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Category:    Home > Reviews > Classical Music > The Pyongyang Concert – New York Philharmonic Orchestra (Medici Arts Blu-ray and DVD)

The Pyongyang Concert – New York Philharmonic Orchestra (Medici Arts Blu-ray and DVD)


Picture: B+/B     Sound: B+/B     Extras: B-     Concert: B



Historic events are few and far between these days, but on February 26th, 2008 a truly great spectacle took place when the New York Philharmonic Orchestra under the direction of Lorin Maazel performed the first concert by an American orchestra in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.  This event, years ago would have been unimaginable, but progress, peace, and new leadership has enabled this event to happen.  It’s long been said that music can bridge the gap between people, between boundaries, and even between long divided nations.  This particular event – The Pyongyang Concert does just that.  For those who were not able to be there in person, now get to experience the power of that moment on home video in both the DVD and Blu-ray format.


Music is truly one of the few universal languages that transcends people’s beliefs, religious backgrounds, race, ethnicity, political views, and speaks to the heart, speaks to the soul, and speaks to the mind.  Here we have a memorable experience where for one evening music brought together people, but this milestone is the first of a hopeful many in which people from around the world can forget the differences we have, and embrace the similarities that we share.


Concert Listing: 


National Anthem of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea Aegukka

The Star-Spangled Banner

Richard Wagner’s Lohengrin: Prelude to Act III 

Antonin Dvorak’s Symphony No. 9 in E minor, from The New World

George Gershwin’s An American in Paris

Georges Bizet’s Farandole from L’Arlesienne Suite No. 2

Leonard Bernstein’s Candide: Overture




The recording took place at the East Pyongyang Theater and is directed by Michael Beyer, this DVD and Blu-ray release features the performance in a 1.78 X 1 transfer that is in 1080i High Definition for the Blu-ray.  The concert runs a total of 107-minutes in length and gives a great sampling of fine classical music from a variety of eras and styles.  The DVD is unable to come close to the beauty of the Blu-ray as the limitations of DVD are fully realized with a lack of depth and color balance that the Blu-ray is able to deliver.


The audio is presented in a 5.1 Dolby Digital mix on the DVD, but the Blu-ray runs circle around this with two superior mixes: PCM 2.0 and PCM 5.1.  The PCM mixes feel more ‘lively’ and have a greater sense of depth that lossless mixes are able to accomplish.  The Dolby mix on the DVD is far too compressed and lacks the warmth, depth, and overall fidelity that the PCM mixes both contain.  I prefer the multi-channel mix just a bit of the PCM 2.0, but both are exceptional and put the listener in an imaginary concert hall.  I’ve never heard any recordings from this particular hall, but it looks beautiful and it’s acoustical qualities shine through with this release.  Articulation, tone, presence, and spatial-ness is all brought forth and give a very natural presentation that audiophiles love. 


In addition to the excellent feature there is also a bonus documentary that runs nearly one hour that chronicles this amazing historical event and provides an in-depth look at this momentous occasion.  A must see!



-   Nate Goss


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