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Richard Strauss - Odense Symphony Orchestra (DVD-A)

5.1 Entertainment // DVD Audio // January 14, 2003
List Price: $17.98 [Buy now and save at Dvdempire]

Review by Holly E. Ordway | posted April 1, 2003 | E-mail the Author
The music



Richard Strauss: Odense
Symphony Orchestra
offers two pieces by Strauss, performed (as the title
indicates) by the Odense Symphony Orchestra. The first piece is Four Last Songs
(Vier Letze Lieder). This is a "Lieder," a German style piece that has
vocals as a major component of the music. The second piece, A Hero's Life, Op:
40 (Ein Heldenleben) is in the symphonic style and is purely instrumental. The
orchestra is directed here by Jan Wagner, and Gitta-Maria Sjöberg provides the
vocals for Four Last Songs. The music was recorded from a live performance of
the Odense Symphony Orchestra in the Odense Koncerthus on March 29-31, 1999.



The DVD opens with slightly
over a minute of "concert atmosphere": we hear the musicians tuning
their instruments and so on, exactly as we would in a real concert hall prior
to the performance. It's a nice introduction and since it's a chapter by
itself, listeners can skip it easily if desired.



While the music is playing, a
static image occupies the screen, listing the name of the piece that's playing
at the moment. A different image is provided for each movement, and each is
mildly themed to the piece, with various flower and landscape images used. It's
attractive but not particularly interesting, and I had concerns about burn-in
from the bright white letters on my projection TV, so I just listened to the
DVD with the TV turned off. It would have been nice if the video portion had
included actual concert footage, which would have been worth watching, but
unfortunately that's not the case.



The playlist is as follows:



Concert atmosphere: 1.21

Vier Letze Lieder (Four Last Songs)

Frühling (Springtime): 3.53

September: 5.12

Beim Schlafengehen (Going to
Sleep): 6.01

Im Abendrot (In the Glow of
Sunset): 9.09

Ein Heldenleben (A Hero's Life) Op. 40

Der Held (The Hero): 4.02

Des Helden Widersacher (The Hero's
Adversaries): 3.19

Des Helden Gefährtin (The Hero's
Companion): 12.42

Des Helden Walstatt (The Hero's
Battlefield): 7.20

Des Helden Friedenswerke (The
Hero's Works of Peace): 7.01

Des Helden Weltflucht und
Vollendung (The Hero's Retreat from the World and Fulfillment): 12.13

Total running time is 72
minutes.



The DVD



Audio



Richard Strauss: Odense
Symphony Orchestra
comes with two audio options: Dolby 5.0 (96 kHz/24 bit)
and Dolby stereo (48 kHz/24 bit). The default option is the Dolby 5.0; the
stereo option can be selected through the "audio options" menu, but
not changed on the fly.



The 5.0 track is obviously the
star of this DVD, with all five channels are used to create an immersive
experience. Some localization of different instruments to the specific channels
is used, though not as much as it could have been. The sound is rich and full,
with the individual instruments (as well as the singer's voice in Four Last
Songs) coming across distinctly while at the same time blending into a
harmonious whole. The depth and quality of the sound is significantly superior
to that on a CD.



The stereo option also sounds
good, though it's quite a step down from the full experience of the Dolby 5.0
track. The main difference is that it obviously uses fewer channels and lacks
the depth and richness of the 5.0 track. However, it's still at least as good
as a CD track, and means that listeners who haven't yet upgraded their systems
can enjoy this DVD now with the promise of an even better sound experience
later on down the line.



Extras



There's not much by way of
special features on this DVD-Audio disc. A section of biographies gives text
information on Richard Strauss, the two pieces included on this DVD, the Odense
Symphony Orchestra, conductor Jan Wagner, and singer Gitta-Maria Sjöberg.
Unfortunately, the text is presented in all capital letters and is rather hard
to read. The other main special feature is an audio setup program, which provides
two suggested speaker setups for the home theater, and gives a test sequence
for the surround speakers.



The menu setup is fairly easy
to navigate, though it's set up rather oddly. Once the DVD starts, it is
possible to use the "skip" key to move to individual movements within
a piece, but oddly, though the playlist in the menu lists the component parts
of each piece, it only allows you to select the main piece. Another menu
peculiarity is that the "menu" key will get you nowhere: the DVD
starts playing from the beginning as soon as it's put in the player, and if you
want to access the menu you have to use the "top menu" key.



Final thoughts



Richard Strauss isn't one of my
favorite classical composers, but I found the pieces here to be quite
enjoyable, especially A Hero's Life. I was very impressed with the sound
experience provided by the Dolby 5.0 track, which was significantly better than
any CD, and I'd recommend this DVD-Audio to any listener who enjoys Richard
Strauss.


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