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  • Classic Archive: Conductors [Herbert von Karajan, Yevgeny Mravinsky] [Blu-ray] [2014]
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Classic Archive: Conductors [Herbert von Karajan, Yevgeny Mravinsky] [Blu-ray] [2014]


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Product details

  • Actors: Various Orchestras
  • Format: Blu-ray
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region B/2 (Read more about DVD/Blu-ray formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 4:3 - 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Classification: Exempt
  • Studio: Euroarts
  • DVD Release Date: 1 Sept. 2014
  • Run Time: 868 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00LHLLEB0
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 83,022 in DVD & Blu-ray (See Top 100 in DVD & Blu-ray)

Reviews

Great performances from legendary artists of the 20th century, the Classic Archive Collector's Edition - CONDUCTORS offers unique insights in the world of music interpretation of the golden age.

This fourth part of the edition is dedicated to some of the most outstanding conductors of the past.

With more than 14 hours of material the edition includes various concerti, recitals, interesting documentaries, some in colour, some in glorious black and white, as well as comprehensive booklet information.

This collector's edition makes rare classical archive footage from the years 1937-1983 suitable for Blu-ray Disc lovers.

Picture Format: 4:3 Standard Definition
Sound Format: PCM 2.0 Dual Mono Dolby Digital 2.0 Dual Mono
Region Code: 0
Duration: 868 minutes
Subtitles: English German French Spanish

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By I. Giles HALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWER on 3 Sept. 2014
Foreword:

This review has been written in sections to answer questions that might be asked concerning playing duration, source material and musical value, both archive and current. Please concentrate on the parts of the review that apply as each reader will have different knowledge requirements

...................................

The Classic Archive concept and playing duration - a technical overview:

Quite apart from the considerable musical content of this disc, the huge playing time of some 14 hours probably needs some explanation for those not totally familiar with Blu-ray capacity. The Blu-ray format has a capacity of several DVDs in just the same way that DVDs have more capacity than VHS tapes and, in an earlier generation, LP (long playing) records had much greater capacity than 78 rpm records

The greater capacity can be used in two ways. Usually it is used to carry High Definition files which, because of their high definition, require much more capacity. However, it would be just as possible for the Blu-ray disc to use its greater capacity to have much longer playing times when the source material is of lower resolution and thus requiring less capacity per item.

That is what has happened here. The original source material is that of television broadcasts taped on video tape and at the quality associated with television broadcasts largely from the 1960's but with further examples from the 1950's and one from the 1970's. Videotape could be described as Low Definition by contrast with modern High Definition recordings. Consequently we are able to experience all that broadcast material conveniently gathered together on a single disc.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By E. Parker on 4 Sept. 2014
Verified Purchase
I am no musical expert and I leave that to the other reviews on this page - but like the previous issues in this series they are a no brainer at this price (£28) for some excellent historical recordings. As ever the various selection vary in quality but are fascinating incites into the recent past. One point - in the Stokowski section, why was the bonus on the original DVD (Pierre Monteux conducting Dukas L'Apprenti Sorcier) not included in this issue (although the picture is slightly better on BD and the sound much improved).
Incidentally Volume 5 "Voices" is due before the end of the year. Enjoy.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Mr. Roger Francis on 6 Jan. 2015
Verified Purchase
Extremely variable technically and musically, but fills important gaps
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 3 reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
An invaluable compilation derived from SD television broadcasts making use of the extended capacity of the Blu-ray format 3 Sept. 2014
By I. Giles - Published on Amazon.com
Foreword:

This review has been written in sections to answer questions that might be asked concerning playing duration, source material and musical value, both archive and current. Please concentrate on the parts of the review that apply as each reader will have different knowledge requirements

...................................

The Classic Archive concept and playing duration - a technical overview:

Quite apart from the considerable musical content of this disc, the huge playing time of some 14 hours probably needs some explanation for those not totally familiar with Blu-ray capacity. The Blu-ray format has a capacity of several DVDs in just the same way that DVDs have more capacity than VHS tapes and, in an earlier generation, LP (long playing) records had much greater capacity than 78 rpm records

The greater capacity can be used in two ways. Usually it is used to carry High Definition files which, because of their high definition, require much more capacity. However, it would be just as possible for the Blu-ray disc to use its greater capacity to have much longer playing times when the source material is of lower resolution and thus requiring less capacity per item.

That is what has happened here. The original source material is that of television broadcasts taped on video tape and at the quality associated with television broadcasts largely from the 1960's but with further examples from the 1950's and one from the 1970's. Videotape could be described as Low Definition by contrast with modern High Definition recordings. Consequently we are able to experience all that broadcast material conveniently gathered together on a single disc.

Audio-video recording has been an area of great advancement since these live broadcast recordings were made. The archive recordings presented here are standard definition recordings but made at a time of infancy in that area of recording. Modern standard definition recording, let alone HD recording, is vastly superior and fundamentally a totally different product in terms of recording quality. In addition, those wishing for equivalent audio recording, LP or CD source, from the 1950's and 1960's will be greatly disappointed.

That is, however, to miss the point entirely. These recordings derive from largely English and French broadcasting of very limited audio-video quality by any modern standards but of high value in terms of archive footage which is otherwise unavailable. It is on that specific basis that these recordings must be judged and will appeal mainly to collectors with that interest in mind.

..................................

The conductors:

Thus we are introduced to the work of the following key conductors - Karajan, Mravinsky, Munch, Rozhdestvensky, Giulini, Klemperer, Stokowski, Jochum and Markevich. Additionally there are also shorter examples of Barbirolli, Paray, Ansermet and Stravinsky who are not featured in the main listings.

In a review of a disc of this duration and coverage it would be invidious to single out items of superior merit. However it is fair and essential to note that each conductor is well represented with some core personal repertoire and that the 'live' nature of the broadcast material ensures a degree of special frisson which, for many, will overcome the obvious deficiencies of the recordings of those times.

The 9 featured conductors are shown directing a range of music which has been generally chosen as being particularly associated with their individual repertoire. Thus Mravinsky is illustrated with his Leningrad orchestra playing Tchaikovsky's Francesca da Rimini in a 1983 Russian recording of a vision that Jansons describes as being `fire and ice.' This is preceded by an absorbing 2003 BBC documentary fully presenting the Mravinsky's life and times - an important historical document. The non-listed four conductors as identified above are also shown in appropriately representative repertoire.

Rozhdestvensky directs a particularly exciting performance of the same composer's 4th symphony at a 1971 London Prom concert in markedly superior sound and vision broadcast by the BBC in colour and which is greeted by an explosion of applause. This is also with the Leningrad orchestra and the difference between these two conductors is extreme - Mravinsky being dourly business-like and Rozhdestvensky being full of smiles and emotional enthusiasm. That illustrates the difference in their life experiences of course.

Charles Munch is represented with the last three movements of Brahms' symphony 1, the first movement having been lost, and Ravel's Daphnis second suite. Both of these illustrate Munch's typically lively brand of `joie de vivre' with the final dance of the Ravel suite taken at considerable speed and generating huge excitement and out-doing his renowned studio recordings in that respect. The extreme movement blur at the conclusion adds to the heady sense of thrill. The 1966 recordings illustrate the expected compromises of sound and vision. The following Faure Pelleas suite with Paray recorded at the same time is an appropriately much more controlled experience and benefits from better recording standards even though of the same vintage.

Rozhdestvensky then returns as a sympathetic accompanist to Oistrakh with the Moscow Radio orchestra in the violin concertos by Brahms, Sibelius and Tchaikovsky. These are all interpretations of considerable performing note but the Russian recordings from 1966 require a considerable amount of forbearance and are really archive material.

The examples of Giulini derive from four concerts recorded by the BBC in 1964. His avoidance of eye contact with the orchestral players is a marked feature and his emotional response to the music seems to be more a personal event rather than one shared. The Falla extracts and the Verdi overture are by far the most involving. The Mozart symphony 40 is a reliable big band interpretation and the opening Mussorgsky Pictures lack vigour in the faster movements especially when compared with Szell or Reiner for example. Nevertheless this selection remains a telling visual document in recordings typical of broadcasts of their time.

Klemperer is represented with a typically granite-like view of Beethoven's symphony 9 in a 1964 recording made after his stroke. Regardless of that this performance is rock steady and will be a very familiar conception to all those collectors familiar with his late CD recordings. The four soloists are excellent with Gustav Neidlinger setting the scene in the final movement most imperiously. Ansermet follows with a 1967 recording of the Beethoven symphony 7, also from BBC archives. This is clean-lined in a typically clear-headed Ansermet manner which will be familiar to collectors of early stereo Decca French and Spanish repertoire especially.

The Stokowski section of this disc features performances of Beethoven 5, Schubert 8, a Wagner overture and Debussy's Prelude. These are from 1969 and 1972 and are among the best technical recordings on the disc. They are all noticeably steady performances but clearly all is under control. These performances illustrate Stokowski's experimentations in adjusting orchestral layout and his free-choice bowing options for the strings, all ideas intended to influence sound in ways appropriate to the music. This is therefore an opportunity for collectors to actually see these ideas in action and in reasonable recordings.

Jochum is represented by Bruckner symphony 7 and Wagner Tristan Prelude & Liebestod all of which illustrate his authority and also his tendency towards flexibility over rhythm leading to the charge of a stop/go approach to Bruckner especially. These are good examples of his style and the recordings are from 1980

Markevich is represented in older age with a recording from 1968 of Wagner pieces and a Shostakovich symphony 1 from earlier in 1963 when the French orchestra was probably relatively unfamiliar with the work. Suffice it to say that they deliver a recognisably Russian performance. Markevich is an undemonstrative conductor who is clearly in full charge. The final item, Stravinsky's Symphony of Psalms is a tightly controlled affair of considerable power from 1963.

The final conductor on the disc is Stravinsky who shows a complete empathy with his own Firebird Suite. The Infernal Dance is satisfyingly infernal and Stravinsky conducts frequently with penetrating eye contact and very effectively too (France 1967).

The disc opens with Karajan conducting a rivetingly intense performance of Berlioz' Fantastic Symphony which outdoes his studio interpretation which did not find universal favour. The production is very much along the lines of his own video productions and previously made available on Sony. This is clearly a master conductor with things to say. His habit of conducting recordings with his eyes shut was abandoned shortly after this recording when his eyes were put to better effect and missed nothing! This recording from 1970 makes a good start to the disc. That is followed by a trenchant Corsair overture conducted in 1963 by Barbirolli in Manchester with his Halle orchestra.

..........................................

Summary:

This is a collection that makes no claims of being comprehensively finite in terms of the featured conductors or their featured repertoire. What it does offer is a valuable resource chronicling the work of some of the finest exponents of their art from the early days of television broadcasting. As such it deserves the gratitude of interested collectors who will find it to offer very good value as well as musical illumination.

This collection will be of great interest to those who have an interest in historical recordings and these have been gathered together and presented as a very convenient collection similar to that of the Classic Archive of Strings, pianists and chamber ensembles released recently. The use of the Blu-ray format with its larger capacity has been imaginatively used to maximise access to a considerable amount of historical material which might otherwise have been lost to collectors of such material.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
A wondrous mixed bag 26 Aug. 2014
By Blu-ray Bill - Published on Amazon.com
As variable as is the content, and the picture and sound quality, on this Blu-ray (which I was fortunate to receive a review copy of), it's hard to imagine anyone with an interest in major conductors and historical orchestral performances who would not want it in their collection. I'd go so far as to call it essential.

