Not sure it's the best classical ever, but I think it's great to hear music from Louis XIV ("Sun king") era.
Currently listening to:
Royal music, to boost the ego. Tonight I'll dream of my kingdom.
Thank you. Ordered. If you want to hear some other aristocrat music, look for William Lawes.
I posted earlier (a rather extensive one at that), but since then I've picked up what I think is an absolutely essential recording. I've had my eye on this one for years, and for $5.99 I no longer had any excuse not to get it.
E. Power Biggs, Sony, 1990 (re-released 2005, but without the three additional tracks at the end) - This is a true classic. It was recorded in the cathedral of the Minster of Freiburg in Germany, which hosts four different organs, all of which can be controlled from a central console. They can be played separately, all together, or in any permutation you like. What makes this recording truly special is the way the engineers managed to convey front to rear space--on good headphones the effect is uncanny, and while nothing actually comes from directly behind you, it's by far the closest I've ever heard in headphones. Also, the way the music jumps between the four quadrants is mesmerizing. Sometimes it comes from only one organ, sometimes it comes from both the front ones or both the back ones. Other times it's kitty-corner, or, in climactic sections, all four instruments sound at once. The effect of jumping around, usually employed when lines mimic one another, is called antiphony.
Biggs' performances are good, though he was in poor health at the time and had to record each line separately; the resulting recording is therefore stitched together. There are a few places where bad edits are evident, but it doesn't really detract from the experience. The recording, aside from its excellent spatial qualities, does a good job of conveying the majesty of the instrument. Bass is monstrous--on a set of speakers with a separate sub this recording will rattle walls. There are a few inevitable places where the recording equipment was overdriven (until electric amplification, the organ was the loudest manmade object), but overall it's well-engineered.
It's also a completely unforgiving recording in that it will expose any inadequacies in your equipment (e.g. coloration, lack of extension, mediocre imaging, etc.). Usually it works the other way around, but I've found that well-recorded organ music is one of the most difficult things for a headphone to get right. This is usually where I would complain about my DT880 not having quite enough bass extension, except that this recording coaxes out deep sub bass I didn't even know my beloved Beyers had.
My only regret is that the re-issue doesn't have the three additional tracks that the original did. They weren't played on the Frieburg organ, but I still would have liked to have heard them, and I wonder why they were omitted.
bigshot - I have taken your advice and downloaded Grieg's Pier Gynt Holberg suites and found them to be not only amazing in sound but my current favorite for relaxing before bed. Thank you very much for the suggestion ! I was hoping you could recommend some additional pieces (not necessarily by Grieg) that are similarly mellow and relaxing. I of course realize that my request is somewhat subjective as not everyone interprets music in the same manner but any help you could provide would be most appreciated.
Thank you very much bigshot !
I love Mahler and have multiple recording of many of his symphonies.
One that I find special is:
Check out the reviews on Amazon, it's a very special performance of an exceptional piece of music.
I really enjoy the Richard Goode Beethoven Piano Sonatas. Really, really love them. Too bad the sound quality is sub-par.
Can someone recommend a better recorded Beethoven Piano Sonata set or select Sonata's from certain pianists. Also, maybe is there any other piano sonatas anyone would recommend other than from Beethoven.
The sound isn't that good but the performances are exceptional. I have other recordings which are technically superior but for the sheer force of the spirit of Beethoven I don't think that Schnabel can be surpassed.
Two more recordings for the list, both of which I just repurchased because as a silly ten year-old (yes, I started quite young with classical) I never kept any of my discs in their cases, and now I'm (literally) paying for it since I have to replace the ones I managed to ruin. It's amazing to think that I first bought the second in series of these two recordings 14 years ago--I feel quite old.
Friedrich Gulda, Philips, 1972 (Bk I) & 1973 (Bk II) - Both (in)famous recordings, best known for being extremely dry, both in technique (no rubato, not much pedal, very rigid tempi) and production (close mic'ed, no room or hall ambiance whatsoever), some liken these performances to a robot or MIDI recording. It was also my first set of both books of the WTC and the only one I've spent a considerable amount of time listening to in full, though I have a little bit of experience with selections from others (Gould, Tureck, Richter). From what I understand, this set is like getting hit in the head with a velvet-covered brick compared to the other well-known renditions. Gulda really hammers the keys sometimes, and the counterpoint is always about as naked as could be imagined, though one of the major complaints is that the playing is more vertical than horizontal.
I like the sense of energy and precision throughout. Even in places where Gulda takes a slower (sometimes considerably slower than usual) tempo, it's electric and never sounds mushy or smoothed over. The words intense and concentrated often come to mind when listening, and sometimes it's best to enjoy these renditions in smaller doses.
