Articles and Reviews

Here's news about high-definition video recordings of opera, ballet, classical music, plays, fine-art documentaries, and painting. I call these recordings "HDVDs." In the journal below are independent (and hard-to-find critical) reports on hundreds of HDVDs. Pick the best titles for your excelsisphere.

February 7. Fine art HDVDs started coming out in 2007. Dance benefited the most, and I have the best reviews of ballet and dance HDVDs. See my "hit-parade" story with  top picks. Opera also benefited: pick the best from the operas graded on the Alphalist.

But we have only a  few good classical music HDVDs. The industry is still making music DVDs for SD TVs, which are then re-published in Blu-ray. True, the picture resolution is better, but the content is contaminated with the disease DVDitis. I wind up giving most music HDVDs a "C" or even "D" grade. So for several years I neglected the classical music titles. Now I plan to focus on the good stuff we have. I just rewrote the 2008 story about the first great music HDVD to come out, a Tchaikovsky Symphony No. 6. with Ozawa conducting the Berliner Philharmoniker.  More soon.

I recently did an updated review with screenshots of Liszt Piano Concertos with Barenboim and Boulez. This provides a good study of the disease DVDitis. And don't miss my review of  A Flight through the Orchestra: Brahms Symphony No. 2, an experiment in making a symphony video which I graded "D-." For comparison, I brought foward an older review of the same music on a NHK disc, played by the Saito Kinen Orchestra, which has fabulous video and sound and is graded "A+."

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Sunday
Feb072016

Tchaikovsky Symphony No. 6

Tchaikovsky Symphony No. 6 ("Pathétique"). Seiji Ozawa conducts the Berliner Philharmoniker in Berlin in a disc aimed at the Japanese market (there's a little English on the keep case and the disc menu). This title has not been distributed in Europe or the U.S. It's one of the few fine-art HDVD recordings made to date with 96 kHz/24 bit sound-sampling technology. Directed by Goro Kobayashi; produced by Setsu Mikumo; technical manager was Oleg Anton; video engineer was André Schumann; sound engineer was Felix Kundt, recording engineer was Rainer Höpfner.  Released  2008, disc has 50 minutes of music and 5.0 PCM sound.  Grade: A+

This is one of the  best recordings of a symphony ever made. Even though this was recorded far from Japan in Berlin, NHK (the Japanese National Broadcasting Company) made the investment to get an impeccable product.

Recording the sound with 96 kHz/24 bit sampling technology gives this production a head start in audio fidelity over ordinary HDVDs. The  engineers managed to keep a clean and clear rendition of individual sounds while also building up  a warm sound stage for ensembles, sections, and the entire orchestra. Add to this remarkable dynamic variation in sound level and the result is a gripping trip in the home theater.

The video is also superb.  There was plenty of room for the cameras. The lighting in the Philharmonie building was expertly prepared to match the capabilities of the camera gear. The PQ is outstanding with fine resolution, accurate color rendition and balance (observe how real the sheet music looks and how beautiful the skin tones are), no glare or reflections, and no picture artifacts. When Ozawa enters the stage he walks briskly across the front of the orchestra. The camera follows Ozawa and captures him with no motion defects in the images of the orchestra in the background---something that few video directors can achieve. Later the video director uses panning only a couple of times; the cameras move so slowly that there are no motion artifacts. Zooming is used sparingly and slowly. Focus is always perfect and the depth of field-of-focus achieved is impressive.

Best of all, the video director planned his video for HDVD only. (This performance was not released in DVD.) This title is therefore a model or standard against which other HDVDs of a symphony performance can be judged. So let's look more closely at the the video content on this disc.

