.... I haven't listened to that recording of Beethoven's string quartets, I'll try to do so. Right now I currently have just the Alban Berg set.
You're in for a treat
I really like Sergiu Celibidache's Bruckner, Beethoven I can't recommand, cause I'm not a fan of his symphonies...(maybe some day)
Have you listened to the Bruckner cycle from Maazel ? It's polished and slow paced, and perhaps a bit bland, but I like this somehow.
There's also the Schubert cycle , from Mariner, that have some similar characteristics.
Perfect for ... background music (sorry).
What I look for in Bruckner (as well as Schubert and Mendelssohn) is that distinct Viennese lilt in the slow passages and dynamic emotions in the loud ones. I'm not too keen on it being played flat as melody. I really like Mariner's Rossini overtures and his Mozart is OK, but not much else. Maazel has never impressed me that much... maybe his Respighi. But there are other conductors who do it even better. Bland and background music isn't a good thing to me.
For this stuff... Wand, Walter, Bohm, and sometimes Karajan.
Maazel's recording of the two Ravel operas "L'Enfant et les Sortileges" and "L'Heure Espagnole" is probably the best thing he ever did. Amazing performances.
But no, up till now I haven't really come across anything else by him that I admire.
Good choices! I would add Haitink and Boulez, and a special mention for (surprisingly) Ormandy, whose recording of Le Tombeau de Couperin has a very firm place in my list of 'greatest recordings of anything by anyone ever'.
Maazel is incredibly inconsistent. His recordings of the Ravel operas are considered by many to be the best ever - and I agree. He has a real feel for French music. His Berlioz is quite fine, too. But what he does to the end of Bolero is ridiculous!
His Bruckner is great if, and it's a big if, you like that approach - slow, grand, and imposing. His 8th on EMI is revered by some. I did pick up his set with the Bavarian radio group, and the sound is great as is the playing - but I don't think it's what Bruckner had in mind.
Maazel's Puccini is badly underrated. Trittico has never had a better outing on CD. He also is, quite surprisingly, a very good Rachmaninoff conductor. His set of the three symphonies is excellent. He doesn't wallow in the music but keeps it moving. There is no lack of power in the playing. His Pictures at an Exhibition on Telarc is superb, too.
For the best Ravel, I turn to Jean Martinon or Andre Cluytens, both on EMI. They had an understanding of the style that few have equaled, much less bettered. For a more modern sound, Abbado's complete set on DG is darn close.
I used to like Abbado, but recently I got the Symphonies box set and I have to say, aside from a couple of the Mozart symphonies, I don't care for him at all. Really dull playing. I was expecting to like his Mendelssohn, but it's awful.
I'm listening to Fritz Reiner's recording of "Pictures at an Exhibition" on SACD again and I have to say, as I've said before, that recording is extraordinary. Anyone who likes classical music, especially "big band" classical, and hasn't heard that recording, must hear it. Now.
Those recordings that Reiner made with the Chicago Symphony are pretty special. Those were the early years for both the principal trumpet, Adolph Herseth, and the tuba player, Arnold Jacobs. Both were the best at their trade. Jacobs received honorary doctorates for his studies of the respiratory system after he suffered an affliction which cost him half of his lung capacity. He was also considered the foremost music teacher in the United States. 'Bud' Herseth was known for incredible tone and absolute perfection. There is a story told from their famous recording of Also Sprach Zarathustra. Reiner liked to test his musicians by having them play the most difficult parts over and over again. At one section, there is a trumpet solo that jumps to a high C. After around the 10th repeat of playing it perfectly, Herseth looks at his watch and says that he has until 10 PM. The Reiner recording of Pictures is trumpet playing at its absolute finest.
Interesting that you mention it. I had forgotten that I own quite a few of his Puccini recordings. What I remember from them though, is an approach that seems far too straightlaced, that doesn't seems to want to indulge in the sentimentality, or lay on the drama. (That might simply be how I want to hear Puccini.) But I need to listen to that Trittico again.
I own this Beethoven cycle, which sounds great sonically and musically: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000FOTHC8/
This is an extremely popular recording of just Beethoven's #5 and #7, which has a very forward/aggressive musical style (sort of takes that melodramatic "angry Beethoven" approach): http://www.amazon.com/Beethoven-Symphonies-Nos-5-7/dp/B000001GPX/
I own these two recordings of Bruckner's #9 but haven't listened to them yet, so can't comment: