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DVD International presents
Salute to Vienna: A Strauss Gershwin Gala (1999)

"As we look to the future, I most certainly believe that our two countries will walk together in the centuries to come: in peace, in harmony and in three-quarter time."
- Gregory Peck

Review By: Mark Zimmer  
Published: June 06, 2001

Stars: Gregory Peck, Paul Groves, Georg Lehner, Eva Lind, Herbert Lippert, Elizabeth Norman, Martina Serafin
Other Stars: Henry Cuesta, Boys Choir of Harlem, Vienna Choir Boys, Strauss Festival Orchestra, Peter Guth, conductor, John Morris Russell, Conductor
Director: Humphrey Burton

Manufacturer: Alpha DVD
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (nothing objectionable)
Run Time: 02h:21m:00s
Release Date: May 29, 2001
UPC: 647715076021
Genre: classical

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
A- A+BB+ D

DVD Review

This disc features a complete New Year's Eve 1999 concert from Vienna, hosted by Gregory Peck. The evening is, in essence, a pop concert filled with frothy classical works, with emphasis on Johann Strauss the Younger and George Gershwin. The combination doesn't seem like a natural, especially when Peck makes extremely labored connections between the two during his introductions. If there were any inspiration for Gershwin in Strauss's music, it doesn't show very well. A better connection is included here but left unstated: the music of Franz Lehar, whose operettas bridged the gap between the classical opera and show tunes quite nicely. The inclusion of Lehar provides an appropriate transition between the two worlds.

The first half of the programme is heavily weighted towards Strauss, with a few compositions from Lehar, including the famous Merry Widow waltz. Several Strauss arias are included, as well as polkas and waltzes. The famous Strauss waltzes are so often heard today as simply orchestral works that the use of voices here, as in the originals, is startling. However, the soloists and choirs make their voices fit seamlessly into the orchestra to an extent that the surprise quickly vanishes.

The concluding half features works by Gershwin, including the Overture from Of Thee I Sing, selections from Porgy and Bess and several other songs. A stunning medley of works featuring the clarinet (beginning of course with the immortal howl that opens Rhapsody in Blue) is included, featuring Henry Cuesta, late of the Lawrence Welk and Benny Goodman bands. Cuesta's virtuosity is quite dazzling. Shoehorned in is the finale from Aaron Copland's Lincoln Portrait, gravely performed by Peck.

The soloists are quite excellent musically throughout. Soprano Eva Lind gives an ethereal feel to the gyrating figures of the Voices of Spring waltz, culminating in dazzling highs. Martina Serafin gives a highly captivating performance, knowing when to use an operatic tone and when to belt in best "Tin Pan Alley" style. She delivers a truly exquisite rendition of Gershwin's The Man I Love that wrenches the heartstrings. The marriage of the two musical cultures probably hits a low point in tenor Georg Lehner's hapless stab at It Ain't Necessarily So. His Germanic pronunciation and goggle-eyed inflections will cause American viewers to guffaw madly. Perhaps this number should have been assigned to another vocalist.

The orchestra is flawless, with good emotion throughout. The Vienna Choir Boys (apparently not the Vienna Boys' Choir) and the Boys Choir of Harlem both do a splendid job with their numbers, highlighted by a moving Blue Danube. As befits a pop concert, there is a scattering of humor, such as the hijinks during the Drinking Song polka, and the bird calls in the Im Krapfenwaldl polka.

Host Peck seems to be completely unprepared at the beginning, stumbling through his prepared text and looking awkward at best. Luckily, his performance on the Lincoln Portrait is much better, and that wonderful voice does justice to the quasi-biblical text Copland uses.

The complete list of musical selections is as follows:

"From the Banks of the Danube" polka from Carnival in Rome
"Gruess dich Gott" from Wiener Blut
"Als flotter Geist" from The Gypsy Baron
"Im Krapfenwaldl" French polka
"Voices of Spring" waltz

"Dein ist mein ganzes Herz" from Land of Smiles
"Lippen schweigen" from The Merry Widow

"Thunder and Lightning" polka
"Drinking Song" polka

"The World is Beautiful"

"Chit Chat Polka"
Duet from Wiener Blut

"By Strauss" from The Show is On

"Brother Dear and Sister Dear" from "Die Fledermaus"

Overture from Of Thee I Sing
Medley for Clarinet and Orchestra

Finale from A Lincoln Portrait

"Summertime" from Porgy and Bess
"It Ain't Necessarily So" from Porgy and Bess

"Didn't My Lord Deliver Daniel"

Medley: "Swanee", "The Man I Love" and "Strike Up the Band"

"On the Beautiful Blue Danube" Waltz
"Champagne Finale" from Die Fledermaus

"Radetzky March"

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: A+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The full frame picture is generally pleasing, though it has a tendency to veer a little into the red end of the spectrum. On medium and long shots, the picture is overly contrasted, which gives the viewer deep blacks but loses most of the detail. Closeup shots are fine, however, making one wonder whether the camera settings weren't quite right in the first place. There is occasional edge enhancement visible, but not so much as to be distracting.

Image Transfer Grade: B


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0English/Germanyes
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: The audio is quite good on all three tracks. The 754 kBps DTS track is recorded the loudest, but when correction is made for this it is hardly distinguishable from the 448 kBps DD track. Both are marginally better than the Dolby Surround track, particularly in the area of bass response. All three tend to be echo-filled during the spoken sections, with reverberation coming from the surrounds in all cases. Directionality is very limited, with a sense of being in the concert hall but without being able to pick out the locations of soloists from the sound alone. There is occasional hiss present, as well as the usual stage thumps and unexplained noises that typically plague live performances, though not as much coughing as one often finds.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 31 cues and remote access
Music/Song Access with 25 cues and remote access
Cast and Crew Biographies
Production Notes
Packaging: other
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Previews of other DVD International discs
Extras Review: Other than brief bios of the participants and composers, and a few scant notes about the compositions, there's really nothing here in the way of extras. DVD International includes a set of previews for its Naxos Musical Journey series, StarGaze, Video Essentials, and More Tales of the City. Why no subtitles, though? An alternate subtitle track with information about the pieces would have made this an excellent disc.

Extras Grade: D


Final Comments

An odd marriage of Strauss waltzes and Gershwin show tunes, but an enjoyable evening nonetheless, with a very good audio transfer. Extras are sorely lacking, however.


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