I count 205 cuts in the video. Here's a rundown on these cuts starting with shots that could be used both in HDVD and DVD:

43 shots of the conductor only
7 shots of the conductor made over the backs of musicians
15 solos
31 small-section shots (4 or fewer players)
29 part-section shots

Next, here are the "super-shots" that look great on HDVD but are too long-range to look good in a DVD (due to the lower DVD video resolution):

12  large-section shots
17 multiple-section shots
36 part-orchestra shots typically showing 80% or more of the orchestra
14 whole-orchestra views showing the entire band filling 100% of the screen

The first thing you will notice about this video is its dignified, measured pace. The average cut lasts about 15 seconds, which is 3 times more stately than the pace of a typical DVD. Many of the 79 super-shots (groups 6 thru 9 of the above) last for 30 seconds or longer. This approximates "being there" in a way that allows you to relax or to explore yourself the views given you by the director. In the whole-orchestra shots you can follow "waves" of music passing thru different sections of the orchestra just as you do when you are in the live audience. (Contrast this experience to the typical DVD which has only a few super-shots. This typical DVD is loaded up with hundreds of fast clips (5 seconds or less) of close-ups of the conductor and small groups of players. Following such a DVD puts an unnatural strain on the poor viewer's brain).

The abundance of supershots in subject video gives you many opportunities to see whole sections and groups of sections working together as the video director follows the score. There are few similar opportunities in the typical DVD.

In addition to the super-shots, subject video also has plenty of beautiful shots of solo players, small sections, and the conductor. I normally suggest that 15 conductor shots is enough for a symphony. Ozawa gets 3 times that many here, but this is tolerable because Ozawa is able to display intense emotion more effectively than most conductors.

Thanks for being patient. Now to screenshots. Below is a typical part-orchestra view. The angle depends on which instruments are playing. This view comes from the opening moments of the symphony when the bassoon, the double basses, and violas are deployed. This angle picks up the bassoon soloist in the upper left and the strings are to the right. It  might be hard for you to see this in the single still image below. But on your HDVD display, it's easy to see who is playing (moving) and connect what you see with what you are hearing. It really is pretty close to being there:

Next below is a magnificent whole-orchestra view. These shots typically last for a long time. On my display I can easily follow visually and aurally which sections are involved:

Below you see a section shot---all the 1st and 2nd violins. Most DVDs would not attempt to show this kind of large-scale formation. Many DVDs rarely show all the 1st violins and totally ignore the poor 2nd violins. But with HD video, this is an easy shot:

Next below is a pretty multi-section view of all the heavy brass and almost all the other winds. You won't see this on DVD very often:

Now we are getting into shots that you could expect on DVD also, but isn't this a beautiful view of the horns?

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Saturday
Feb062016

Beethoven Violin Concerto and Symphony No. 6

Beethoven Violin Concerto and Symphony No. 6 "Pastoral" concert.  Bernard Haitink conducts the Berliner Philharmoniker in 2015 at the Baden-Baden Festspielhaus. Features violinist Isabelle Faust. Video directed by Torben Schmidt Jacobson at the Festspielhaus Baden-Baden. Released 2016, disc has 5.1 dts-HD Master Audio sound. Grade: Help!

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Saturday
Feb062016

Faust

Charles Gounod Faust opera to libretto by Jules Barbier and Michel Carré. Directed 2015 by Stefano Poda at the Teatro Regio di Torino. Stars Charles Castronovo (Faust), Ildar Abdrazakov (Méphistophélès), Irina Lungu (Marguerite), Vasilij Ladjuk (Valentin), Samantha Korbey (Marthe), Ketevan Kemoklidze (Siebel), and Paolo Maria Orecchia (Wagner). Gianandrea Noseda conducts the Orchestra e Coro del Teatro Regio di Torino (Chorus Master Claudio Fenoglio). Choreography, set design, costume design and lighting by Stefano Poda; assistant stage direction by Paolo Giani Cei; technical direction by Saverio Santoliquido; video direction by Tiziano Mancini. Released 2016, disc has 5.1 dts-HD Master Audio sound. Grade: Help!

Please help us by writing a comment that we can place here as a mini-review of this title.

 

Saturday
Feb062016

Dvořák Stabat Mater 

Dvořák Stabat Mater choral work. Recorded 2015 at the KKL Concert Hall, Lucerne. Mariss Jansons conducts the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra & Choir. Features Erin Wall (soprano), Mihoko Fujimura (mezzo-soprano), Christian Elsner (tenor), and Liang Li (bass). Released 2016. Grade: Help!

