This is another of the EMI Extended Audio Discs. Using two DVDs it greatly exceeds the playing time of the others, coming close to 8 hours. The selections are all taken from the libraries of EMI and Virgin Classics and some go as far back as the 1960s. All are stereo and well-matched in levels and sonics, which are very good. All 100 selections are listed in the note booklet, together with the timings, performers and recording dates. I found it surprising that the order numbers of the EMI discs from which the selections were taken was not listed. There is a menu four or five pages deep which you can display to select specific tracks to hear, or you can just click play and let it go thru all of them in the sequence. A Random option lets you hear the selections in a different order each time. There is also a choice of image display or not. The image is a multicolored collage of bass and treble music signs moving slowly across the 4:3 screen. Even you select No Images, the titles of the various selections are still displayed in a corner of the screen for each one.
Going thru the list of 100 selections I found a few I wasn’t familiar with by title, but hearing them immediately placed them for me. There were a lot of my favorites: the Albinoni Adagio, the Adagio from the Spartacus ballet, The Dance of the Blessed Spirits from Orfeo & Euridice, the duet from The Pearl Fishers, Handel’s Sarabande, and others. I’m sure everyone will find plenty of their favorites as well. The final 17 tracks on the second disc are all choral liturgical music, ending with a couple excerpts from Messiah, of course. There are only a few vocal selections in the earlier part of the program.
The jewel box says the audio track is linear PCM stereo, but both of my DVD players gave a display of the Dolby Digital icon and the Dolby LED on my Sunfire AV preamp lit up. Yet oddly there is no credit for Dolby on the jewel box. Perhaps data reduction using Dolby Digital was the only way to get almost four hours on each of the DVDs, but as a result I couldn’t put this disc in our Hi-Res section. If that wasn’t the reason, then using Dolby when an uncompressed 96K linear PCM track was possible is akin to the wrong-headed thinking of many classic movie DVD producers, who provide DD mono when there is plenty of room for uncompressed PCM mono which would sound much better. Another consideration that might be addressed is the $38 list price of this album.
– John Sunier