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Shostakovich: Symphony No. 8 [Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra/Nelsons] Blu-ray Review

  • Aspect Ratio: 1.77:1
  • Video Codec: AVC/MPEG-4
  • Resolution: 1080i/60
  • Audio Codec: PCM 2.0 Stereo; DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: ABC (Region-Free)
  • Rating: Not Rated
  • Discs: 1 (1 x Blu-ray)
  • Studio: C Major
  • Blu-ray Release Date: May 29, 2012
  • List Price: $39.99

Overall
[Rating:4.5/5]
The Performance
[Rating:4.5/5]
Video Quality
[Rating:4.5/5]
Audio Quality
[Rating:4.5/5]
Supplemental Materials
[Rating:0/5]

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:4.5/5]

This Blu-ray is a companion piece to a recently reviewed concert series given by Latvian maestro Andris Nelsons and the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra at the Lucerne Festival Hall in September 2011. It features two fillers, the Overture to Wagner’s seldom performed opera Rienzi and the popular “Dance of the Seven Veils” from Richard Strauss’s Salome.  Following these two relatively short pieces, we are treated to a relatively rarely performed work, Dmitri Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 8. It is this work that will hold the most interest for viewers being a Blu-ray premiere. Shostakovich, a controversial Soviet-era composer, evokes the somber nature of war (the symphony was composed between 1943 and 1944) and the theme of oppression is woven in and out of each movement.

Video Quality

[Rating:4.5/5]

As noted with its companion Blu-ray, there is outstanding videography at work here. Director Ute Feudel gets the perspective on the three orchestral works just right. There is excellent balance between full proscenium and closeups with proper attention to the instrumental highlights. Color balance was also quite good, yielding appropriate brilliance on the brass and warmth on the wood of the strings.

Audio Quality

[Rating:4.5/5]

This is a superbly recorded concert, a major point when it comes to presenting a work as rarely heard as the Shostakovich 8th symphony. This is a heavy-handed work with considerable amount of inner voices and the sound engineers at C Major get all right.  For those less familiar with the Nelsons technique, this is one conductor who gets the essence of the symphony’s quirky rhythms and dramatic contrasts. You might not come away humming the themes but the power of the main piece is definitely communicated. Both of the shorter works are high on drama and low on subtlety, giving a virtuoso orchestra plenty of opportunity to show off, and this opportunity is not missed by an extrovert reading.

Supplemental Materials

[Rating:0/5]

C Major provides nothing.

The Definitive Word

Overall:

[Rating:4.5/5]

While this concert may not seem as appealing as its stable mate that presents both Beethoven and Rimsky-Korsakov favorites, it does feature a substantial 20th century symphonic work that is woefully underrepresented on today’s concert platforms. I was particularly glad that Nelsons programmed this Shostakovich masterpiece as it proves an excellent way for viewers to gain familiarity. Andris Nelsons is a conductor to be reckoned with and I had the distinct feeling that we are getting in on the early phases of a major career. Ultimately, I was won over by the communication between Nelsons and the RCO, feeling secure that it would be a performance that would be very hard to beat.

Additional Screen Captures

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Overall
[Rating:4.5/5]
The Performance
[Rating:4.5/5]
Video Quality
[Rating:4.5/5]
Audio Quality
[Rating:4.5/5]
Supplemental Materials
[Rating:0/5]

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