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Friday
Feb052016

Luisa Fernanda

Federico Moreno Torroba Luisa Fernanda zarzuela to libretto by Federico Romero & Guillermo Fernández Shaw. Directed 2006 by Emilio Sagi at the Madrid Teatro Real. Stars Plácido Domingo (Vidal Hernando), Nancy Herrera (Luisa Fernanda), José Bros (Javier Moreno), Mariola Cantarero (Duchess Carolina), Raquel Pierotti (Mariana), Javier Ferrer (Aníbal), Sabina Puértolas (Rosita), José Antonio Ferrer (Don Florito Fernández), Federico Gallar (Don Luis Nogales), David Rubiera (Bizco Porras), Montserrat Muñumel (Coconut Seller), Ángel Rodríguez (Saboyard); Tomeu Bibiloni (Don Lucas), Juan Navarro (A Captain), Miguel Borrallo (First Guy), Julio Cendal (Second Guy), José Manuel Cardama (A Village Man), Juan Antonio Sanabria (Street Seller), and Joseba Pinela (Olive Shaker). Dancers are Celia Alturas, Cristina Arias, Olga Castro, Remedios Domingo, Ma Ángeles Fernández, Susana Gonzáles, Natalia Martín, Estefanía Palacios, Asunción Quintero, Silvia Rincón, Rodrigo Alonso, Fran Bas, Fermín Calvo, Eduardo Carranza, Jesús Gonzáles, Joaquín León, PedroNavarro, Joseba Pinela, Antonio Resino, and Juan Carlos Robles. Girls played by Martina Campo and Celia Clemente. Jesús López Cobos directs The Madrid Symphony Orchestra and Chorus (Chorus Master Jordi Casas Bayer). Set design by Emilio Sagi; costumes by Emilio Sagi and Pepa Ojanguren; lighting by Eduardo Bravo; choreography by Nuria Castejón; assistant stage direction by Javier Ulacia; directed for TV by Ángel Luis Ramírez. Released  2009, disc has PCM 5.1 sound. Grade: A

Per Wikipedia, zarzuela is a "Spanish lyric-dramatic genre that alternates between spoken and sung scenes, the latter incorporating operatic and popular song, as well as dance." I'm reminded of the German singspiels and historical pageants performed in the US.  Luisa Fernanda is the most famous and the last great zarzuela to be written. It's been performed more than 10,000 times in Spain and South America.

My impression is that a complete performance of the Luisa Fernanda libretto lasts for more than 3 hours with a substantial history lesson, mostly in spoken dialog, and Luisa's love story, mostly in singing.  This production directed by Emilio Sagi lasts a bit over 2 hours. Almost all of the spoken dialog was cut. This was appropriate because Sagi was originally hired to stage this as a concert version of the drama at La Scala. An Italian audience could not be expected to listen to an hour of lines spoken in Spanish. And there were, of course, no  costumes or sets for the concert performance.

When Sagi had opportunity to present his Luisa Fernanda at the Teatro Real, he didn't restore the cut dialog. As Sagi himself explains in a bonus extra, his objective was to focus on the souls of the characters in Luisa's love story. A performance of the full Luisa Fernanda libretto would normally be supported with elaborate scenery depicting historic locations in the Madrid el centro and lavish period costumes. But Sagi saw no reason to recreate all the buildings and squares his audience could see for real just by walking for a few minutes around the opera house. So he went for an elegant modern update with lean sets and simple costumes for most of the cast. What Sagi wound up with was, although criticised by zarzuela experts as being too short, an excellent show to introduce zarzuela to non-Spanish-speaking audiences.

In its shortened form, the plot is full of rapid twist and turns that can leave you dizzy. A synopsis on the disc helps, and you can find a full synopsis here by Christopher Webber. (Check out Webber's website at www.zalzuela.net.)

