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Customer Review

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting documentation of a bold experiment, 28 Mar. 2013
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This review is from: Universe of Sound - Holst: The Planets; Talbot: Worlds, Stars, Systems, Infinity (Philharmonia Orchestra/Esa-Pekka Salonen) [Blu-ray] [Region Free] (Blu-ray)
The Universe of Sound project is given a fascinating airing on this disc - it made me wish that I could have visited the Science Museum in London to experience it. For once I found the 'extra' on a disc worth watching all the way through. I bought this disc, however, for the performance of The Planets. Esa-Pekka Salonen keeps tempos fairly brisk and conjures up Holst's vision of our solar system purposefully, if to my mind a little blandly. I found I enjoyed the performance without any detail registering as being exceptional. Be aware that 'Neptune', instead of fading into silence, mixes into Jody Talbot's 'World, Stars, Systems, Infinity', a modern but approachable and interesting work that matches Holst's planets well.
As for the technical quality, I was again a little disappointed. Although there are options to view 'picture in picture' with the conductor, or to split-screen orchestral sections, I stuck with the traditional version. The studio performance is given in formal wear against a black background, with predominantly soft lighting, which allowed players to merge into their background (more backlighting of the orchestra would have helped). Skin tones appear to me to be slightly desaturated and without great variety, what I can only describe as a 'dirty pink' hue. Cameras are visible in shot, and there is some suggestion of shuttering or slight judder, which was more evident to me towards the end.
I sampled the LPCM stereo tracks but mostly stuck with the DTS HD surround, which to my ear gained from the extra airiness and smoothness, especially of the violins. The whole project demanded multi-miking, and, as you might expect from someone with the deserved reputation of Mike Hatch, the balance is excellent (allowing for tasteful spotlighting), but I would have preferred a little more bass drum in The Planets. Talbot's work is better served in that regard. Whereas organ pedal underpinning is fine, I found the organ glissando in Uranus disappointing. Incidentally both chorus and organ were recorded separately from the orchestra.
Before the performance proper there is an information screen explaining the video options. The caption on this screen twice uses 'principle' instead of 'principal', a howler that should never have made it into the final edit. Perversely, apart from this screen 'principal' is properly used on captions.
As a documentary about the whole project I found this disc most absorbing, but the performance for me didn't match the best of SACD.
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