Top 10 Classical CDs of all time
May 28, 2002 at 6:59 PM Thread Starter Post #1 of 19

kelly

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Ok, here are the rules:

Use any criteria you want for your choices (label, age, style, musicians, composer, whatever).

Pretend you have absolutely no music in your collection and were magically given a gift certificate worth exactly ten classical CDs of your choice.

List the composer, director and name of the CD if you can. If you know whether the CD is also available in SACD, note that too.

Thanks
 
May 29, 2002 at 3:12 AM Post #2 of 19

dparrish

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Kelly,

This is a really TOUGH one. There may not be much "new" classical music written these days, but trying to pick out the top ten from four or so centuries of great music is very difficult, at least for me.

However, given the criteria, here's my take:

1. Beethoven Symphonies--no classical fan should be without all 9 of these. Unfortunately, you can't get them on just ONE disk. Everyone should have at LEAST symphonies 3, 5, 6, 7, and 9.
There are MANY complete recordings out there, but I think Herbert von Karajan/Berlin Philharmonic on Deutsche Grammophon (1963 version) would be an excellent choice--not the most "modern" instrumentation, but inspiring and well-recorded for the time, as well as a good value in its CD reissue.

2. Felix Mendelssohn--"Hebrides Overture": I include this because it is one of my absolute favorites and is a great example of tone painting. Mendelssohn wrote this while on a trip to Scotland as he travelled out on the coastline to Fingal's Cave, near the Hebrides Islands. You can practically hear the waves lapping up against the boat in the music. My favorite recording of this is with Claudio Abbado and the Berlin Philharmonic (Deutsche Grammophon, 1985). The recording is excellent for the time.

3. Brahms Symphony No. 4--Brahms wrote only 4 symphonies and this one is his best, in my opinion, although they are ALL great. Leonard Bernstein conducting the Vienna Philharmonic on Deutche Grammophon gives a spirited reading. Brahms may have been the best at taking a simple motive (a musical idea) and making an entire movement out of it, as he does so spendidly in this symphony. The melody in the first movement is one of my all-time favorites.

4. "Luciano Pavarotti Arias"(London/Decca, 1982)--an aria collection sung by the "King of the High Cs". This one shows Luciano's voice off in his prime, and it includes probably my favorite aria of all time--"Nessun Dorma". Although perhaps other tenors are more refined musically in their singing (Domingo, for instance), no one sings with more exuberance and lyricism than Pavorotti.

5. Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No. 3--I am a pianist by training and Rachmaninoff represents the epitome of romanticism at its pianistic height. The 3rd concerto is his best in my opinion, although many favor the 2nd. I would have a tough choice making a decision on which recording of this I would choose, as there are many good ones. Vladimir Horowitz on RCA Red Seal 24/96 audiophile recording is a remastering of the 1978 live recording, which was a MAJOR event in the world of classical music. Horowitz, the acknowledged pianistic master of romantic music in the 20th century, makes a return to the stage after a 25 year haitus (although he did record some during this time). Horowitz knew Rachmaninoff personally, having spent much time playing this concerto with him (2 pianos with Rachmaninoff playing the orchestra's part--Rachmaninoff himself was a phenomenal concert pianist), and it shows. This is one of the most emotionally-charged recordings ever made, and the 24/96 remastering does much to make it sound like the original vinyl pressing (which I have also). Having said this, I just recently purchased the Volodos/Levine/Berlin Philharmonic version of this concerto on Sony Classical SACD (its available in CD also), and the playing on this disk is VERY musical (probably more musical than Horowitz's), though not as emotionally-charged. The sound of this disk is the most GORGEOUS I have heard to-date from SACD. If all SACDs would sound this good (many recent releases are approaching this), I'd have a hard time going back to regular CD.

6. Dvorak Symphony No. 8--Giulini/Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra/Sony Classical, 1991. Giulini is one of my favorite conductors (along with Bernstein, von Karajan, and Abbado), and his version of this symphony is tastefully done here. Although many favor Dvorak's 9th ("New World"), I like the 8th better. Probably there are better versions out there (I have an older version on vinyl with Barenboim/Chicago Symphony that I love), but this one 'ain't shabby, and its recorded using Sony's super bit mapping, which gives a nice spacious acoustic.

7. Gustav Holst, "The Planets"--I have Charles Dutoit's Montreal Symphony on Londong/Decca version, which is brilliantly played. There may be better-sounding versions available but I would bet none better-played. This was one of the first classical works I became hooked on back in high school. Holst wrote one movement for each of the then-known planets (Pluto wasn't discovered yet). Program music at its best, and beautiful music even if you're not into keeping up with which planet you're listening to. I still enjoy this work after 25 years of listening.

