History’s Greatest Orchestral Conductor

While teenagers were listening to that newfangled Rock ‘n’ roll sound in the 1950s, something else entirely was popular with adults. Largely forgotten today, orchestral conductor and performer Mantovani sold millions and millions of records in the 1950s and 1960s. Known as the King of Strings for his brand of lush instrumentation on hits such as Charmaine and Greensleeves, he helped usher in stereo sound. Decca Records’ biggest seller for many years, Mantovani’s music today falls into the easy listening category.

Mantovani: The King of Strings is a solid, new documentary about the conductor’s music career and contributions to the field. Featuring a host of BBC talent, it offers a standard mix of expert talking heads, rare archival footage, and musical performances from Mantovani’s successful 1959 television show. Starting with his early conducting career in Italy, it moves into his prime as a musical superstar during the 1950s. Then it covers his early forays into television and how he adapted once Rock took over as the dominant popular genre.

… serves as a fine introduction to Mantovani

Known for his signature cascading strings, Mantovani’s orchestral performances are instantly recognizable even today to music lovers. It’s a shame that he’s been forgotten by the masses. Outselling acts like Elvis Presley and Frank Sinatra in the 1950s, Mantovani was as famous as any of those icons are today. While it’s easy to dismiss his music as easy listening fodder, Mantovani’s elaborate string arrangements and lush instrumentation took great skill and talent. His success was no fluke and changing listening habits have made his music no less special today.

This is a nicely structured documentary that delves into Mantovani’s successful career and how he created some of his legendary string arrangements. Less attention is paid to his personal life, which is touched upon briefly without any real depth. The centerpiece of the documentary is exclusive footage of the composer in action on his original black-and-white television show from 1959, featuring any number of notable guests. Mantovani was a star and big-time singers would often come on the show.

There is an impression that the documentary was made for casual fans possibly unaware of Mantovani and his music, and they would be right. It’s a tight, concise overview of his music and career with entertaining guests. Once widely popular in both England and America as a performer, the documentary serves as a fine introduction to Mantovani.

Video

The documentary runs 76 minutes and is compiled from a wide variety of archival sources, some obviously sourced from standard definition video. The new talking head interviews have decent picture quality in full HD splendor as you would expect.

The archival footage from Mantovani’s 1959 television show, a common recurring element in the documentary, comes from a stable print in pristine condition, even if it’s soft and lacking detail. The black-and-white footage has excellent black levels and an even contrast. All things considered, it’s fairly decent picture quality for rare and exclusive footage that hasn’t been seen in decades.

The main feature is presented at 1080P resolution in 1.78:1 aspect ratio. Some of the archival footage has been blown up to fit the widescreen dimensions, while a few scenes are presented closer to 1.37:1. The video receives a serviceable AVC encode on a BD-25. This documentary doesn’t have the crispest Hi-Def presentation, hampered by the erratic archival footage from the 1940s and 1950s.

Audio

If the picture quality is a pleasant surprise, the lack of lossless audio and a full stereo mix is a disappointment. What we get is decent-sounding 2.0 Dolby Digital limited to a monaural mix. Considering that Mantovani made his mark in stereo sound, we are missing the full impact of the musical performances included in the documentary.

That being said, the songs are heard in acceptable fidelity with an open sound and solid dynamics. Some thinness is almost mandatory to television recordings from the 1940s and early 1950s.

Optional English SDH play in a white font.

Extras

FilmRise has released this special edition on BD and a lesser BD-R pressing without special features. This pattern is common with their releases, where a barebones release will come on BD-R and a special edition receives a manufactured BD.

The following special features are all musical performances from Mantovani’s 1959 television program. It’s a fine set of guest performers backed by excellent orchestral performances, including singers Vic Damone and Petula Clark. They have clean audio fidelity and stable picture quality, though like the main feature only come in lossy Dolby Digital audio.

Summer Time in Venice (05:26 in HD)

The Melba Waltz (02:21 in HD)

Charmaine (01:20 in HD)

As Time Goes By w/ Petula Clark (03:24 in HD)

Ol’ Rockin’ Chair by The Hi-Lo’s (02:02 in HD)

My Foolish Heart w/ Carol Carr (03:20 in HD)

The Blue Danube (03:22 in HD)

The Agnes Waltz (03:00 in HD)

How Deep Is The Ocean w/ Vic Damone (03:42 in HD)

Cara Mia (02:49 in HD)

Tonight w/ Edmund Hockridge (02:27 in HD)

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray release was provided to us for review by the label. For information on how we handle all review material, please visit our about us page to learn more about DoBlu’s editorial policies.

Mantovani: The King of Strings
  • Video
  • Audio
  • Extras
4

Mantovani: The King of Strings

An entertaining music documentary with rare archival television footage about one of the biggest sellers in the 1950s.

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