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Mozart: Clarinet Quintet, Horn Quintet, String Quartet [The Old City String Quartet] Blu-ray 3D Review

  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • Video Codec: AVC/MPEG-4 (2D) MVC (3D)
  • Resolution: 720p/60 (59.940Hz)
  • Audio Codec: PCM 2.0 Stereo; Dolby True HD 5.1 (Stage and Audience Mixes); Dolby Digital 5.1
  • Subtitles: None
  • Region: ABC (Region-Free)
  • Rating: Not Rated
  • Discs: 1
  • Studio: AIX Records
  • Blu-ray Release Date: May 29, 2012
  • List Price: $34.99

Overall
[Rating:4/5]
The Performance
[Rating:4/5]
Video Quality
2D HD:[Rating:4.5/5]

3D Effect: [Rating:4/5]*
Audio Quality
[Rating:4.5/5]
Supplemental Materials
[Rating:2/5]

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]


Cutting directly to the chase, this BD is a trail-blazer in both video and audio realms. It is a classical first 3-D/2-D compatible disc with High Definition PCM Audio recording (96kHz/24-bit) presented in Dolby TrueHD formats that are adjustable for either “on stage” or “audience” perspectives. The works are some of Mozart’s most popular chamber works, including the Clarinet Quintet K.581, the String Quartet K.169, and the Horn Quintet K.407. The performers are a group of recent graduates of Philadelphia’s famed Curtis Institute: Bryan Lee and Joel Link, violins, Milena Pajaro-Van de Stadt, viola, Camden Shaw, cello. Featured soloist on the Clarinet Quintet is Ruokai Chen, while Corey Klein joins the quartet for the Horn Quintet. Don’t let the group’s youthful experience fool you, since these youngsters play like seasoned veterans in every respect.  The 2D video (I did not have a 3D display for this one)* was outstanding, and the sonics, well, plain amazing!

Video Quality

[Rating:4.5/5]


A studio performance presents some challenges to the videographers since there is no audience to play off or gorgeous performing venue to refer to. Not to worry, the camera work gives a good account of the players with a nice balance between close ups of the solos and ensemble shots of the group. I did think that the reds were a bit oversaturated (see the ties of the male performers and the dress of the violist). Otherwise detail was quite nice, like the grain of the wooden soundboards, and there was little motion artifact.

The 3D encodement of the program was done quite tastefully and continues to capture the more live, video quality that AIX founder Mark Waldrep pointed out to me directly, is the reason they decided to capture in 720p versus 1080. There is no allowance for 1080p/60 in the Blu-ray 3D specification, Only 720p/60 or 1080p/24 and 1080p/24, Mark feels, would impart too much of a film-like presentation. Maybe, maybe not, but one can’t argue too much with the results here. I did notice that crosstalk, which admittedly has often as much to do with one’s display as it has to do with the source, seemed to be a bit more pronounced here than in much of the 1080p 3D titles I’ve seen of late, especially the marvelous 3D presentation of Underworld: Awakening; the latter was done on Red cameras at a much higher frame rate than normal. Still, the natural sense of spatial depth was superb here and color saturation didn’t seem to suffer much. The violist’s red gown “popped” nicely and warm woody tones of the stringed instruments’ varnish seemed rather textured.*

*(Editor’s note: the 3D portion of this disc was assessed and rated by Brandon DuHamel on his reference system. All other parts of the review were done by Lawrence Devoe using his reference system.)

Audio Quality

[Rating:4.5/5]


This is a very interesting BD to audition since there are four formats among which to chose. The two Dolby TrueHD give a choice of either “stage” (you are in the middle of the quartet) or “audience” (you are in a prime theater seat). There is also a 2.0 channel 96kHz/24-bit stereo mix. This is a case of preference since there is relatively little hall ambience present. I preferred the audience perspective since I found that stage perspective a bit too distracting. However, this is one case where the plain-vanilla stereo presentation is pretty darn good, unlike the usual concert recordings where the 2.0 PCM is pancake-flat.  In any format, the sonics are about as good as it gets and the viewer is really engaged in the natural-sounding performance of this glorious music.

Supplemental Materials

[Rating:2.5/5]


Mostly performance and rehearsal still photos with biosketches of the performers. There are liner notes from the accompanying booklet as well. Given the novelty of this BD release I would have enjoyed some technical discussion of the recording. By way of audio bonuses, there are three two channel files: a stereo FLAC 96 kHz/24-bit, an MP3 (320 kbps), and a headphone “surround mix” at 48 kHz/24-bit. These can be downloaded to a computer or portable player (I did listen to the high-res FLAC file on my server and it was stunning).

The Definitive Word

Overall:

[Rating:4.5/5]


This is an impressive albeit somewhat brief (63 minutes running time) chamber recital that is strongly aided by excellent video and audio recording.  The Old City String Quartet is a young up and coming string quartet to be reckoned with in the future.  Their performances of these enjoyable Mozart works may not set new standards but they are certainly quite fine ones.   Technically, this BD gives viewers a good idea of what Aix Records is up to and, I for one, hope that there will be many more such releases in the future.

Additional Screen Captures

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Overall
[Rating:4/5]
The Performance
[Rating:4/5]
Video Quality
2D HD:[Rating:4.5/5]

3D Effect: [Rating:4/5]*
Audio Quality
[Rating:4.5/5]
Supplemental Materials
[Rating:2/5]

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