Sound wise, it's not great. Hiss is prominent, and Gulda's thunderous pounding regularly overdrives the equipment. Also, there are a few horrendous edits. I put up with it, though, since there are some selections--the A minor fugue in Book I and the G minor fugue in Book II immediately come to mind--which I haven't found an equal to anywhere. Plus, I like the dryness--if you want reverb and drama, these aren't your recordings. Also, the piano used is a unique-sounding instrument--it bears a strong resemblance to whichever make of piano Kurzweil uses for its piano samples.
All in all, from what I've read, a very polarizing pair of recordings. Probably invaluable as a tool for students attacking the WTC, though, since the counterpoint is so clear. Gulda's interpretations are the equivalent of an unforgiving set of studio monitors--if you like things a little more colorful, you probably won't like these recordings at all.
I used to have Rudolf Serkin's versions of the Mozart piano concertos on vinyl. They were recorded in the late '60's and '70's. Incredibly moving. Just brilliant. For my taste, it was the best Mozart music of any kind I've ever heard. I've since purchased what I thought were the same recordings on CD and, while good, they don't seem quite the same. I'm not sure if they're the same performances that I had on vinyl.
One of my all-time favorite discs is Bernstein's 1960's recording of Aaron Copland's Appalachian Spring (abridged), Rodeo, and Billy The Kid. I don't know if it's considered the best or the worst or whatever but Bernstein's and the NY Philarmonic's interpretation of those works is to my mind the greatest by far of all the versions out there and I've bought just about all of them. I was hoping to find a recording of the same music with better sound but the interpretations always fall short of Bernstein and the NY Philharmonic.
I'm 51 years old. I don't want to wander off into a political minefield but something about the time at which Bernstein made these recordings combined with the brilliant music itself is extra special. It expresses American optimism, creativity, and good will whereas nowadays it seems like it's only acceptable to express shame and contempt for America's heritage. A positive, creative energy just bursts out of the recording. Anyway, just a thought...Carry on....
Berlioz Requiem - Atlanta Symphony; Shaw (the dies irae is very impressive)
Beethoven Symphonies - Berlin; Herbert von Karajan (1963 versions)
Mahler 2 - Chicago Symphony; Claudio Abbado
Tchaikovsky 2 - Chicago Symphony; Claudio Abbado
Bruckner 4 & 7 - Chicago Symphony; Daniel Barenboim (These are very loud recordings showing off what the CSO brass section can do)
Tchaikovsky 4 & 5 - Chicago Symphony; Daniel Barenboim (Several favorite recordings of Tchaikovsky, but I always end up listening to these)
" Piano Concerto 1 - Chicago Symphony; Daniel Barenboim
Strauss Don Quixote - Chicago Symphony; Fritz Reiner
Franck Symphony - Chicago Symphony; Pierre Monteaux
Berlioz Symphonie Fantastique - Chicago Symphony; Sir Georg Solti (not the best recording, but very fun with the microphones directly in front of the low brass)
Wagner Overtures - Chicago Symphony & Vienna Philharmonic; Sir Georg Solti
Mozart Horn Concertos - Dennis Brain or Dale Clevenger
Any Dallas Wind Symphony CD (Maybe a bit biased, but I love the overall tone of the group)
Shostakovitch 7 - Chicago Symphony; Leonard Bernstein
Holst Planets - London Symphony; Jeffrey Simon
Stravinsky Rite of Spring - MET Orchestra; James Levine
Respighi Fountains and Pines of Rome; Montreal Symphony; Charles Dutoit
Tchaikovsky Overture to Hamlet; Montreal Symphony Orchestra
Bernstein On the Waterfront - New York Phil; Bernstein
Mahler 3 - New York Phil; Bernstein
Shostakovitch 5 - New York Phil; Bernstein
Shostakovitch Piano Concertos - New York Phil; Bernstein
Tchaikovsky 6 - New York Phil; Bernstein
Dvorak 9 - New York Phil; Maazel (There are a couple of live recordings floating around that are stunning, one of which is the performance from North Korea)
Mahler 5 - New York Phil; Mehta
Stravinsky Rite of Spring - New York Phil; Mehta (there are 2 different recordings, both of which are quite good)
Kalinnikov 1 - Royal Scottish National Orchestra; Neemi Jaarvi
Tchaikovsky 6 - Russian National Orchestra; Mikhail Pletnev
Hindemith Mathis der Mahler - San Francisco Symphony; Herbert Blomstedt
Hindemith Symphonic Metamorphosis - San Francisco Symphony; Herbert Blomstedt
Prokofiev Romeo and Juliet - San Francisco Symphony; Michael Tilson Thomas
Beethoven 5 & 7 - Vienna Philharmonic; Carlos Kleiber
Johann de Miej Lord of the Rings - London Symphony; David Warble
Obviously, I prefer louder classical music. These are my typical go to recordings. I have plenty more recommendations, but I didn't want to be too long-winded