8. Vaughan Williams, Symphony No. 2/The Lark Ascending, Andre Previn/Royal Philharmonic/Telarc--I LOVE Vaughan Williams' incorporation of English folk tunes (he was British) and sounds of the countryside into his music. You can practically picture the beautiful English hills while you listen. The 2nd symphony (I love his 5th also) is also somewhat programatic, having been written around the time of World War I. In the first movement you can hear the chiming of Big Ben and the pre-war calm, followed by the
the horrors of the wartime. The second movement is one of the absolute most GORGEOUS movements ever created for any symphony. As a bonus on this disk, you get "The Lark Ascending", which is one of Vaughan Williams' most beautiful tone poems, featuring a solo violin.

9. W.A. Mozart--no one should be without at LEAST one recording of Mozart's music. I would have a hard time deciding this one, as I would be torn between either his Symphony No. 40 in g minor (one of only two symphonies he wrote in a minor key--this one shortly after his father's death) or one of the many happy concerti he wrote for a number of instruments, particularly his piano conterti. I have a wonderful record (not CD) of Colin Davis conducting (I think) the Concertgebouw on Philips in the Symphony no. 40. I really need a new recording of this one on CD.

10. Chopin Nocturnes/Etudes--Being a pianist, no pianist would be without a recording of these. Chopin really revolutionized (as did Lizst) people's ideas of what the piano was capable of as an expressive instrument. I have played many of these in my studies and continue to enjoy both playing and listening to them today. Probably Arthur Rubenstein is the acknowledged 20th century interpreter of Chopin's works, although I don't own a recording of him playing these (another deficiency I hope to correct). Ashkenazy's recording of these for London/Decca is quite good, although it is on 2 cds!

Well, this is my list, assuming these would be the only 10 allowed. But there is SO much more I'd like to put on the list: Mahler's symphonies, Debussy's tone poems (especially "La Mer"), Bach's many wonderful works ("St. Matthew Passion", "Brandenburg Concertos", "Art of the Fugue"), and Brahms'/Mendelssohn's/Beethoven's violin concertos, just to name a few. Thankfully I'm not limited to just 10!

Since I've taken quite a bit of time to write this, one final comment: It is a real shame that much of the best classical performances of the 20th century were not optimally recorded. Much of the great performances by Bernstein, von Karajan, and the like, were recorded digitally (from the late 70s onward). Although I've heard some mighty good CD players lately that get rid of that digital harshness, I've not run across any player that can restore the missing harmonics and soundstaging acoustic (decay of sound) of these recordings. These missing sounds, unfortunately, are the sounds that rob classical music of its heart and soul. I don't think one can FULLY enjoy classical music without FULLY enjoying the nuances of the acoustic (that is, non-electrical--meaning NATURALLY-sounding) instruments it was (and is) written for. This is why many classical music lovers so appreciate what the high-rez formats (SACD, DVD-A) can do for modern recordings. Thankfully, some of the oldest stereo recordings have been (and hopefully will continue to be) remastered from the original analog tapes into hi-rez (witness the Sony/Columbia SACD reissues). Unfortunately, I don't see how this will be possible with the majority of recordings made after 1980 or so, as most were probably recorded digitally. Of course, I'm glad we have them at least in CD format, and hopefully some of these will sound better transferred to hi-rez (we shall see). I say all of this in the hopes that classical music will continue to be recorded, and in the high-rez formats, and with the same high-level of artistry that has been present in the past. I for one will be supporting this with my purchases!
 
May 29, 2002 at 6:36 PM Post #3 of 19

redshifter

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1,2) beethoven symphony nr. 6&7,9 / vienna phil / karl bohm cond (1971 i think, dg)

3) beethoven archduke trio / askenazie, perlman, harrel

4) beethoven string quartet opus 132, the one with the "cavatina" and "grosse fugue" / fitzwilliam quartet

5) handel water music & royal fireworks / aam, hogwood

6) bach golberg variations / glenn gould (either recording)

7) bach brandenburg concerti 4,5,6 / baroque soloists, koopman

8) mozart mass in C / berlin phil., karajan, kiri te kanawa is a soloist

9) mozart symph. 40, 41 / aam, hogwood

10) prokofiev symph. nr. 6 / oslo phil., jaarvi (chandos recording, stunning)

sorry for the spelling errors. i've got to run...
 
