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Rimsky-Korsakov ; Sheherazade
For nearly half a century Eugene Ormandy and The Philadelphia Orchestra enticed music lovers around the world with splendid performances. In a recently released by Euro Arts DVD the famous maestro is captured conducing works by Glinka (Ruslan and Lyudmila: Overture); Rimsky-Korsakov (Scheherazade, Op. 35), Handel (Concerto in D major, HWV 335a), Wolf-Ferrari (Il segreto di Susanna: Overture), and Straus (Der Rosenkavalier: Suite).
I hold in my hands a disc with five different performances that were recorded at the Academy of Music in Philadelphia on June 24 - 26, 1977 and June 30 - July 1, 1978. The DVD is produced by a German team via Media Medici Arts.
The five pieces recorded for this disc provide a glimpse at the work of one of the most distinguished musical directors from the 20th century - Eugene Ormandy. Incredibly gifted, perfectionist, and impossible not to admire Maestro Ormandy became synonymous with excellence, he became the Philadelphia Sound. Under his baton a number of timeless classic works were performed throughout the United States and Europe forcing audiences and critics to embrace a man whose never-ending pursuit of excellence placed him next to such formidable conductors as Karajan, Solti, and Dorati.
Each of the five works heard on this DVD were recorded live. They show Maestro Ormandy as he conducts The Philadelphia Orchestra with an impressive sense of accuracy. The selection focuses on works by Romantic composers whose music is highly expressive. Logically, the camera spends a great deal of time capturing the different solo groups within the orchestra as they respond to Maestro Ormandy's gestures.
The actual disc does not contain any additional footage between each of the performances. This is strictly a collection of musical performances whose primary goal is to provide a taste of the treatment each of the works has received.
How Does the DVD Look?
Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 and encoded in NTSC the disc offers what I would describe as "meant for TV dated recordings". A somewhat soft, lacking sharp detail and obviously dated footage of The Philadelphia Orchestra conducted by Maestro Eugene Ormandy will probably appeal only to those who are strictly looking to acquire some of their early collaborations. This being said I am fairly certain that this NTSC release has been sourced from a corresponding German PAL release as there are some notable examples of motion "ghosting". Still the overall look of the presentation should not disappoint those who are looking to have a disc with the exact works mentioned earlier.
How Does the DVD Sound?
The producers of this disc have added three audio options - PCM Stereo, Dolby Digital 5.1, and DTS 5.1 mixes. This being said I actually do tend to like PCM tracks when it comes to live orchestra recordings as they seem to offer the least amount of instrumental imbalance. This may sound rather strange to some of you who would think that since a DTS track is supplied it is likely to be the best option but in reality for such early performances as the ones offered in this collection which have not been exclusively mastered for DTS playback the PCM mix actually offers the most stable and balanced listening experience. Unfortunately, I also could hear (especially on Ruslan and Lyudmila) the pitch and tempo discrepancies caused by the PAL-NTSC conversion.
Unfortunately, aside from a lovely booklet which focuses on the life story of Maestro Ormandy from his birth in Hungary to his emigration to the United States there is nothing else to be found here.
The release by EuroArts subject of this review, more or less, belongs to what I refer to as listening DVD. In fact, aside from observing how Maestro Ormandy controls his orchestra it is probably best to simply dim the lights, sit back, and let the music do its magic. The actual performances are undoubtedly fabulous and if you are interested in hearing what the Philadelphia Sound is then this disc is exactly what you need.