I can only give you the highlights of Luisa's love story. It's about 1886 in Madrid. Queen Isabella II is on the throne. The people are restless and agitating for a democratic Republic. On the right below is Javier (José Bros), a poor but ambitious commoner rising fast as an army officer. He's engaged to Luisa, but lately he's been neglecting her. In the center is Mariana (Raquel Pierotti), an innkeeper who knows everybody and is also a match-maker. On the left is Rosita (Sabina Puértolas) who lives at the inn and is busy looking for a man when she's not working mending clothes. Javier reminisces about his childhood in Madrid (standing near a model of downtown Madrid that reminds everyone where this is taking place):

Now we meet Luisa Fernanda (Nancy Herrera) and Vidal (Plácido Domingo). Vidal is a wealthy farmer who came to Madrid to find a wife. He met Mariana at the inn. Mariana has turned against Javier and has encouraged Vidal to court Luisa. Here Luisa turns down Vidal's sincere proposal of marriage, but you can see she's conflicted:

Vidal isn't going to give up on Luisa:

Next we meet Duchess Carolina (Mariola Cantarero) who is intimate with the Queen. Carolina lives in a palace right across the square from the Inn. Trying to shore up support for the Queen, Carolina is a cool political operator:

 

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Thursday
Feb042016

La reine morte

La reine morte (The Dead Queen) ballet. Music by Tchaikovsky. Libretto by Kader Belarbi. Choreographed and directed by Kader Belarbi in 2015 at the Ballet du Capitole. Stars Artjom Maksakov (King Ferrante of Spain), Maria Gutierrez (Doña Inés de Castro, Lady-in-waiting of Infanta), Davit Galstyan (Don Pedro, Prince of Portugal), and Juliette Thélin (The Infanta, the King's daughter), Takafumi Watanabe (Jester), Matthew Astley  (Jester/councillor), Kayo Nakazato (Clown/Deceased bride) and Caroline Betancourt (Female clown/Deceased bride ). Koen Kessels conducts the Orchestre National du Capitole. Stage designs by Bruno DeLavenère; costumes by Olivier Bériot; lighting by Sylvain Chevallot. Directed for screen by Luc Riolon; produced by Fabienne Servan Schreiber and Laurence Miller. 

Released 2016, the disc has 5.0 dts sound. Grade: Help!

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Wednesday
Feb032016

Liszt Piano Concertos

Liszt Piano Concertos concert disc contains the following:
1. Wagner A Faust Overture
2. Liszt Piano Concerto No. 2
3. Wagner Siegfried Idyll
4. Liszt Piano Concerto No. 1
5. Liszt Consolation No. 3
6. Liszt Valse oubliée No. 1

This was performed 2011 at the Philharmonie Hall in Essen as part of the Klavier-Festival Ruhr. Daniel Barenboim is the pianist. Pierre Boulez conducts the Staatskapelle Berlin. Directed for TV by Enrique Sánchez Lansch; Director of Photography was Nyika Jancsó, Audio Producer was Georg Obermeyer; edited by Steffen Herrmann; produced by Paul Smaczny. Released in 2012, music was recorded with 48kHz/24-bit sound sampling and disc has 5.1 dts-HD Master Audio sound output. Grade: C-

A Faust Overture

The warm-up is A Faust Overture.  The conducting, playing, PQ, and SQ are decent to excellent.  But the video content is disappointment as this segment has a bad case of DVDitis. This Faust Overture video would maybe be appropriate for a DVD; but it is unacceptable for an HDVD.

For complete information on DVDitis, see our standards for a symphony orchestra recording in HDVD. Briefly, the low resolution of a DVD forces the cameraman shooting an orchestra to use close-up shots of the conductor and small groups of players, usually in a frantic road-runner race of rapid video cuts. But with the power of HDVD cameras, you can shoot the whole orchestra and the larger sections of the band in a way that closely represents what is really happening on the stage. With an HDVD, you should start off with long-range shots and move in only when the score calls for it.

Well, this video of A Faust Overture from Lansch and Jancsó does not have a single whole-orchestra shot even thought it is the first number on the program. (By whole-orchestra shot, I mean a shot that shows every player in a frame that takes up 100% of the TV screen; i.e., as close as you can get and still see it all.) As you see in the screenshot below, we do get, before the concert starts, a shot from the back of the hall in which the players take up about 15% of the screen:

But the image above doesn't count as a whole-orchestra shot. At this range, even the HDVD image doesn't have useful resolution, and you can't tell much (if anything) about any ant-sized player on the stage.)