May 31, 2002 at 11:30 AM Post #4 of 19

Wes

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Hmm. I was actually in the situation you descirbed, kelly. I had no music in my collection except one Zappa disc that was sitting in the disc player when my home was burglarized. No magic apart from insurance helped rebuild it.

As I recall, I wanted:

1-3) Shostakovitch's 1st, 4th, and 11th symphonies. (First two on Chandos conducted by Jaarvi, the 1st is coupled with the 6th which is not a slacker either; the 11th on Delos conducted by James de Priest.)

4) Bach's concerti for harpsichords on DG Archiv with Trevor Pinnock conducting.

5) Tabula Rasa composed by Arvo Part. I love the original release on ECM, but there are more recent ones that might be no worse and recorded more cleanly.

6-9) Mahler's 1st, 6th and 7th symphonies. These are big works, a challenge to hold together for any conductor and a challenge to record. There are subject to many successful but imperfect approaches. (Think what it would mean to specify a "definitive" performance of a favorite play of Shakespeare.) Generally, I have been satisfied with Bernstein in the later DG recordings, but I will certainly seek others. (The early Bernstein set now on Sony were the ones that taught me to love this music, but the recording quality frightens me off. They were troubled even on the original black discs.)

10) Beethoven's 7th symphony, another one where a variety of approaches is welcome and necessary. Right now, I like Zinman on Arte Nova.

A different day, of course, would yield a different list.
 
May 31, 2002 at 12:50 PM Post #5 of 19

DarkAngel

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1)Beethoven Symphonies
Have many sets but if only one allowed I'll go with Zinmann/Arte Nova which is a super bargain. I also really like the period performances of Beethoven by Gardiner, Hogwood and to a lesser degree Norrington
(Kleiber/DG Sym 5/7 is also essential single disc)

2)Brahms Symphony 1
Klemperer/EMI, when I first heard this hard to belive this was Otto
famous for the powerful opening tympani strikes

3)Brahms Symphony 4
Kleiber/DG, mercurial Carlos gives performance of real stature, power sound quality could be better though.

4)Dvorak Sym 7,8,9
Dohnanyi/London, many outstanding choices here but the London decca sound is very good.

5)Haydn Symphonies
Dorati/London, easy choice used to be able to buy 4 CD sets at bargain price level (I bought them all), currently not sold new excellent performance/sound

6)Mahler Symphony 2
Rattle/EMI, combines great performance with excellent sound.

7)Mozart late symphonies
Saraste/Virgin, I like the smaller group perfromances because of greater clarity of readings, bargain price level set. Also really like the Harnoncourt/Teldec bargain set.

8a)Schubert Sym 5,8,9
MacKerras/Virgin, great sound and perfromances at bargain price.

8b)Schumann Symphonies
Gardiner/Archiv, period performances that really reveal the beauty of the music, excellent sound.

9)Tchaikovsky Symphonies
Jansons/Chandos, powerful Russian style performances with lush spacious Chandos sound.
(Mravinsky/DG sym 4 has to be heard to be believed, the virtuiosity and speed of the final movement is incredible)

10)Tchaikovsky Swan Lake
Dutiot/London, reference quality sound beautiful lush perfomance
 
May 31, 2002 at 1:01 PM Post #6 of 19

kelly

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Excellent responses, guys. Most appreciated. I'll have to grab a printout of these threads and surf Amazon to check them all out one night.

I have to admit that I'm surprised no SACDs made the list since a couple of you have SACD players. I guess I'm both a little surprised that the quality of the recording doesn't influence your decision enough to even include one in the top 10--but moreover, I'm surprised that out of all the classical recordings that are on SACD, none of them are remasters of stuff that were already in your top 10s.

I may need to start a seperate thread for "Top 10 SACD Classical CDs" if I end up with a player. I did see a Beethoven's 5th on single layer SACD (that pisses me off, by the way) but I don't think it was one of the versions you guys listed.

Anyway, thanks much.
 
May 31, 2002 at 3:02 PM Post #7 of 19

Masonjar

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Quote:

Originally posted by dparrish
Kelly,

6. Dvorak Symphony No. 8--Giulini/Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra/Sony Classical, 1991. Giulini is one of my favorite conductors (along with Bernstein, von Karajan, and Abbado), and his version of this symphony is tastefully done here. Although many favor Dvorak's 9th ("New World"), I like the 8th better. Probably there are better versions out there (I have an older version on vinyl with Barenboim/Chicago Symphony that I love), but this one 'ain't shabby, and its recorded using Sony's super bit mapping, which gives a nice spacious acoustic.


