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Best classical recordings...ever! - Page 3

post #31 of 9064
Originally Posted by kungfuthug View Post

Tyson, I am going to order the Mahler Symphonies tonight. Thanks

Before you order read first the brillliant overview of the Mahler symphonies by the late Tony Duggan
post #32 of 9064

Richard Strauss: Also Sprach Zarathustra; Camille Saint-Saëns: Symphony No. 3 


This is one of my favorites for headphones.  It is a binural recording and the imaging is fantastic!  It can be difficult / a bit expensive to track down a copy, but it is one of my go-to test CDs for new equipment and in my regular rotation in between.  IMHO well worth the effort/cash.


post #33 of 9064
Kempe is the go to conductor for Strauss. The box set of recordings from Dresden should be in every classical music collection. It's one of the greatest landmark batch of recordings of all time.

His Living Stereo box has Reiner's Zaruthrustra and Munch's Organ Symphony. Both of those are top recommendations.
Edited by bigshot - 9/22/12 at 10:12am
post #34 of 9064
Thread Starter 

What recommendations for Brahm?

post #35 of 9064
I'm not a good one to ask for Brahms. I haven't connected with his music yet. Same with Schumann. They both sound like generic romantic music to me. But I'm sure it's my fault, not the music's fault. I just need to dig a bit deeper. It's on my list.
Edited by bigshot - 9/22/12 at 11:30am
post #36 of 9064

Well, I offer up Brahms recommendations, he's a favorite. Now keep in mind that I don't care how great a performance is if the sound isn't up to modern standards. I know that rankles a lot of people but, as a dedicated headphone listener, the better the sound the better the experience. And frankly, there are many modern performances that are the equal of anything from the past.


For starters, the Mackerras set on Telarc is top-notch in every way. Great performances, thrilling sound, very stirring. If you want big-band performances along the Furtwangler line, Barenboim with Chicago is also highly recommendable. On a budget, and slightly older but in no way inferior, Levine with Chicago on RCA is a great bargain and what performances! His Brahms Requiem is also quite good.


Re Kempe. They DO belong in serious collections. He was a dedicated conductor who was among the first to bring some of the lesser known music to the studio. But the cramped, wooly sound just makes them hard to recommend to beginners. Even the older Reiner recordings sound better. For great listening, Previn with the Vienna Philharmonic on Telarc has a lot going for it.

post #37 of 9064
Thread Starter 

I have been doing some reading and the Mackerra's set seems to be very popular...maybe I should start there. Thanks mbhaub

post #38 of 9064
The Kempe Strauss set has fantastic sound. You should listen to it some time.

(*even* the Reiner?!)
Edited by bigshot - 9/22/12 at 7:25pm
post #39 of 9064

I think Hurwitz described the sound best: a bit variable, excellent in their day...and still sound really good. Yes, they do. But Strauss, like Mahler and Wagner demand an enormous dynamic range that 1960's analog just cannot do as well as digital. I might need to investigate recent re-re-re-releases, though. I picked up the Kempe set when cds were still new and likely the newer masterings do sound better. There's a Brilliant box that I might check out. One thing's sure: the Kempe performances are top notch. No disagreement there.

post #40 of 9064
Originally Posted by bigshot View Post

Kempe is the go to conductor for Strauss. The box set of recordings from Dresden should be in every classical music collection. It's one of the greatest landmark batch of recordings of all time.
His Living Stereo box has Reiner's Zaruthrustra and Munch's Organ Symphony. Both of those are top recommendations.

Another vote for Kempe and Richard Strauss. Ravel complete piano take Jacques Fevrier.
Ravel orchestral Martinon.
post #41 of 9064
Those recordings have a better overall orchestral balance than most modern recordings. They're recorded in a natural Dresden acoustic the way human ears would hear it- from one perspective, not multi miked- not close miked. It doesn't get better than that. EMI's sound quality during that sound period was at its best. Their recording equipment, even back then, easily surpasses what you're playing it back on.

The only way one could come to the conclusion that the Kempe recordings are inferior is to judge them by age, not by performance quality or how they actually sound. Because they are the benchmark by which all other interpretations of Strauss are based on, and they have impeccable sound quality. Brilliant Classics is great for filling in repetoire that hasn't been covered as well by the majors. It's OK to choose a regional second tier orchestra with a no name conductor for obscure stuff. they generally do a fine job of it. But this Kempe box isn't just the top choice in the smack dab middle of core repetoire, it's bargain priced to boot. No reason to buy anything else.

Newbies could not do better than first class performances in first class sound. The original poster has already seen the value ofthat with the Living Stereo box, which I'm sure judging solely by age and not performance or sound quality doesn't rate very high either.
post #42 of 9064
I have a lot of favorites for Ravel, and Martinon is right up there at the top. The only major conductor of French music I really don't like is Boulez. For some reason he strikes me as being one who takes it as a mathematical exercise in precision and drains all the blood out.

There's a lot to judging good recordings in classical music. The more you hear, the more refined your ear becomes and the more the importance of the conductor comes to the fore. When I was first starting out, I thought everything by Herbert von Karajan was the best, and if it didn't have the yellow DGG banner at the top, it was inferior. Boy, was I on the wrong track there!
Edited by bigshot - 9/24/12 at 10:23am
post #43 of 9064
One thing I find interesting is that there seems to be ages for certain kinds of music. Italian opera was at its best in the 1920s, Wagner was incredible in the 50s. Romantic music was great in the 60s and 70s. Today, music is very literal and codified. The best music being made today is baroque and early classical. There are exceptions of course, but it's interesting to think about.
post #44 of 9064

This makes sense. It seems that as we get further removed in time from the composers and those performers who knew them that the "correct" performing traditions are being lost, if not ignored. In terms of performances (not sound), the older generations had a lot more personality and instinctively knew how the music should go. THere are some mighty fine conductors out there today to be sure, but think of what it was like 60 years ago when the likes of Szell, Ormandy, Reiner, Munch, Paray, Monteux, Rodzinski, Mitropolous, Solti to name just a few were working in the US. Today's golden boy, Dudamel, wouldn't have been worthy to be their assistants. I've never understood the drooling over Simon Rattle who, to me ears, is vastly over rated. And there's the problem, so many orchestras want to hire young, studly conductors whose musical qualifications are suspect. They sure don't know the repertoire, or, as is often the case, they are promoted to positions long before they are truly ready for it. In generations past, conductors spent years studying and learning working in the opera house and had to master so many skills. I suppose it's that way with all the arts -- after a time the message gets watered down and lost, then it must be reinvented.

post #45 of 9064
Performance practice only became an issue in the Romantic era. In the classical and baroque era, a composer rarely if ever did much more than set the general tone (ie: "allegro non troppo"). In Wagner's era, scores became much more specific with metronome markings and indications for how individual intrumentalists should handle their parts.

HIP is fine, but it should be remembered that in the early eras, it was pretty loose. Left up to the performers. Any HIP conductor who claims otherwise or says there was no vibrato or crap like that is full of it.

Of today's conductors, I think Abbado, Barenboim, and Tilson Thomas are pretty good. But they aren't as distictive as Stokowski, Toscanini or Bernstein. Thankfully, sound recording has een uniformly excellent for the past fifty years, so we have all kinds of great recordings to choose from.
Edited by bigshot - 9/24/12 at 7:53pm
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