The next step down from a whole-orchestra shot would be a large-part-of-orchestra shot. This A Faust Overture video has exactly one of these, and you have to wait 10 and 1/2 minutes to get it (at 10:38) as seen next below. This 85% shot is quite nice, and suggests that 100% shots were easily available to the director: 

One step further down would be a whole-large-section shot. This Faust Overture segment has 5 of these, mostly the 4 bass fiddles. There are also 6 shots of entire smaller sections. But we never get even one clear shot of all the violins, the violas, or the cellos.

So if we are not going to get to see the orchestra, what do we get for our money? Well, we get 48 shots of the conductor. 24 of these are close-up shots of Boulez that show you what he's doing (which at his age is as little as possible). The other 24 shots are made over the backs of at least 7 players and in some cases over the backs of something like 40% of the players. These "backs" shots are a usually a waste of time as far as seeing the conductor. They are positively insulting to the players, who are the only folks on the stage making any noise. Next below is a typical "backs" shot:

Next comes 29 part-section shots, many of which involve confusing panning and zooming amidst a sea of heads and string instruments. There are also 21 solo shots, another DVD favorite because it's so easy to get the focus right with one object in the frame.

To be fair, there are some good shots embedded in this morass of DVDitis.  At 9:05 is this neat shot of multiple wind sections:

Below at 10:43 there's a decent shot of the trumpets, bones, and tuba:

My favorite shot is a solo at 12:41 of Mathias Baier, the principal bassoon. This image, with its startling PQ and colors, is as arresting as a Van Gogh painting. This may not be fair to Mr. Baier (who did not sign up to be a movie star), but you imagine that he might just be as sweet, brusk, and quirky as the instrument he plays:

 

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Monday
Jan252016

Manon

Jules Massenet Manon opera to libretto by Henri Meilhac and Philippe Gille. Directed 2007 by Vincent Paterson at the Staatsoper unter den Linden. Stars Anna Netrebko (Manon), Rolando Villazón (Le Chevalier des Grieux), Christof Fischesser (Le Comte des Grieux), Alfredo Daza (Lescaut), Rémy Corazza (Guillot de Morfontaine), Arttu Kataja (Brétigny, a nobelman), Hanan Alattar (Poussette, an actress), Gal James (Javotte, an actress), Silvia de la Muela (Rosette, an actress),  and Matthias Vieweg (Inkeeper). Daniel Barenboim conducts the Staatskapelle Berlin and the Staatsopernchor (Chorus Master Eberhard Friedrich). Stage design by Johannes Leiacker; costumes by Susan Hilferty; lighting by Duane Schuler; choreography by Vincent Paterson; directed for TV by Andreas Morell; produced by Bernhard Fleischer. Released 2008, music was recorded with 48kHz/24-bit specs, and disc has 5.1 dts-HD Master Audio and 5.1 PCM sound. Grade: A

Antoine-François Prévost d'Exiles (Abbé Prévost) wrote his book L'Histoire du chevalier des Grieux et de Manon Lescaut in 1731. It inspired a number of opera and ballet works including this Massenet opera finished in 1884. Manon has probably been the most popular French opera after Faust and Carmen. (In 1893, Puccini wrote an opera based on the same book; for copyright reasons he called it Manon Lescaut.)

Manon is a comic opera, but the libretto, probing human nature on many points, contains a drama laced with considerable anguish leading to a sad death. It's rich entertainment (not designed to make you cry), but it also gives you things to think about.

Manon (Anna Netrebko) is 15 and too interested in material things, so her family is sending her to a convent.   I read Anna was already an outstanding singer as a teenager, and I think someone advised her to remember how girls act at that age. So here she is convincing, at the actual age of 36, in playing the role of 15-year old.  Her cousin Lescaut (Alfredo Daza) meets her at the train station. Daza is the best sergeant in opera; see him also as Belcore in L'elisir d'amore:

Lescaut cautions Manon to behave (while he and some army pals gamble in a back room at the station):

