Customer Review

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting Insight into the Orchestra., 30 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)
This was set up for a Science Museum project to highlight what goes on in an orchestra and they couldn't have chosen a better piece than the Planets : with its interesting use of the whole modern symphony orchestra - with tuned percussion, organ, harps and features for every section and many solo parts.

It is one of the most interesting scores to study and I have a facsimile of Holst's original with annotations which is a treasured possession. This Blu Ray sets out to "annotate" a performance with close camera work and microphone placement. The unique feature here is the use of 37 cameras and the chance to see every angle of every section or solo instrument. This means you get a much better view of all the players than you would in a normal concert film.

The editing follows the featured instruments very well and so you really get an idea of how the main subjects in the score move around the large orchestra. Sound quality and mixing is generally excellent - with the organ bass pedals shaking the floor and every instrument as clear as you could wish. Apart from the strange exception that the bass drum is too quiet - maybe any louder and it would have spilled over to other close mics and spoiled the overall sound balance?

The picture quality is good and you get to see exactly how things are played - overhead shots of the harps, for example, really show you the technique used, in a way I have never seen before on video. However, the environment is a bit "sterile" and this seems to transfer to the performance. The conducting is lively and you have the option to watch Salonen in a small "picture in picture" box. It's good that there are options on viewing - but generally I preferred the main view, which followed everything you needed to see. Again with the audio options : DTS HD Master Audio, was by far the best sound and so I stuck with this.

You also get options to hear the principals or conductor talking about the music and the challenges it represents - while this might be interesting to some, I found it slightly irritating that they obscure the music and possibly the option with subtitles is better. You also get a "making of" documentary and an addition to the Planets which in the project itself allows for interactive choices - but here is just a continuation piece extending beyond our solar system. The enclosed booklet is nicely presented with information about the project and numerous photos adding interest.

The performance is technically perfect and as a showcase for instrumental skill and precision, it's probably what was wanted for this kind of experiment - but I think that live performances in a concert hall, tend to have more intensity and passion - which is a bit lacking here. Certainly worth a look though, to see how all of Holst's wonderful orchestration is realised, in HD sound and vision.
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Location: UK - England

Top Reviewer Ranking: 111