Excellent choice, plus you also get some yummy Ravel music too!

Unfortunately, I don't see how this will be possible with the majority of recordings made after 1980 or so, as most were probably recorded digitally. Of course, I'm glad we have them at least in CD format, and hopefully some of these will sound better transferred to hi-rez (we shall see). I say all of this in the hopes that classical music will continue to be recorded, and in the high-rez formats, and with the same high-level of artistry that has been present in the past. I for one will be supporting this with my purchases!


You got me thinking, I remember an early "Digital" recording of the Shostakovich 5th conducted by Leonard Bernstein on CBS. I always thought that one sounded just plain weird! It was probably that early digital era harshness. I agree, a lot of those recordings just don't sound that great.

One comment/question I have is this: Did many engineers make parallel analog 2-track recordings as a back-up to their digital recordings? Are the record companies holding onto these or were they trashed? It would be interesting to see if any recordings like this ever see the light of day. I've never heard of anyone releasing these, but I'm sure there are some analog backups out there..

Oh, and I'm not going to list 10, but I would throw out one for your consideration:

Mahler's 1st symphony, Bruno Walter and the Columbia Symphony orchestra. Simply one of the best versions out there, though it's a pretty old recording, it stands up well.

Of newer Mahler 1sts, I would go with Judd with the Florida Philharmonic on Harmonia Mundi.. awesome recording with a huge dynamic range.

-Mason
 
May 31, 2002 at 10:52 PM Post #8 of 19

dparrish

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Masonjar,

This is a very good question regarding possible analog tape backups. I certainly HOPE this was done. Certainly, some of the analog tapes still exist from the '50's and '60's, as is evidenced by Sony Classical's Walter/Szell/Bernstein SACD remasterings (these were remastered into DSD from the analog tapes). I have several of these, and they are quite good. The Bernstein/Dvorak 9th reissue is the most compelling version I've heard, and the Walter reissues are wonderful (I have only the Beethoven 6th and Brahms 4th Walter reissues).

One of the things that got me into SACD was these reissues. Sony surely has MANY more of these that could be remastered.

Regarding recordings of the digital age, one can only hope that either analog tapes exist or that some technology will come along to restore the lost information (is it possible that upsampling could do this?). Even if they exist, the question remains whether the market will allow many of these to be remastered.

Having said this, I DO believe we are SOON going to be getting the first batch of Universal SACD classical releases, a.k.a. Deutsche Grammaphon and perhaps some von Karajan recordings. They are due to be out this summer. It will be very interesting to see!

Kelly, regarding the lack of SACDs in the top ten list: this is more of a matter of SELECTIONS available rather than format. Given the same two disks, one in redbook, the other in SACD, I would take the SACD ANYTIME. Unfortunately for us classical music lovers, many of the MAJOR and beloved works have yet to make it to a newly-recorded DSD version. Presently I certainly listen to SACDs MORE than CDs. But given the requirement that I had no other music but the 10 cds, I chose the music over the format.
As much as I love SACDs, for instance, there currently is no recording of Vaughan Williams' Symphony no. 2, so I have to SETTLE for a redbook version.

However, just to give you an idea, here is a list of my favorite SACDs from the twenty or so I currently own:

Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto no. 3/Volodos/Sony Classical
Brahms/Stravinsky Violin Concertos/Hilary Hahn/Sony Classical
Mahler Symphony No. 5/Zander/Telarc
Mahler Symphony No. 6/Tilson Thomas/San Francisco Symphony ( distributed by Delos)
Music of Turina and Debussy/Lopez-Cobos/Telarc
Stravinsky "Firebird"/Shaw--Atlanta S. O./Telarc (50khz reissue)
Shostakovich Symphony no. 5 with Tchaikovsky "Romeo and Juliet"/Maazel--Cleveland Orchestra/Telarc (50 khz reissue)
Vivaldi: The Four Seasons/Orbelian--Moscow Chamber Orchestra/Delos
Mendelssohn: Symphony no. 4--Midsummer Night's Dream--Hebrides Overture/Szell--Cleveland Orchestra/Sony Classical (analog transfer to DSD)
Dvorak Symph No. 9/Bernstein--New York Phil./Sony Classical (analog transfer)
Beethoven Symphony no. 6/Walter/Sony Classical (analog transfer)
Brahms Symphony No. 4/Walter/Sony (analog transfer)

These are all excellent, with the 50khz and analog transfers sounding surprisingly good, although not up to the best original DSD recordings (such as the Volodos and Hahn performances).

The Beethoven 5th mentioned on SACD I believe would be the 50khz reissue by Telarc of Ozawa/Serkin (it's paired with the Beethoven 5th piano concerto). This is one that is on my list to get!
 
May 31, 2002 at 10:57 PM Post #9 of 19

dparrish

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Masonjar,

This is a very good question regarding possible analog tape backups. I certainly HOPE this was done. Certainly, some of the analog tapes still exist from the '50's and '60's, as is evidenced by Sony Classical's Walter/Szell/Bernstein SACD remasterings (these were remastered into DSD from the analog tapes). I have several of these, and they are quite good. The Bernstein/Dvorak 9th reissue is the most compelling version I've heard, and the Walter reissues are wonderful (I have only the Beethoven 6th and Brahms 4th Walter reissues).

One of the things that got me into SACD was these reissues. Sony surely has MANY more of these that could be remastered.

Regarding recordings of the digital age, one can only hope that either analog tapes exist or that some technology will come along to restore the lost information (is it possible that upsampling could do this?). Even if they exist, the question remains whether the market will allow many of these to be remastered.

Having said this, I DO believe we are SOON going to be getting the first batch of Universal SACD classical releases, a.k.a. Deutsche Grammaphon and perhaps some von Karajan recordings. They are due to be out this summer. It will be very interesting to see!

Kelly, regarding the lack of SACDs in the top ten list: this is more of a matter of SELECTIONS available rather than format. Given the same two disks, one in redbook, the other in SACD, I would take the SACD ANYTIME. Unfortunately for us classical music lovers, many of the MAJOR and beloved works have yet to make it to a newly-recorded DSD version. Presently I certainly listen to SACDs MORE than CDs. But given the requirement that I had no other music but the 10 cds, I chose the music over the format.
As much as I love SACDs, for instance, there currently is no recording of Vaughan Williams' Symphony no. 2, so I have to SETTLE for a redbook version.

However, just to give you an idea, here is a list of my favorite SACDs from the twenty or so I currently own:

Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto no. 3/Volodos/Sony Classical
Brahms/Stravinsky Violin Concertos/Hilary Hahn/Sony Classical
Mahler Symphony No. 5/Zander/Telarc
Mahler Symphony No. 6/Tilson Thomas/San Francisco Symphony ( distributed by Delos)
Music of Turina and Debussy/Lopez-Cobos/Telarc
Stravinsky "Firebird"/Shaw--Atlanta S. O./Telarc (50khz reissue)
Shostakovich Symphony no. 5 with Tchaikovsky "Romeo and Juliet"/Maazel--Cleveland Orchestra/Telarc (50 khz reissue)
Vivaldi: The Four Seasons/Orbelian--Moscow Chamber Orchestra/Delos
Mendelssohn: Symphony no. 4--Midsummer Night's Dream--Hebrides Overture/Szell--Cleveland Orchestra/Sony Classical (analog transfer to DSD)
Dvorak Symph No. 9/Bernstein--New York Phil./Sony Classical (analog transfer)
Beethoven Symphony no. 6/Walter/Sony Classical (analog transfer)
Brahms Symphony No. 4/Walter/Sony (analog transfer)

These are all excellent, with the 50khz and analog transfers sounding surprisingly good, although not up to the best original DSD recordings (such as the Volodos and Hahn performances).

The Beethoven 5th mentioned on SACD I believe would be the 50khz reissue by Telarc of Ozawa/Serkin (it's paired with the Beethoven 5th piano concerto). This is one that is on my list to get!
 
Jun 1, 2002 at 6:02 PM Post #10 of 19

Dusty Chalk

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Quote:

Originally posted by kelly
I have to admit that I'm surprised no SACDs made the list...I may need to start a seperate thread for "Top 10 SACD Classical CDs" if I end up with a player.


Um...I think there aren't that many more than 10.

(I'm exaggerating of course, but you see why there isn't a single SACD showing up in your top 10 recordings list.)
 
