not be heard properly. There did not appear to be any audio sync problems in the transfer.

    This is a rather eclectic collection of music all things considered, but it sure tests out your system. If you want a demonstration of sound, just get a good piece of organ music! Whilst this is not the best performance around and the mastering could have been just a tad better, just feel that glorious bass from the organ thump into your chest. If you have the opportunity and can risk the damage to your building's foundations, just crank this sucker up a lot. Now that is what bass is all about! Just like being in the church (at least from my recollection of the last time being in a church with a good church organ).

    There really is nothing much wrong with the soundtrack, and it has been in general well-mixed. For instance, the Chaconne does not have hugely obvious surround channel presence, but rather a subtle presence that helps convey a soundscape that is very intimate and really feels as if it is just the violin on-screen that is playing. This is the way that good sound should be engineered. Most of the programme is in fact very subtle in the surround presence, but the moment you switch over to the Linear PCM soundtrack it is very clear what is missing. It is for that reason that the ever-so-slightly off bass sound disappoints ever so slightly.

    The Linear PCM soundtrack is excellent, even though obviously wimpish in comparison to the Dolby Digital 5.1 effort.

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

Extras

    The extras might not amount to much in quantity, but the one serious extra here is well worth watching. The whole package has quite a classy feel to it.

Menus

    Very nicely and very stylishly done, with some understated animation.

Booklet

    A reasonable if not overly expansive effort that provides brief notes about the music and the performers.

Featurette - Protest der Stille (29:36)

    If your German is not good, that is Protest of Silence. Through the use of interviews with people involved and footage shot during the period, this provides an interesting insight into the events that took place in Leipzig that ultimately led to the fall of the German Democratic Republic. The interview material is generally excellent stuff, but some of the footage shot in 1989 is very ropey indeed - quite grainy and lacking definition. Still, since it was shot under conditions that were less than ideal (called the Stasi, the secret police), allowances can be readily made. Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, it is not 16x9 enhanced and comes with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. This is very interesting and you should take the time to check it out. It is in German, but does come with English, French and Dutch subtitles. The English subtitles are good, fairly accurate and relatively easy to read.

R4 vs R1

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

    This appears to be identical to the Region 1 release in all respects, apart from NTSC formatting.

Summary

    On the face of it, this was going to be an interesting concert, with some good pieces of music and some good performers. Unfortunately, Live Concert From The Church Of St. Nicolai, Leipzig did not live up to expectations, although to be fair if you are a fan of any of the performers, you might enjoy this more than I did. The transfer is generally excellent, with only minor issues in the video department, and on technical grounds there is little to prevent a recommendation. It would have helped though if Viktoria Mullova's name was spelt correctly throughout the package.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ian Morris (Biological imperfection run amok)
Thursday, September 13, 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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