It should be noted that the selections on this Blu-ray disc are of DVD quality -- that is, standard definition, not high definition. In almost all cases the source material is actually below DVD quality, so any conversion to HD would have been wasted. Why is it on Blu-ray then? Because the format's much greater capacity allows EuroArts to put 14-plus hours of SD content on a single Blu-ray disc. Each conductor section is essentially the equivalent of a DVD (and, in fact, a number are available -- at much greater total cost -- as individual DVDs).

The Blu-ray menu is quite clunky. It allows you to choose by conductor, but not by the work. You wouldn't necessarily know that the Stravinsky-conducted Firebird suite is included under Markevitch, for example. And the Rozhdestvensky section is really mainly about the soloist, Oistrakh, not the conductor. What's worse, although each movement merits a disc chapter, your only way to maneuver within the works is to use the skip button.

Those caveats aside, here are some quick capsule reviews of the performances.

Most of the selections on the disc are of historical interest but not necessarily versions of the works that one would return to again and again, particularly when HD versions are available. Among the exceptions are the vibrant Stokowski-conducted performances capturing him at 87 and 90 with two London orchestras. The color picture and sound quality are excellent for the years (1969 and 1972). And the Beethoven 5th, Schubert 8th, Meistersinger prelude and Prelude a l'Apres-midi d'un Faune are all performed superbly well. These are not to be missed and worth the price of the disc on their own.

Markevitch is perhaps one of the least well-known conductors on this set, but he belongs up there with the very best. His approach is always interesting. Luckily, the technical quality of his section is also above average. The 1968 Orchestre National de l'ORTF performances have very good picture quality (slightly soft) and excellent sound. As the booklet notes, Markevitch has a "rather calm" demeanor but his performances "are filled with passion and emotional intensity." Still waters run deep indeed. His performances of Wagner (Tannhauser overture, Tristan und Isolde Act I Prelude and Liebestod) are beautifully monumental. Since the only duplicated pieces on this disc are the Tristan und Isolde ones, it's interesting to compare Markevitch's take with Jochum's. To my mind, Markevitch wins.

Next on Markevitch's program is Shostakovich's 1st Symphony (1963 performance) and Stravinsky's Symphony of Psalms (1967 performance). They're not pieces I respond to much, so it's best for others to judge how well they're done here. This section of the disc ends with another "hidden" conductor, and it's a fascinating one: Stravinsky in 1965 (when he was 83) conducting the New Philharmonia Orchestra in a definitive performance of his Firebird Suite. Many will consider this another highlight of the disc. The picture and sound are excellent for the period.

I was looking forward to the section on Munch, whom I always find very satisfying and often thrilling. Unfortunately, the Brahms 1st performance from 1966 -- with the Orchestre National de l'ORTF in Japan -- is lacking its first movement (never recovered) and offers only fair picture and sound. But Munch appears to be having a ball, exclaiming in excitement throughout and winking at the orchestra at the end. He conducts without a score. You'd never know he was 75 at the time and would be gone in merely two years. It's a fine performance and I'm glad to have it, but the second work, Ravel's Daphnis et Chloe, is more impressive. This is followed by Paray, a somewhat lesser-known conductor, taking up the baton for an excellent 1971 performance of Faure's Pelleas et Melisande suite. The picture and sound quality are considerably better than in the Munch footage.

Has any conductor fallen quite so much in estimations as Karajan after his death? Without his formidable presence breathing life into the mystique he carefully built up, it can be hard to see what all the fuss was about. Here, he conducts Berlioz's Symphonie Fantastique in a 1970 studio performance (in color) by the Orchestre de Paris. The image is good, if a bit blurry, but the sound is merely adequate and boxy. Karajan conducts the entire work without a score and with his eyes closed. I found it an uninteresting performance, but then it's not one of my favorite works. This is followed by a more interesting 1962 Barbirolli performance of the composer's Le Corsaire with the Halle Orchestra, captured in what appears to be either a kinescope or several-generations-from-original video. The image is poor, but the sound is good despite the fact it congests easily.

