Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
Musically splendid Strauss region free
Jorma Koskinen | Finland | 06/12/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This is a region free issue, but your system needs to be PAL compatible. Recent computers and DVD players are automatically able to play PAL discs. Sometimes you have to configure older players in the Set up menu to play in multi system mode. If you have an older TV many players can be changed to play PAL discs in NTSC mode. Most systems have no problems with these discs.
The contents of this 3 disc boxed set are:
Disc 1 has An Alpine Symphony (Eine Alpensymphonie) from an All Soul's Day concert in 1983 and Thus Spoke Zarathustra from the opening concert of the 750th Anniversary of Berlin in 1987.
Disc 2 has a 1983 Don Quixote and a 1987 Heroic Life (Ein Heldenleben).
Disc 3 has Death and Transfiguration (Tod und Verklärung) and Metamorphoses for 23 solo strings from All Soul's Day in 1984.
For this reissue the powers that be took the extraordinary measure of re-recording all works in the original venue, the Philharmonie in Berlin, so that the original music was played through carefully placed loudspeakers and the recording microphones were placed in an orchestra-like array to better catch the acoustics of the hall. The original and the rerecording were then mixed in carefully tailored proportions by a secret recipe to produce "an impressive spatial homogeneity".
All this finesse however, is lost to the average listener. The playing sounds muffled as if coming from the next room. There is very little orchestral detail and the strings are often overpowered by the wind and brass sections and sometimes not audible at all. I wonder if the engineers had actually heard a live symphony concert in the Philharmonie or if they were just overjoyed by the measurements shown by their modern equipment. "The pleasant frequency extension towards the low end" is nowhere to be heard. Impressive frequency measurements do not always produce good, let alone natural sound. In this case the lustre of the Berlin Philharmonic orchestra is lost and has been replaced by what sounds rather like an above average mono sound from the early 1950's. In other words these sound like historical instead of historic recordings. The picture quality (4:3 ratio) is not what we would expect today. At times the colours are grey and dull, the definition foggy. If you have the original issues, stick to them, these are lower quality reissues.
Right after these I listened to the DVD of a Haitink Mahler concert by the same orchestra in the same hall only a couple of years later in the early 90's and the difference in technical quality is striking. The sound is spacious with ample room from the quietest violin solo to massive tutti attacks. The clarity of orchestral detail and a picture with natural colours are maintained throughout with the same old 4:3 TV technique. Not so in these Strauss recordings. As far as the production, sound and picture qualities are concerned this is a disappointment and should no longer be acceptable by today's standards.
However, the music making is a totally different matter. These are vintage performances by the foremost Straussian conductor of the late 20th century. For any devoted Strauss enthusiast this is a must if you do not have the original DVDs. Never mind the technical faults, these recordings are of great stature and musically highly satisfactory. Few conductors are able to keep a steady momentum and forward drive in the final peroration of the transfiguration part in Death and Transfiguration. The way von Karajan builds the slow, long crescendo with each section of the orchestra entering and re-entering with carefully balanced power one after another to form a continuously increasing sound volume is impressive indeed. The last part of Ein Heldenleben, the Hero's Retreat from the World and Fulfilment, with its hauntingly beautiful string melody and final violin solo are a combination of such ripe tenderness and sensitivity with world weary wisdom that can only be achieved after a life time of study of the score. Karajan made at least four studio recordings of the work between 1950 and his death.
This is a real bargain and very good value for money. Had the technical quality been better this would have been a five star recommendation.
Region coding works just fine
A. Fordham | Belleville, IL USA | 06/06/2008
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Contrary to the previous review, this is, in fact, and all-region DVD. While it is a PAL disc, it works just fine in both my DVD player and my computer.
The sound on these DVDs is quite nice. The only real problem is the fact that the audio doesn't quite match up with the video. That's fairly distracting. Otherwise, this is a pretty interesting find. It seems as though they took the old videos and remastered the audio. They then, set up a sound system on the stage where it was recorded and played back the audio, while recording. This allowed them to record in surround sound using the actual acoustics of the hall in which it was recorded. Pretty clever!"