Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Why HDTV was invented

Back when we first got our flatscreen HD television, a bit less than a year ago, everybody told me that two things justified the purchase: movies, and televised sports. Now, with movies, this is clearly the case. Sports, I suppose; the only sport I watch much at all anymore is football, and it certainly does look better in HD, especially in a widescreen format so when the players are lining up, I can even see what the safeties are up to. (With the Bills, they're usually gesturing back and forth to see if the other knows where he should be, and then falling back as deeply as possible so as to allow opposing receivers to get ten yards of forward progress before they're even touched.)

Well, there's another reason. As is our New Year's tradition here at Casa Jaquandor, we watched the Great Performances PBS telecast of the annual New Year's From Vienna concert on New Year's night, as we've done for years. (I actually started watching this concert while I was in high school.) The concert -- performed by the Vienna Philharmonic under a different guest conductor each year -- is always accompanied by wonderful photography and dance in and around various locations in Vienna, relating to the history of that great city and of Austria during the time of the Strauss family. It's always been a gorgeous thing to watch, but this year was the first time we got to watch the concert in HD, and it was more than gorgeous: it was revelatory. Details from the Musikverein and the other locales just burst from the screen. The telecast was just amazingly beautiful, in a way I'd never appreciated before in the more than twenty years I've been watching this concert every year.

The musical part of the performance, by the way, was first rate in every way. The conductor was Frenchman Georges Pretre, and he made the effervescent elegance of the Strauss music shine forth so amazingly that the notes themselves seemed to sparkle. How I wish I could attend this concert in person, just one time! Here are two of the numbers from that concert, the most famous final two encores. I was unable to find a video of the first that includes the wonderful tradition in which the first notes are interrupted by applause, prompting the conductor to address the audience with a brief New Year's message, but the music itself is the thing. Here is On the Beautiful Blue Danube, accompanied this year not by ballet dancers but with a photographic journey along the Danube from its source to its mouth at the Black Sea:

And here's the final encore, by tradition the final piece played every year. Also traditional is the rhythmic clapping, directed to loudness or softness by the conductor. The Radetzky March:

Just wonderful music making.


Thee Earl of Obvious said...

Fantastic post and a great tradition. Though I wonder why you would get something like a Wii instead of cable or a satellite. Seems there is so much that can be found on the Discovery Channel, A&E et al with just a basic subscription

Kaye Waller said...

This was the first year since 1986 that I did not watch. When we learned that we had to cut back this year, cable was one of the things to go. I haven't missed watching TV, but it was so hard not getting to see my beloved Vienna at New Year's.

It will not happen a second time, and I certainly intend to have a wide screen by next year!

Thanks for posting these selections!

Lynne said...

Thank you for posting this. I've never watched it, but we have listened to it on the radio every year since our marriage, while we take down the Christmas tree. Somehow we missed it this year, so it's nice to hear it.