The young man on the left below is Brétigny (Arttu Kataja), a poor nobleman of scant honor. The man on the right is Guillot de Morfontaine (Rémy Corazza) a rich lecher with good political connections. He has three groupies, whom I will try to ID (loving to live dangerously) as (from your left to right): Javotte (Gal James), Rosette (Silvia de la Muela), and Poussette (Hanan Alattar). We will see these characters again. Guillot tried to enter into a conversation with Manon, but his groupies restrain him:

Manon is resigned to her fate as a nun:

Until she meets Le Chevalier des Grieux (Rolando Villazón) another stranger in the station. For both it's love at first plight; and in about 90 seconds, they run away to Paris:

 

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Monday
Jan252016

Manon Lescaut

Updated on Wednesday, February 3, 2016 at 5:51PM by Registered CommenterHenry McFadyen Jr.

Puccini Manon Lescaut opera to libretto by Domenico Oliva and Luigi Illica. Directed 2014 by Jonathan Kent at the Royal Opera House. Stars Kristine (Kristīne) Opolais (Manon Lescaut), Jonas Kaufmann (Des Grieux), Christopher Maltman (Lescaut, Manon's brother), Maurizio Muraro (Geronte), Benjamin Hulett (Edmondo), Nadezhda Karyazina (Musician), Robert Burt (Dancing Master), Nigel Cliffe (Innkeeper), Jihoon Kim (Sergeant), Luis  Gomes (Lamplighter), and Jeremy White (Naval Captain). Antonio Pappano conducts the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House (Concert Master Vasko Vassilev) and the Royal Opera Chorus (Chorus Master Stephen Westrop); designs by Paul Brown; lighting design by Mark Henderson; movement by Denni Sayers. Directed for the screen by Jonathan Haswell. Released 2015, music recorded with 48kHz/24-bit sampling specs; disc has 5.0 dts-HD Master sound output.  Grade:  B

Antoine-François Prévost d'Exiles (Abbé Prévost) wrote his book L'Histoire du chevalier des Grieux et de Manon Lescaut in 1731. Massenet wrote his Manon opera in 1884 in French.  In 1893, Puccini took the risk of tackling the same subject in Italian. Puccini explained,"Massenet feels it as a Frenchman, with powder and the minuets. I shall feel it as an Italian, with desperate passion." For copyright reasons, Puccini used the name Manon Lescaut.)

Here's Manon Lescaut (Kristīne Opolais) who is 18 in this libretto:

As she's on her way to a convent, Manon meets Des Grieux (Jonas Kaufmann) in front of a hotel. He's a student reading Camus' L'Étranger (The Stranger). L'Étranger was published in 1942. Well, director Kent's production is not set in WW II, so let's say the time is the mid-50s or 60s. I just checked---at no time during this period was any part of the United States a colony of France. (More later on this.)

Lescaut is Manon's vilely opportunistic brother (Christopher Maltman). He's knows Manon will not do well in a cloister:

Manon and Lescaut also met on the trip the wealthy and powerful business tycoon Geronte de Revoir (Maurizio Muraro). He decides, with the approval of Lescaut, to set Manon up in Paris in a cloister of his own:

But Geronte and Lescaut are frustrated when Manon and her student run away on their own to Paris!

Lescaut instantly comes up with Plan B:

Now Manon is living in Plan B:

 

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Saturday
Jan232016

A Flight through the Orchestra: Brahms Symphony No. 2

A Flight through the Orchestra: Brahms Symphony No. 2 concert. Performed June 2015 at the Rummelsburg Kraftwerk (Power Station) in Berlin. Tugan Sokhiev conducts the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester. Released 2015, music was recorded at 48kHz/24-bit sampling rate and the disc has 5.0 dts-HD Master Audio sound output. Grade: D-

This title was conceived and directed by videographer Henning Kasten. It's a short (45 minute) experiment in a new way to record the symphony orchestra. The video was shot in 4k using a single camera at the end of a telescopic crane which was in turn mounted on a long rail. This gear gave the camera a limited ability to move over the orchestra and to positions near some of the musicians.  Each movement of the symphony is shot in a separate single take with no cuts (so there are 4 tracks of music). To avoid motion-blur and jutter, the camera moves very slowly and smoothly. The sound was also recorded in a new way. First there were normal microphones about on the stage  to "recreate the overall sound of the orchestra." In addition, the flying camera was fitted with an array of 5 microphones which recorded the sound of each instrument or group of instruments the camera was focusing on at any particular time. The disc is a 1K product. PR suggests, assuming the 1K disc is well-received, that a 4K version will eventually published. 

