Classical music aficionados - educate me

Discussion in 'Music' started by Brian E, May 19, 2003.

  1. Brian E

    Brian E Screenwriter

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    I find my self wanting to start exploring classical music more.

    What I have...

    Beethoven Symphonies No.4 & No.5 / Edgemont Overture
    New York Philharmonic - Leonard Bernstein
    Sony Classical - Bernstein Century series - SMK 63079

    Beethoven Symphonies No.6 & No.8 / King Stephen Overture
    New York Philharmonic - Leonard Bernstein
    Sony Classical - Bernstein Century series - SMK 60557

    ...I don't know if these are considered good performances or poor. Holst's The Planets has been recommended to me and that's what got this search started. I figured if I'm going to explore I'm not going to do it with just one work.

    What I'm looking for is some guidance. Every time I start looking at titles I get lost. There must be hundreds of CDs out there for each work by each composer. Each conducted by someone different & performed by a different orchestra. I don't know what's good & what's crap.

    Some things I'd like to check out...
    Holst's The Planets
    Some Wagner
    Some Dvorak
    Some Bach
    Some Mozart
    Some Vivaldi
    Some Mahler
    Some Tchaikovsky
    and whatever else I haven't thought of [​IMG]

    What I don't want is stuff like...
    Boffing to Bach
    Making it to Mozart
    and that type of stuff.

    I tried that route a few years ago and decided it's not the way for me to pursue it.

    Not looking for just Symphonies, but also Concerto's and stuff. I can't tell you much of what I like. While I like all of what I have right now I probably like the 5th the best. It's got nice string & horn parts. Bold and powerful. Hot & energetic.

    If someone would be so kind as to point me in a direction that would be great.

    I should mention that I have both BMG & Colombia House memberships to finish up so if anyone knows of anything to be had there so much the better.

    Thanks In Advance.
     
  2. David W Johnson

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    Holst: The Planets Suite
    Currently, my favorite rendition of this piece is on the Chandos label with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, conducted by Alexander Gibson. CHAN 7082.

    Also worthy of note, is the Complete Tone Poems of Jean Sibelius, also performed by the Scottish National Orchestra under Gibson's baton. CHAN 8395/6

    Another good version of the Planets Suite is Bernstein conducting the NY Philharmonic on CBS Records, "Great Performances" series of reissues. MYK 37226

    James Levine and the Chicago Symphony also does The Planets justice on a Deutsche Grammophon CD. 429 730-2

    Black Dog Opera Library (part of EMI Classics) releases several excellent recordings of opera which are packaged with excellent hardcover books which include the complete libretto with annotations, critical historical commentary, and a complete performance of the opera on 2 CDs. The performances are terrific and the price is entirely reasonable. For your Mozart fix, pick up The Magic Flute.

    There are several excellent recordings of Mozart's Requiem. I feel that Claudio Abbado and the Berliner Philharmoniker is one of the more tasteful renditions of the piece. Deutsche Grammophon CD 289 463 181-2

    Pierre Boulez and the Cleveland Orchestra handles Berlioz's Symphonie Fantasique quite well on a Deutsche Grammophon CD 453 432-2

    The DVD Box-set of Wagner's complete Ring cycle, conducted by Pierre Boulez at the Bayreuth Festival is a terrific bargain. It's probably more opera than you would ever want to see, but it's definitive Wagner.

    Dan Laurin playing Vivaldi's Recorder Concertos is one of the most beautiful CDs I have ever heard of Vivaldi's (or any composer's) music. This CD receives one of my highest rankings and highest recommendations! BIS #635

    Dvorak's Cello Concerto (along with all of the other concertos in this set, especially the Elgar Cello Concerto) performed by the late Jacqueline du Pré on the 3 CD set, "Favourite Cello Concertos" is a must-have. Angel Records - #63283

    Mahler's symphonies are each monumental works of art. I recommend starting your Mahler collection with the complete symphonies conducted by Bernstein with the NY Phil. Sony - #89499 After absorbing these symphonies, search for other complete sets and pick and choose your conductors for each symphony. Great fun, and a hell of a workout for your audio system!

    Tchaikovsky's 5th and 6th Symphonies are two of my favorite works in the orchestral repertoire. I'm still searching for a recorded version of these symphonies that do the works justice.

    Bach's Complete Unaccompanied Cello Suites performed by Mstislav Rostropovich is truly masterful. This boxed set will reward your ears with countless hours of repeated listenings. EMI Classics - #55363

    Well, that about covers everything you requested.
    Holst's The Planets
    Some Wagner
    Some Dvorak
    Some Bach
    Some Mozart
    Some Vivaldi
    Some Mahler
    Some Tchaikovsky
    and even a bit of Sibelius, Elgar and Berlioz.

    Beware of becoming the collecting classical music enthusiast! Once you start down the dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny!

    Happy hunting. Feel free to ask for more advice!

    David W Johnson
     
  3. Dennis Nicholls

    Dennis Nicholls Lead Actor

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    How into "hi fi" are you? There are many superior older recordings that are very cheap but may not measure up to this week's SACD recordings. It would help if you make this preference known.

    There aren't any web sites I know that cover comparative reviews - you need to go buy the approx. 1600 (!!)page "The Penguin Guide to Compact Discs" by Ivan March, Edward Greenfield, and Robert Layton. It's a very pricy paperback (about $18) but will save you money as you won't buy "clunkers". The most recent version is dated from 2001 ("2002 Edition") and there is a 2002/2003 "Yearbook" with updates.

