Fauré Requiem concert. Performed 2011 at the Salle Pleyel in Paris. Features the following pieces by Fauré for orchestra and chorus:
1. Pavane in F sharp minor, Op. 50 [6:44] (Popular piece based on a Spanish dance called the pavane)
2. Élégie in C minor, Op. 24 [7:23] (cello Eric Picard) (chorus rests)
2. Super flumina Babylonis [11:00] ("By the rivers of Babylon")
3. Cantique de Jean Racine in D flat major, Op. 11 [6:08] ("Hymn of Racine")
4. Requiem in D minor, Op. 48 [37:30] (soprano Chen Reiss and baritone Matthias Goerne)
Paavo Järvi conducts the Orchestre de Paris and the Chœur de l'Orchestre de Paris (Chorus Director Stephen Betteridge). Directed for TV by Isabelle Soulard; film edited by Richard Poisson; audio by Aurélie Messonnier; produced by Sabrina Iwanski. Released 2012, disc has 5.1 dts-HD Master Audio sound. Grade: C
The music on this disc is relatively unknown. This obscurity is a bit of a puzzle, because all the music, while modern enough to be relevant today, is melodic and relaxing to the point of being blissful. Most of the selections are religious, but there's nothing pompous, imposing, or sanctimonious about them. The more I listened to this disc, the more I liked it, even though I have plenty of criticism as to how it could have been better made.
PQ is weak throughout. As you can see from the screenshots below, the lighting on the Pleyel stage was spotty and probably low. I also question whether Soulard had adequate video cameras. On my 59" calibrated plasma display the image has soft resolution (that seems to be somewhere between HD and SD) and looks hazy. There is glare from the sheet music and skin tones are often pink. Gordon Smith in France, who uses a projector, reports that "the lighting is terrible [and] washes out the image.. . . killing any contrast." I found that the poor PQ didn't in itself keep me from admiring the beauty of the performance, but it's definitely not what we have a right to expert in a full-priced HDVD.
SQ also falls short of today's standards. I think the music was recorded using 48kHz/16-bit sound sampling. Today I would expect at least 48kHz/20-bit, or better yet, 96kHz/24-bit sound. Generally the sound is enjoyable, and I heard considerable dynamic contrast on my system. The devil pops up in the details. There's a lot of pizzicato in Fauré's music. I could see the strings being plucked and I could hear them, but only faintly and without verve. I could hear the harp, but not well; I doubt that she had her own mike.
Gordon Smith often watches symphony HDVDs with headphones and stereo sound. He reports that the left and right channels is stereo mode are incorrectly reversed. So when the soprano (in the Requiem) stands on the left side of the the stage as seen by the viewer, the sound of her voice comes from the right earphone. (I was not able to duplicate this in my HT, which is too small to have a center speaker. To me the voice of the soprano seems to come from the center.)
The Requiem recording has an acute case of DVDitis. See our special article on this dread disease for more about the cause and symptoms of DVDitis. I ran the numbers. The Requiem lasts 37.5 minutes and has at least 300 cuts. That's 7.5 seconds for the average cut. This is too fast for a short piece of serene music. The very fastest recordings I have measured have cuts that average about 5 seconds. The best symphony HDVDs have cuts that average 15+ seconds each.
The good symphony HDVD will proceed at a stately pace to show the viewer plenty of whole-orchestra shots as well as shots of whole sections and multiple sections. Featured soloists will, of course, receive special attention. This will be augmented with a modest number of shots of first-chair soloists and the conductor. The idea is to start the viewer off with a show similar to what he would experience at a live concert, and then add value through close-up shots that the spectator at the live performance can't see.
Soulard and Poisson give us not even one whole-orchestra shot from the Requiem. At 00:37:33 there is a single shot that embraces the whole orchestra, but it doesn't count because the angle hides many of the musicians:
The picture above shows that the orchestra is placed on the stage off-center to the right (there are 2 ranks of double basses on the right that are not balanced off on the left). The shot below shows that the chorus was placed on the stage off-center to the left. All this imbalance may have made it harder to get good whole-orchestra shots:
There are several shots like the one below that perhaps were intended to be whole-orchestra shots but don't count because they miss a double bass:
In all the pictures above, some of the singers in the chorus are in a shadow. In the view below, the entire chorus recedes into gloom. Did someone turn the lights off in the middle of the show? I don't think so. Maybe this is some kind of gross camera error: