quality of classical recordings
Mar 21, 2002 at 7:05 AM Thread Starter Post #1 of 9

AIM9x

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are there specific companies I should look for and specific orchestras that I should be looking out for when I'm ordering classical CDs? I finally have a really good listening setup and I was hoping for some advice on what to look for when buying these CDs. Most of the MP3s I've been able to get a hold of are crap (Xing recordings, painful) and I need some good-sounding Classical stuff.
 
Mar 21, 2002 at 8:30 AM Post #3 of 9

Wes

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Classical listeners, at least after a bit, tend to seek the best performances and regard the sonic issues as distinctly secondary in importance. (There are some prominent exceptions to that rule, however: classical fans who choose mainly from audiophile recordings. They will no doubt show up here shortly with their recommended labels.)

There are sonic issues, of course. I think you will find that classical music is recorded decently from most sources on CD. Truly objectionable recordings are rare, and I expect almost any CD will beat those mp3's. Certain companies have a house style that you may find particularly agreeable, maybe one is more distant with a lot of hall reverb and another is more like studio pop recordings with a lot of separate mikes on each instrument or group of them. And in certain recordings, unpredictably, everything seems to come together in a special way. These are the real prizes.

Generally, I might advise that you get a bunch of Naxos recordings because they are cheap, very available, and of pretty good to amazing quality. When you've figured out what kinds of classical you are after, you can check reviews at, for example, www.gramophone.co.uk.

If you would like more specific guidance, you should tell us what pieces have already impressed you. Then we can try to recommend some similar ones in our (no doubt very different) opinions.
 
Mar 21, 2002 at 11:18 AM Post #4 of 9

AIM9x

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Well, my problem is not what pieces I will like. I hear complaints about recording quality from certain companies and such. I would like to avoid such problems. I have a pair of ER-4Ps (i have not used them without the adapter cable since I actually dislike the 4P sound) and I want only good sounding recordings. I'm a fan of Wagner, Holst, Vivaldi, Tchaikovski, Ravel, some Beethoven, Bach, and I'm very fond of baroque music (I love the complexity, as opposed to the simple melodies of classical music).

I'm looking for recording companies that have quality recordings. I don't want nasty artifacts in my music. I want recordings with a good soundstage (Etys just love recordings with a good soundstage), but I don't want echoes that overpower my music. I want a recording that would jump out from the other ghetto recordings and lets me realize how good music can me. Basically, I want to buy from a recording company that can make me realize what Etymotics have made me recognize, how great music can really be.
 
Mar 21, 2002 at 12:01 PM Post #5 of 9

Wes

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OK. Now we are moving into a subjective realm. I don't think you are going to find more than rare instances where everyone agrees a piece is poorly recorded. Poor remastering to CD from earlier recordings is somewhat more common but less so with recent reissues. So the odds are with you in avoiding nasty ones.

You're asking for records to knock your socks off, but we don't know what holds them on. Garters? Tape? Or just Spandex? We'll just have to guess. So be it.

You like Vivaldi, then; and I've got Ety's too. Try some of the recordings of Europa Galante playing Vivaldi sonatas on the Virgin label. This is very aggressively played, very theatrical, and recorded very well in a close-up style. Placement is very specific, too much so to count as realistic but nevertheless involving. I particularly like the collection called "La tempesta di Mare--Concerti con Titoli." This group's "L'Estro Armonico," with the four seasons sonatas is a good deal, but the exaggerations of interpretation and recording can be a little too much, irritating even. Half the time I think that, and the other half I have a smile pasted on my face.

For a calmer package with smoother interpretations and more distant (to me, far more realistic) recording perspective, you could try Monica Huggett and the Raglan Consort also on Virgin doing the "La Cetra" collection of Vivaldi sonatas.

I also strongly advise the Bach harpsichord concerti done by Trevor Pinnock and the English Concert on DGG. These are rather early digital recordings but nonetheless quite pleasing with compelling performances of pieces some of which are adapted by Bach from Vivaldi.

Let that do for a start, eh? But I think you will find that you can't blindly choose from any given label or artist(s) if you want the really outstanding recordings. You will also find that agreement on what is really outstanding is infrequent and often independent of recording quality issues. For example, lots of people prefer mono recordings from the 50's to the present equivalents. I need a little more sensual pleasure than that to draw me into the listening, but I am curious about whether I am missing something. One of these days...
 
Mar 21, 2002 at 2:49 PM Post #6 of 9

pigmode

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AIM9x,

A good Vivaldi disc is Seiji Ozawa/ Boston Symphony Orchestra performing The Four Seasons (Telarc).

You didn't mention Haydn, But this one is highly recommended:

Jaqueline du Pre/ Haydn Cello Concertos 1&2 with the English Chamber Orchestra and the London Symphony Orchestra respectively (EMI Classics).



Quote:

I hear complaints about recording quality from certain companies and such. I would like to avoid such problems.


That would be impossible.
 
Mar 21, 2002 at 3:08 PM Post #7 of 9

Audio Redneck

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A buddy of my sells used cds and so I've gotten to hear a bunch from a wide selection. You'll get disagreements, but here's what I've heard (with my own ears):

(removes his redneck disguise)

Generally good recording and performances:
- Let say 80% probability of both
Chesky
Testament
VERY recent RCA Red Seals
Telarc*

Hit 'n Miss recording and performances:
- Lets say 50% probablility of both
Older RCA Red Seals**
London*
DGG**
Teldec*
Philips**
Music Heritage Society***

Performance only:
- You'll buy it for the performance and not often
Time Life
MCA**

Coffee Costers:
- Almost as good as AOL discs
Laser Light*

All of the above are lables I've heard at least 3 of. An * is an indicator of how many of that label I personally own (*= lessthan5, **=5min, ***=deffinately more than 5.)

I'd look first for known good performances on the labels known for consistancy and choose recommended budget labels for experiments.

As always, YMMV
smily_headphones1.gif


(puts redneck disguise back on)

Ewoo-Wee! Thank I'll go spin that Willy Tell overt'r now!
biggrin.gif
 
Mar 21, 2002 at 5:50 PM Post #8 of 9

zowie

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I've been very pleased with the sound on the Sony SBM's I have (ca. 1992 and later), and there's a lot of great material. The same does NOT go for their reissues from the Columbia days.

BIS has had the most consistently excellent sound of any label I'm familiar with. There are many mid-sized import labels with good sound.

I find that most Phillips and DGG are generally acceptable -- sound quality doesn't get in the way of the many excellent performances in their catalogue -- but rarely noteworthy.

The RCA Living Stereo reissues done with the Apogee system sound very good for major label budget priced reissues, and MUCH better than the prior reissues of these recordings in the 80s. Most Mercury Living Presence reissues are also very good for a reasonable price, if a little bombastic for my tastes.

Personally, I don't like Telarc much. It sounds too "Hi Fi" to me. Pretty neat the way it shows off good equipment and all, but pretty far removed from what I hear in live venues, IMO.
 
Mar 22, 2002 at 4:04 AM Post #9 of 9
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I would check some of the Classial threads that I have made, since I list many audiophile CDs.

Telarc, Reference Recordings, and Chesky are awesome for pure sonic bliss, just as long as you like the music, you can't do better than that.

For cheaper CDs, both Naxos and Grammophon sound great, I am very picky about these things, and these labels passed my test with the CDs I got from them.

I tried other labels like Virgin Classics and some other mainstream labels and they all sound like **** to me, maybe I am spoiled? But I can't stand to listen to badly recorded classial music.
 

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