The Jochum section captures a concert that must have been close to the conductor's heart. In it, he leads a 1980 performance of the Bruckner 7th -- 54 years after conducting the work at his debut. It's followed by the Prelude and Liebestod from Tristan und Isolde, the work that "inspired his decision to become a musician," according to the booklet. In the first, Jochum demonstrates why he was one of the leading Brucknerians, and many will consider this Orchestre National de France performance one of the best on the disc. The video quality is good but soft (a diffusion filter appears to have been used) and the sound is very good. For me, Jochum is just a couple of rungs from the top, alongside, say, Bohm. I can't fault his performances, but they lack that transcendent, spiritual quality that Celibidache, for example, brought to these works. These performances are followed by an earlier Jochum one from 1964 of the Nozze di Figaro overture; it has good sound but a muddy picture.

The Giulini section with the Philharmonia Orchestra is of varying quality. The 1964 Pictures at an Exhibition sports a very grainy and damaged image (kinescope quality) but fairly good sound. I wasn't blown away by the performance, but perhaps that's because nothing beats Rattle's version (Mussorgsky: Pictures at an Exhibition & Borodin: Symphony No. 2 [Blu-ray]), which is on a demonstration-quality disc with perfect picture and sound. Much more enjoyable was the 1969 Mozart 40th, which sports better picture and sound. It's energetic and fully satisfying. So is the Sombrero de Tres Picos, wherein Giulini gives himself and the orchestra quite a workout. That's followed by the overture to Vespres Siciliennes, also quite good.

The section on Rozhdestvensky, the only conductor represented on the Blu-ray who is still living, is actually a compilation of performances (by various artists) rescued from the Russian archives after 25 years, most featuring violinist David Oistrakh. Some are for completists only, because the quality of the source material is challenging. Such is the case with the Brahms violin concerto. The image is very muddy and the 1966 sound, which overloads easily, allows for little repeat pleasure. The Sibelius concerto with the Moscow Radio Symphony Orchestra from the same year has better sound, although the image remains poor. The highlight for me of this section was the Tchaikovsky violin concerto with the Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra from 1968, which has good sound and features a great historical performance of the work by Ostraikh, who was only to live another six years.

Rozhdestvensky also appears at the end of the Mravinsky section. There, he conducts the Tchaikovsky 4th -- quite loosely, leaving the Leningrad Philharmonic Orchestra to its own devices at times -- and earns rapturous applause from the young audience. The 1971 performance sports very good (color) picture and sound quality.

Mravinsky is one of those conductors who retains a cult-like following. Unlike the other selections on the Blu-ray, the 2003 BBC documentary included here is in the 16:9 format (filling the entirety of a flat screen TV), although not in HD. Informative and enjoyable, if somewhat repetitious, it's about an hour long. Included at the end is a full 1983 performance of Tchaikovsky's Francesca Da Rimini. It's been cropped to fill the 16:9 format, which makes for some awkwardly claustrophobic framing at times. You see little of the Leningrad orchestra -- it mainly consists of one camera zooming in and out on Mravinsky. It's a notable performance, and the sound is good.

To my mind, the least successful performance included on the Blu-ray is Klemperer's Beethoven 9th with the New Philharmonia Orchestra. Filmed when he was 79, it's reportedly the only footage available of the conductor in action. Although he lived several more years, he looks quite frail, and sometimes the orchestra appears to be leading him. I've never been a Klemperer fan -- his conducting has always seemed rigid, metronomic and uninspired to me. But others disagree, and for them this performance might well be one to cherish. The picture quality is good and the sound is excellent for the period.

Ansermet is also not anywhere near the top of my list of conductors, but the juxtaposition with Klemperer serves him well here. His fleet-footed Beethoven 7th with the Orchestre Philharmonique de l'ORTF hits as a gust of clean Swiss mountain air after the 9th, even if it plumbs no hidden depths. The sound is boxier but still very good.

There you have it. A mixed bag in every sense of the word, but a wondrous one filled with many great performances. I'd hate to be without it.
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Five Stars 5 Dec. 2014
By Walter Cooper Cortes - Published on Amazon.com
Very nice collection
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