Henning Kasten is a videographer with significant experience in recording symphonies.  17 titles are listed on this website in which Kasten is credited with the video, mostly outdoor shows and indoor concerts in Berlin, Dresden, and Leipzig. I did a complete review of his Bruckner Symphonie No. 6 at Dresden with Barenboim conducting the Berlin Staatskapelle. I diagnosed a "dreadful case" of DVDitis for that title and gave it a "C+." I did not blame Kasten for the DVDitis---I blamed management for hiring Kasten to film a DVD that was also published in Blu-ray as an additional profit center. But I do note that Kasten, like other videographers, has been exposed to many bad habits that poison our classical music HDVDs. Kasten faired a bit better with his 2015 Sommernachtskoncert at the Schönbrunn Palace in Vienna, which I graded "B."

Now to Kasten's experiment. The disk has  6 tracks, one for an introduction, one for each movement in the music, and one for credits at the end. There is nothing else on the disc---no extras or Euroarts trailers. The keepcase booket has a couple of typical pages about the music and the orchestra. There is next to nothing is said in the booklet about the crane or technical aspects of the experiment other than what I've already explained above.

There is no image of the crane (or its shadow) in the video, on the disc (no extras), or in the keepcase booklet. But there is a poor photo of the crane on the back of the keepcase, and you can see this fairly well above in my screenshot of the keepcase artwork. The crane has a base and 3 smaller telescopic extensions. A boxy-looking camera appears to hang about 4 feet below the end of the crane. It appears the camera can pivot maybe 270 degrees to shoot in various directions from the position reached by the crane. In the keepcase photo, you see a white "sheet" about 6 feet tall that runs along the side of the orchestra. I think that sheet might be the "rail" that supports the crane. I doubt there is much new or "high-tech" about this hardware. I do think that sophisticated computer software is needed to safely control the gear.

The show begins with Sokhiev already on the podium starting the 1st movement. Kasten says in the booklet that the crane can access "almost every position within and above the orchestra." This is, as you will see later, a bit of puffing; the positions the camera can reach with its lens are in fact quite limited. Also Kasten says nothing about another serious shocker: the crane and camera cannot get any shot of the whole orchestra from the front. It is the duty of every videographer to start a video of a symphony with solid shots of the whole orchestra. The screenshot below is the best Kasten can do with the limited reach of his crane. But this is not a whole-orchestra shot for several reasons. First, it's so far back that the orchestra doesn't take up the whole frame. About 20% of the screen on the right is wasted on an image of the old building. Second, the shot is off-center. Third, a whole rank of violins is chopped off on the left. Because the camera is so far back and the orchestra seating is arranged over a large area, the resolution of the image is unacceptably poor on my display in my HT. The resolution does look slightly better in the HT than in this screenshot (and it ought to be better also in 4K):

Oddly, the crane can get a whole-orchestra shot of sorts from the rear. In the picture below you see the MIA violins on a riser on the right. (An old real-crane hook hanging from the ceiling doesn't improve things.) Strangely, this is the view that Kasten selects to end his video---it has to be the weakest ending of a symphony video I've seen:

So there is not a single useful whole-orchestra shot in this entire video. The next screenshot below is, I think, about the best Kasten can do to show the orchestra generally--- a part-orchestra shot. Another irritating problem with Kasten's crane set-up is that he can't show all the violins. Below you see all the 2nd violins and maybe half the 1st violins, and that about as good as it gets. This view also lets you see better how spread-out the players are. Why is that? Well, Kasten can't get close to the players with his crane and dangling camera if the players are seated near each other as they normally would be. To get close-ups, Kasten creates big gaps in the seating. Look closely and you will see a "middle alley" that runs all along the rear of the violins and cellos up to a riser that holds the double-basses. And there's a big gap between the horns and the woodwinds:

Here's another view of the middle alley:

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