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Bruckner: Symphony No. 7 [Celibidache/Berliner Philharmoniker Orchestra] Blu-ray Review

  • Aspect Ratio: 1.77:1
  • Video Codec: MPEG-2
  • Resolution: 1080i/60
  • Audio Codec: PCM 2.0 Stereo
  • Subtitles: English, Japanese
  • Region: ABC (Region-Free)
  • Rating: Not Rated
  • Discs: 1 (1 x Blu-ray)
  • Studio: EuroArts
  • Blu-ray Release Date: July 31, 2012
  • List Price: $39.99

Overall
[Rating:3.5/5]
The Performance
[Rating:4/5]
Video Quality
[Rating:3/5]
Audio Quality
[Rating:3/5]
Supplemental Materials
[Rating:3/5]

Click thumbnails for high-resolution 1920X1080p screen captures

(All TheaterByte screen captures are lightly compressed with lossy JPEG at 100% quality setting and are meant as a general representation of the content. They do not fully reveal the capabilities of the Blu-ray format)

The Performance

[Rating:4/5]


Sergiu Celibidache (1912-1994), a renowned Romanian maestro, conducted the Berliner Philharmoniker from 1945-1952, a politically sound choice considering that memories of World War II were still very fresh in the public’s mind. This performance of the magisterial Bruckner Symphony No. 7, one of the composer’s most successful works, represents Celibidache’s 1992 return to this orchestra after a nearly 40 year absence.  He was 79 at the time of this concert and made his way haltingly to a seat at the podium.  Once the baton is lifted, however, years vanish, and we are given a reading both informed and unique to its conductor.  Celibidache, while busy on the performance stage, left relatively few studio recordings behind.  Influenced by the principles of Buddhism, there is a less-is-more approach that distinguishes his stick work from many of his more flamboyant contemporaries like Herbert von Karajan who inherited the same orchestra in 1954. Given the 1992 provenance of this concert and the technical limitations of the pre-HD era, viewers will still get a very good look at what one of the conducting legends of the 20th century could do with a first-rate orchestra.

Video Quality

[Rating:3/5]


The video stems from a 480p source that no Blu-ray magicians can transform into a video shot just yesterday. Nonetheless, the upscaling to a 16:9 aspect makes for a very presentable orchestral shot and director Wolfgang Becker does a nice job in balancing near and far camera shots.  Colors are a bit washed out in comparison with today’s better efforts.

Audio Quality

[Rating:3/5]


This is a straightforward 2-channel LPCM soundtrack which adapts well when treated by a competent matrix setting on your surround processor. You do get to hear all of the music and, believe me, this Bruckner symphony is glorious.

Supplemental Materials

[Rating:3/5]


EuroArts provides a generous 45-minute documentary showing Celibidache’s return and his extensive preparation for this event with the orchestra. There are also insightful interviews with several of the players.  As this conductor was legendary for his extensive preparation and rehearsal time, sometimes to the distraction of those involved, it was quite interesting to see how these efforts were realized in the concert that followed.

The Definitive Word

Overall:

[Rating:3.5/5]

This is an important video documentary of a major figure on last century’s music scene and for those who were not able to see Celibidache in person, you are given a sizable glimpse of what he was able to accomplish from the podium.  Eccentricities of tempo notwithstanding, you will not likely hear a first movement Allegro non moderato that flows with such apparent leisure in stark contrast with a third movement Scherzo that clips along so briskly.  But this is the essence of the Celibidache magic: he made each work that he conducted his very own with a personal signature stamp that is the mark of great performers. One comes away with the sense of how much this conductor truly loved this music.  Remembering that Bruckner composed this work as a memorial to his idol and mentor, Richard Wagner, the Adagio is construed as a mystical hymn that is punctuated by a cymbal crash. All considered, and obvious technical shortcomings aside, this BD is well worth watching, even if not the ultimate statement on this marvelous work.

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Overall
[Rating:3.5/5]
The Performance
[Rating:4/5]
Video Quality
[Rating:3/5]
Audio Quality
[Rating:3/5]
Supplemental Materials
[Rating:3/5]

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