January 6, 2019

Here's our list of the best classical music HDVDs, mostly with 96kHz/24-bit sound, no DVDitis, and grades of A+:

  1. Tchaikovsky Symphony No. 6 from NHK with the Berlin Philharmonic under Ozawa
  2. flare Mahler Symphony No. 1 from NHK with the Saito Kinen Orchestra under Ozawa
  3. flare Brahms Symphony No. 2 from NHK with the Saito Kinen Orchestra under Ozawa
  4. flare Schumann Piano Concerto & Bruckner Symphony 9 from NHK with the Concertgebouw Orchestra under  Haitink
  5. Mozart Symphony 35 & Haydn Cello Concerto from NHK with Mito Chamber Orchestra under Ozawa
  6. Mendelssohn Piano Concerto No. 1 and Midsummer Night's Dream Music from NHK with Mito Chamber Orchestra under Ozawa
  7. flare Tango! from Challenge Records---Piazzolla tango nuevo by the Isabelle van Keulen Ensemble
  8. Winterreise from Challenge Records with tenor Prégardien and Gees on piano
  9. Mutter Live---The Club Album from DG.
  10. Capuleti e i Montecchi opera from San Francisco Opera and EuroArts
  11. Porgy and Bess opera from San Francisco Opera and EuroArts
  12. Mozart Chamber Music from AIX Records with the Dover Quartet + guest artists
  13. Ein Deutsches Requiem from Concorde with heartfelt playing by the Cleveland Symphony at Bruckner's home church, the gorgeous Stiftsbasilika Monastery in St. Florian, under the baton of local favorite son Franz Welser-Möst
  14. flare Vespro della beata vergine. It's the best choral work to come along in HDVD
  15. flareLiszt Piano No. 2 and Beethoven Piano Concerto No. 1 from the obscure Busch label. This is the first high-quality music performance published in 4K with HDR, which makes it a candidate for the best classical music record ever made to date (January 6, 2019) even though we marked in down to B+ for DVDitis

Observations

We now have about 296 classical music titles reported on the website. It's shocking to see how few of them are on our "Best Classical Music List." Almost all of the classical music Blu-rays reported on this website (but not on the list above) were shot with HD TV cameras at live performances when producer could get the needed rights and was able to find places to park his gear. They were shot primarily for the DVD market because DVDs were still selling much better than the new Blu-ray discs.

Many of these performances and recordings on DVD were lackluster. Others probably were improvements over most or all prior recordings because even a DVD reveals a lot about a classical music performance that sound-alone recordings, no matter how good, cannot show.

Once the DVDs were published the producers would often also publish the exact same video and sound files in Blu-ray dress. Normally the picture quality was improved over the DVD and often the sound quality was also better.

But few of these republished DVD shoots have what we demand of our Blu-ray discs (which we call HDVDs) for showing in HD home theaters. Most of the republished Blu-rays are infected with DVDitis, a disease characterized by a great many short video clips of small parts of the ensemble being recorded. Classical music Blu-rays need to be shot mostly with long and large-scale views of the ensemble. A good DVD can't be a good HDVD when the ensemble is larger than a solo performer or a small chamber group. And few of the DVD-style recordings were made with 96kHz/24-bit sound sampling. Learn more about the DVDitis problem in our detailed special article.

So the vast majority of the 296 classical music titles reported on the website were already crippled and obsolete when first published in Blu-ray. Almost everything has to be shot again with HDVD in mind. We hope this will finally start to happen with the advent of the 4K market. Then we expect DVDs to vanish and for producers to wake up to the fact that they have to start shooting correctly.

What should you do now? One suggestion would be to keep buying your music in CD or streaming form and broaden your knowledge by exploring the new HDVD opera, ballet, and theater titles (where the problem of DVDitis is much less acute). If you are really interested in classical music video, buy some of the discs on the list above. You can learn from them how to distinguish the good from the mediocre and the bad. Next consider classical music titles on our Alphalist with grades A or B, which means the less or no DVDitis. Finally, trying a few of the C graded titles can't exactly hurt you. We don't consider them good values, but you might.