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Pioneer Entertainment presents
Verdi:Requiem (1991)

"Requiem aeternam, dona eis Domine."
- from the Requiem Mass

Review By: Mark Zimmer   
Published: September 05, 2000

Stars: Pamela Coburn, Trudeliese Schmidt, Vinson Cole, Kurt Rydl
Other Stars: European Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Enoch zu Guttenberg, Beubeuern Choral Society
Director: Klaus Lindemann

Manufacturer: mediaHYPERIUM
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Run Time: 01h:26m:48s
Release Date: August 22, 2000
UPC: 013023055094
Genre: classical

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
A A+B+A B+

DVD Review

The Requiem of Giuseppe Verdi is one of the triumvirate of matchless choral works, along with Bach's Mass in B Minor and Beethoven's Missa Solemnis. Of the three, Verdi's work is the most easily accessible to modern listeners, partly because it is the most unabashedly romantic.

Composed in 1873-1874 in memory of poet Allessandro Manzoni, the Requiem follows the traditional outline of the requiem mass, but Verdi takes the revolutionary step of making the music not a prayer of the living for the dead, but a consolation to the living. To this end, the melodies are lyrical and flowing, interrupted at times by the reminder of the coming day of judgment, the horrific and unforgettable Dies Irae, complete with the shrieks of the damned and the thunderbolts from the judgment seat. So dramatic is the work that the Catholic Church felt compelled to redefine what was appropriate ecclesiastical music in order to exclude this work from performance in its churches.

A work such as this demands a powerful force, and Pioneer does not disappoint. We have an outstanding quartet, led by soprano Pamela Coburn; bass Kurt Rydl gives the quartet a forceful and arresting bottom that drives the work forward relentlessly. They work well as a unit, most notably in the intricate partwork of the quam olim Abrahae episode. The chorus is excellent as well, with clear enunciation and articulation. They tackle the terribly demanding double fugue in the Sanctus with vigor and make it sound easy; they come across as a veritable choir of angels in that movement, an effect which struck me forcefully here.

Conductor Enoch zu Guttenberg keeps the piece moving quickly, at times at a near breakneck pace, but the orchestra and chorus maintain their composure throughout. With the exception of a very badly-muffed trumpet entry at the beginning of the Tuba mirum section of the Dies Irae, I found very little to complain about with this performance. The grandiose and frightening sections are appropriately so: the Dies Irae has a seriously Old Testament feel to it. Yet the ensembles also give us a liberal leavening of calm, reflective moments in between the periodic storms. The Lacrymosa conclusion of the Dies Irae is undeniably moving and sensitive, and the Offertorio is lyrically pleasing.

In all, a superlative reading of a terrific composition.

Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: A+


Image Transfer

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

Image Transfer Review: The image comes across about as well as can be expected from a live performance. The number of cameras must have been immense, for we see a wide variety of angles, changing vantage point frequently. There is also significant zooming and camera movement, all of which is accomplished cleanly.

Blacks, as is so often the case in a filmed stage presentation, are a little bit lacking in depth. However, considering the circumstances, they are very good indeed. Colors (primarily red and brown) are accurate and rich, without smearing or noise. There is occasional moire in long shots of the chorus, but these problems are minimal. Even in the darkest segments I did not detect any significant artifacting. Overall a very satisfactory presentation.

Image Transfer Grade: B+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: Oddly enough, I found the DD 5.1 track to be superior to the uncompressed PCM stereo track. The reason for this is that the 5.1 track more accurately captures the extremes of volume that Verdi demands in this work: the barely audible opening chant of to the triple forte crashings of the Dies Irae. The PCM track seems to even these out to about an mp-ff range, which does not provide as satisfactory a contrast. Those who prefer a front-only soundstage will of course prefer the PCM track, for the 5.1 track has significant music coming from all speakers, rendering a 360-degree soundstage.

Both tracks are hiss-free and noiseless. Even though this is a live recording, the audience racket is mercifully at a minimum; after a while I forgot about them completely.

Audio Transfer Grade: A


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 8 cues and remote access
Music/Song Access with 7 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in Latin, English with remote access
Cast and Crew Biographies
Production Notes
1 Feature/Episode commentary by unspecified
Packaging: Amaray
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Glossary of musical terms
  2. Events of 1873-1874
  3. List of other Pioneer and mediaHYPERIUM DVDs
Extras Review: This disc marks the beginning of a movement toward a true special edition of a classical music DVD. Along with optional subtitles in both English and the original Latin, there is a subtitled running musical analysis of the piece. Although there are some important points made in the analysis, it has a tendency to degrade into a play-by-play of the music (I can see that this is a duet between the soprano and mezzo-soprano, thank you very much). However, I greatly encourage the further use and exploration of this extra (which works best being used through the subtitles, so as not to interfere with the sound but still give a direct connection to the music) as a means of making classical music accessible. To this end, Pioneer includes a five-screen glossary of musical terms used in the analysis. Very commendable.

We also get single-screen biographies of the conductor, the orchestra, the chorus, and each member of the quartet (although Rydl's is so brief as to be almost pointless). A thoughtful six-screen set of liner notes on the composition of the mass is included, as is a three-screen list of historical events which happened in 1873-74 during the composition of the mass, putting it into a useful historical context.

This is a good start toward a serious classical music special edition; I look forward to seeing more such content (especially running analysis and commentary in the subtitles) in the future. On the negative side, the chaptering is wholly inadequate. Each distinct section of each movement (particularly the massive 23+ minute Dies Irae) is customarily given its own chapter stop on CD releases of this work; the same should be obvious for a DVD release as well.

Extras Grade: B+


Final Comments

Excellent music, given a powerful performance, with a splendid 5.1 track, nice video transfer and some useful extras. Very highly recommended and a must for any classical music lover's DVD library. The musical analysis feature helps clarify the structure and make it accessible to classical music newbies, so the recommendation extends to the rest of you as well. One of the best classical music DVDs on the market thus far.


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