Jun 4, 2002 at 5:57 AM Post #11 of 19

redshifter

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i was browsing the sacds they have at amazon.com and noticed my #6 selection of glenn gloud's goldberg varations was now available on sacd.
biggrin.gif
 
Jun 7, 2002 at 2:01 AM Post #12 of 19

daycart1

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I find it interesting that folks are mostly (though not exclusively) choosing recordings that are available on, and sound better on, vinyl! What about recordings that are CD and/or SACD only?

smily_headphones1.gif
 
Nov 12, 2003 at 11:41 AM Post #13 of 19

fractus2

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Quote:

Originally posted by DarkAngel
1)Beethoven Symphonies
Have many sets but if only one allowed I'll go with Zinmann/Arte Nova which is a super bargain. I also really like the period performances of Beethoven by Gardiner, Hogwood and to a lesser degree Norrington
(Kleiber/DG Sym 5/7 is also essential single disc)

2)Brahms Symphony 1
Klemperer/EMI, when I first heard this hard to belive this was Otto
famous for the powerful opening tympani strikes

3)Brahms Symphony 4
Kleiber/DG, mercurial Carlos gives performance of real stature, power sound quality could be better though.

4)Dvorak Sym 7,8,9
Dohnanyi/London, many outstanding choices here but the London decca sound is very good.

5)Haydn Symphonies
Dorati/London, easy choice used to be able to buy 4 CD sets at bargain price level (I bought them all), currently not sold new excellent performance/sound

6)Mahler Symphony 2
Rattle/EMI, combines great performance with excellent sound.

7)Mozart late symphonies
Saraste/Virgin, I like the smaller group perfromances because of greater clarity of readings, bargain price level set. Also really like the Harnoncourt/Teldec bargain set.

8a)Schubert Sym 5,8,9
MacKerras/Virgin, great sound and perfromances at bargain price.

8b)Schumann Symphonies
Gardiner/Archiv, period performances that really reveal the beauty of the music, excellent sound.

9)Tchaikovsky Symphonies
Jansons/Chandos, powerful Russian style performances with lush spacious Chandos sound.
(Mravinsky/DG sym 4 has to be heard to be believed, the virtuiosity and speed of the final movement is incredible)

10)Tchaikovsky Swan Lake
Dutiot/London, reference quality sound beautiful lush perfomance


DarkAngel, I'd just like to say that the Tchaikovsky Swan Lake is everything you said. I've been listening to it allot and highly recommend it also. I also have the Kleiber 5/7 and am eyeing the Haydn symphonies right now. If I can find it.

cool.gif
 
Nov 12, 2003 at 12:46 PM Post #14 of 19

DarkAngel

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Quote:

DarkAngel, I'd just like to say that the Tchaikovsky Swan Lake is everything you said. I've been listening to it allot and highly recommend it also. I also have the Kleiber 5/7 and am eyeing the Haydn symphonies right now. If I can find it


It is hard to imagine music more beautiful than Tchaikovsky's ballet works, the music stands on its own as timeless masterpieces........to help finish your collection here are picks of best sound/performances of full ballets:

SWAN LAKE - Dutoit/London
SLEEPING BEAUTY - Pletnev/DG
NUTCRACKER - Gergiev/ Phillips (demonstration class sound)

You unfortunately won't find Haydn symphonies of Dorati/London new, only used currently. But do pick up symphonies 80-104 with great sets at reduced price by:
Kuijken/Virgin
Davis/Phillips
 
Nov 12, 2003 at 5:22 PM Post #15 of 19

DanG

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If I could include collections, I'd suggest these (in no particular order):

1. Complete Bartok String Quartets by the Emerson Quartet on DG (2-disc). The Takacs Quartet's version might be good but I don't think they have a full cycle out yet.

2. "The Chopin Collection" (complete Chopin piano performances) by Artur Rubinstein on RCA-Victor (8-10 discs, I think). Mine is from BMG Classics -- I'm not sure if it's available otherwise or if there's an even newer iteration.

3. A Life in Music: Isaac Stern (Vol. 21) on Sony, Brahms piano trios 1,2,3 and quartets 1,2,3 with Stern on violin, Yo-Yo Ma or Leonard Rose on cello, Emmanuel Ax or Eugene Istomin on piano, and Jaime Laredo on viola. 3-CD set.

4. Beethoven's string quartets. I have the most familiarity with the Alban Berg Quartett's complete set (from EMI), but the Borodin recordings I heard were phenomenal as well. ABQ is about 8-10 CDs.

5. Mozart's string quartets, string quintets, and clarinet quintets. I can't find the CDs right now for some reason but it was from a label I had never heard of before and I had never heard of the performers. I'll edit if I find them.

Well, that's well over 10 CDs. Thanks for resurrecting this thread!
 

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