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The Pyongyang Concert - New York Philharmonic & Lorin Maazel [Blu-ray]

4.2 out of 5 stars 24 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

On February 26, 2008, the world watched as the New York Philharmonic gave the first performance by an American orchestra in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. Those lucky enough to be present will never forget that historic evening, when people from two long-divided nations were united through the beauty and power of music. By the end of the final encore, both the audience and the musicians onstage stood waving to each other in a new-found spirit of understanding. We are honored and pleased that through this DVD we can share this transformative experience with new audiences for years to come -- New York Philharmonic President, Zarin Mehta. Hundreds of millions watched the historic concert on television, now exclusively on DVD: the New York Philharmonic concert in Pyongyang.
Music became diplomacy when this courageous musical project united Americans and North Koreans.
The musicians went from strength to strength in a beautiful program which illustrated the
excellency of the orchestra, and Lorin Maazel once more proved his reputation as one of the best contemporary conductors.
Includes previously unreleased documentary with 53 minutes of exclusive material.
The first classical concert release on Blu-ray Disc offers professional technical standards in the comfort
of your own home.


For at least 90 minutes in a theatre in Pyongyang it was possible … to believe that 55 years of cold-war
hostility were coming to an end. --James Miles, The Economist, 2008

Astounding was the fact that the orchestra played the North Korean national anthem and the Star Spangled Banner on a stage flanked by flags of both nations … a rare moment of harmony, proving the power of music that bridges the divides. --Cho Jae-hyon, The Korea Times (South Korea), 2008

Special Features


Product Details

  • Actors: New York Philharmonic, Lorin Maazel
  • Directors: Ayelet Heller
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Blu-ray, Classical, Color, NTSC, Widescreen
  • Language: English (PCM2 .0), English (PCM 5.1)
  • Subtitles: French, Japanese, English, Spanish, German
  • Region: All Regions
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    Not Rated
  • Studio: EuroArts
  • DVD Release Date: September 16, 2008
  • Run Time: 159 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B001DELX1M
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #137,131 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Y. Park on September 22, 2008
Format: Blu-ray Verified Purchase
As a S. Korean, who has never been to N. Korea, I really enjoyed this concert and thought the event was meaningful and historic in a once-in-a-lifetime way. At the beginning, the N. Korean audience looked like rather nervous and uncomfortable but as time goes by, they seemed to open their hearts and to be free by the power of music. At the end of the concert, their ovation was almost endless as if they would never let the musicians go. Lorin Maazel, who later mentioned that he'd felt warmth and enthusiasm from the audience, kindly explains about each music he's going to play next with some short Korean sentences, which makes the audience laugh.

New York Phil played many different works including Richard Wagner: Lohengrin, Prelude to Act III; Antonin Dvorak: Symphony No.9 in E minor "From the New World; George Gershwin: An American in Paris; George Bizet: Farandole from L'Arlesienne Suite No.2; Leonard Bernstein: Candide, Overture; Traditional: Arirang. I thought New World Symphony in Pyongyang makes sense and liked the long version (maybe too long?) of the Korean traditional music "Arirang", which was appropriate to play at the end.

Along with the flawless concert, the hi-def documentary "Americans in Pyongyang" is very interesting and enjoyable to watch. You will be able to peek some aspects of N. Korea and people's lives there.

Technically, this EuroArts's very first blu-ray is a bit disappointing, however. The concert was shot in 1080i and AVC coded but birates are around only 10mbps, which means more compression was made than most other blu-rays whose bitates are usually between 20-30. I don't understand why only one layer (25B) was used to include both the concert and the documentary in hi-def.
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Format: Blu-ray
This historic concert is a document of monumental significance, musically and politically. During the reign of the "imperial" presidency, an American orchestra achieved a connection on lots of levels (human, artistic, diplomatic) with an audience of brain-washed communists who stood up for the American anthem and even cried, moved by the Americans' performance of the Korean folk tune "Arirang" ! What was going through their minds, listening to the New York Philharmonic's brilliant renditions of Gershwin's "An American in Paris" and Dvorak's Symphony "From the New World" ?
Were they really appreciative of the New Yorkers' exquisite interpretation of Wagner's Prelude to Act 3 of "Lohengrin" ? Judging by their obviously sincere smiles and frenetic standing ovation, the North Koreans loved the performance. Judging by the reaction of the New York Philharmonic members, who were all deeply moved by this unique and profound experience, a miraculous level of rapport had occurred, that no diplomats or ideologues could have ever achieved. The human beings on both sides of the stage reached out to each other - the audience applauding and expressing frank appreciation, the performers - waving with tears in their eyes, savoring the moment of true connection, lingering around, reluctant to leave the stage, and their listeners, behind. What a transcendental, unspoken, deeply felt, enormously touching act of offering this was - an olive branch only hinted at in the mystical language of music, and accepted for what it truly was - a simple handshake, a warm smile, a gentle greeting.
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Format: Blu-ray Verified Purchase
The repertoire was not the best, but the opportunity to view this historic concert makes this DVD worth the purchase price and more. It is a rare glimpse into this closed society and of how music definitely is a universal language. Congrats to all involved in making this concert happen and in making it avalable to all those of us who will most likely never get a chance to visit Pyongyang. Image and sound were very good so the viewing experience is most satisfying. Enjoyed the special feature almost as much as the concert itself, although it makes it very evident that brainwashing is alive and well in North Korea. Sadly, North Koreans seem terrified to speak (like the beauty who could not utter a single word when interviewed) and those music students who dared to speak made it a point to say that they could learn nothing new from the visiting musicians because their teachers were just as good. Really sad.
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Format: Blu-ray
The music performances on this blu-ray were on a whole well conducted and recorded. But the overall concept behind this concert seems a bit weird and goofy.

The concert program almost seems like it was a randomly selected collection of works that don't represent the best that classical music has to offer. Any program can be acceptable, but for a purported "once-in-a-lifetime" event, why include works like "An American in Paris" or the "Candide Overture," which are borderline classical in their styles, almost trifles of classical music? Did the concert organizer think that the intended audience was too serious and so maybe they could "lighten them up" with these pieces? For a "diplomatic" concert designed to build understandings, it would have been better to focus on or at least include influential music that everyone seems to agree on, like some Mozart or Beethoven.

The concert organizers also seemed to use the DVD documentary as a platform for taking petty political potshots at the North Koreans. In the documentary, subtle criticisms were voiced at the way they run their country. It is usually somewhat comical to try to mix art with politics. Even if the criticisms were valid, there's no point in raising them. First, some of the criticisms are too obvious to bother pointing them out. Second, even if they were pointed out, North Korea's politics are so ingrained that pointing them out isn't going to change anything. It is best to let professional political thinkers and scholars try to untangle the knots of this country, and let the politically amateurish violin players focus on the music.

One thing I did find entertaining about the documentary was this filming of a North Korean traffic officer dressed up in a very goofy blue colored uniform. She gave out traffic signals with such wooden, doll-like precision it seemed as if she might have had a nervous breakdown at some point in her life. Too much stress in that country?
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