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SeeMusicDVD presents
Heavy Organ (2002)

"Why make so much of fragmentary blue?"
- Robert Frost

Review By: Mark Zimmer   
Published: September 09, 2003

Stars: Richard Morris
Manufacturer: No Frills DVD
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (nothing objectionable)
Run Time: 01h:06m:27s
Release Date: August 26, 2003
UPC: 803680284193
Genre: classical

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B B+B-B+ C-

DVD Review

In the 1970s, famed organist Virgil Fox toured for many years along with a light show created by the Kaleidoplex, an invention that allowed a standard kaleidoscope to be improved from a maximum of 16 fractal images to over 1000. This concert, from the 2002 Virgil Fox Festival, is played by one of Fox's students, Richard Morris, on the Albert Schweitzer Memorial Organ in Spivey Hall, Morrow, Georgia. The images are CGI renditions of Kaleidoplex type visuals (apparently originally created by the Kaleidoplex, though the liner notes are confusing on this point).

The first piece, Mozart's Fantasy in F minor K. 608, makes for a great opening to such a concert, with a thunderous beginning and a playful central section, set against changing images of palaces, paintings and crossword puzzles, the last of which creates the most interesting images on the disc. This is followed up by Louis Vierne's Claire de Lune (not the famous one by Claude Debussy, mind you). Pensive and idyllic in character, the images here largely are produced from photos of organ pipes and fish, concluding with a drop of water.

The most massive piece on the program is a Sonata in C Minor by Julius Reubke, intended as a setting of the 94th Psalm. This text is a meditation on vengeance the failure of God to punish the wicked, and this sentiment is appropriately echoed in the music which is alternately stormy, pleading to a deity that may or may not be listening, and finally resigned to hope for the best. The images presented are an odd assortment of matchboxes, neckties, pictures from The Lion King show, a tribute to 9/11 and a portrait of Lenin.

A somewhat distortive arrangement of Londonderry Air (Danny Boy) follows, with fabric and pictures of sailboats making up most of the visuals. The concluding piece is César Franck's Grand Pièce Symphonique, which is both sensitive and bombastic. The illustrations again lack much of a connection until the finale as the organ pipes reappear along with a tribute to Fox.

Morris's playing manages to be both powerful and sensitive, a difficult combination on the organ that he brings off rather well. The live audience is an annoyance since they can't seem to shut up, but that's the sole detracting factor from the programme.

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: B+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The anamorphic widescreen images generally look acceptable, though they seem unpleasantly soft at times. They certainly don't remind one of the sharp clarity of an ordinary kaleidoscope; it's not clear whether the softness is a remnant of the Kaleidoplex process and thus a necessary evil, or whether it is a remnant of transferring the visuals to digital form and the mastering process. In any event, color is excellent and vivid and black levels are rich. In order to make out the source material being fed into the Kaleidoplex (visible in the background), you may need to lower the contrast on your television a bit.

Image Transfer Grade: B-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital
(music only)no

Audio Transfer Review: There are few musical instruments that have the bass extension of a large organ, and the organ here can go all the way to the very bottom, loudly. At moderate listening levels well below reference my entire house was shaking from the subwoofer activity on this disc. Should you want to see how close your sub can get to maximum extension before bottoming, this is a good disc to try it out. As is the case with most live performances, ambient noise is a problem and the audience will not stop coughing even in the quietest segments of the Clair de Lune.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 6 cues and remote access
Music/Song Access with 5 cues and remote access
Packaging: Amaray Double
Picture Disc
2 Discs
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Soundtrack CD
Extras Review: The sole extra is a CD of the performance. It includes Morris's introductions to the various pieces, which are absent from the DVD and makes for enjoyable listening even without the Kaleidoplex visuals. Chaptering is poor; at least each movement of the sonata should have gotten a chapter stop, but there's only a single chapter for the entire 22 minutes of the piece.

Extras Grade: C-


Final Comments

Interesting visuals, with a knockout soundtrack and a bonus CD to boot. Worth a look for those interested in kaleidoscopes or in testing the limitations of their sound systems.


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