    [​IMG]

    Getting boxed sets of budget recordings can give you excellent value. As an example, many consider the Istvan Kertesz/London Sym. Orch. set of the complete Dvorak nine symphonies to be a classic both in terms of performance and recording (even though recorded 40 years ago). You can get this 6-CD set on the London budget label for $38 new from an Amazon affiliate.

    [​IMG]

    Also do a search on this forum because this question comes up monthly.
     
  4. Dennis Nicholls

    Dennis Nicholls Lead Actor

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    Also you left off Brahms. He has the highest "hit to junk" ratio of any composer. Get a copy of his violin concerto. There are a lot of good performances from Anne-Sophie Mutter, Itzhak Perlman, Henryk Szeryng, and other worthies.

    [​IMG]

    This Szeryng/Dorati/LSO performance on Mercury should be really good, although the Szeryng performance I've owned was with Fritz Reiner/Chicago.
     
  5. Brian E

    Brian E Screenwriter

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  6. Gary->dee

    Gary->dee Screenwriter

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  7. Brian E

    Brian E Screenwriter

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    Ok, I've got a list of a dozen titles from the BMG club. If any of you are familiar with these particular ones I'd love some comments.

    Tchaikovsky, Myaskovsky: Violin Concertos
    Kirov Orchestra / Valery Gergiev
    Label: Philips
    http://www.bmgmusic.com/catalog/prod...roductId=49608

    Rimsky-Korsakov Scheherezade
    Kirov Orchestra / Valery Gergiev
    Label: Philips
    http://www.bmgmusic.com/catalog/prod...roductId=48536

    Vivaldi, The Four Seasons
    Gil Shaham/Orpheus Chamber Orchestra
    Label: DG
    http://www.bmgmusic.com/catalog/prod...roductId=17105

    Furtwängler, Symphony No. 2
    Daniel Barenboim/Chicago Symphony Orchestra
    Label: Teldec
    http://www.bmgmusic.com/catalog/prod...roductId=42001

    Dvorák, The 9 Symphonies
    Istvan Kertész/London Symphony Orchestra
    Label: London
    http://www.bmgmusic.com/catalog/prod...roductId=10369

    Holst/Matthews, The Planets & Pluto
    Mark Elder/Hallé Orchestra
    Label: Hyperion
    http://www.bmgmusic.com/catalog/prod...roductId=38732

    Holst, The Planets; R. Strauss, Also Sprach Zarathustra
    William Steinberg conducts Boston Symphony Orchestra
    Label: DG Originals
    http://www.bmgmusic.com/catalog/prod...roductId=38321

    Mozart, Horn Concertos
    Philharmonia Orch/Karajan - Dennis Brain
    Label: EMI Classics
    http://www.bmgmusic.com/catalog/prod...roductId=25737

    Mozart, The Five Violin Concertos
    Itzhak Perlman, James Levine and the Vienna Phil.
    Label: DG
    http://www.bmgmusic.com/catalog/prod...roductId=18279

    Penguin Classics-Bach, Brandenburg Concertos Nos. 1-4
    English Chamber Orch./Benjamin Britten
    Label: London
    http://www.bmgmusic.com/catalog/prod...roductId=29143

    The Bernstein Century; Mahler, Symphony No. 3
    NY Phil/Bernstein
    Label: Sony Classical
    http://www.bmgmusic.com/catalog/prod...roductId=34303

    Mozart, Symphonies Nos. 35-41
    Karl Böhm/Berlin Philharmonic
    Label: DG Originals
    http://www.bmgmusic.com/catalog/prod...roductId=20085


    I'm writing down every suggestion made in this thread for future trys, but thought since I need to buy one from BMG (& will then get 4 free) to complete my membership this would be a great way to do it, if I can find 5 decent discs that is.

    Dennis, I'll look for a copy of the Penguin Guide at the used book shop when I go later this week (also going to look for used CDs there). If they don't have it I'll look for a new copy. Thanks for mentioning it. I'd heard of it, but didn't know exactly what it gave you.
     
  8. ManW_TheUncool

    ManW_TheUncool Producer

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    Yes, I second that high recommendation of the Penguide Guide to greatly help newbies explore classical CDs [​IMG] even though not everyone will agree w/ their seemingly, British-centric tastes. I also highly recommend using this following site as a free guide to all the essentials and such:

    http://www.classical.net/ [​IMG]

    That site plus revisions of the Penguin Guide were the primary resources (besides visiting forums like rec.music.classical.recordings, etc) I used in building my appreciation for classical music and my "modest" CD collection. Actually, IIRC, the content for that site originated from a huge, regularly updated post maintained by the site owner way back in the late 80's when I was still in college and usenet was THE main source of info on the net. [​IMG]

    Anyway, you seem to have left out Beethoven, even though you mentioned an interest in different versions of his symphonies, and also Rachmaninov and Mendelssohn.

    Personally, if I were you, I'd start out w/ the following few composers and branch out from there:

    Beethoven (end of Classical period)
    Mozart (Classical period)
    Bach (Baroque period)
    Mendelssohn (beginning of Romantic period)
    Rachmaninov (neo-Romantic)
    Tchaikovsky (late-Romantic)

    These alone will occupy more than enough of your time and $$$ (and shelf space) for a long time, especially the first three, who are generally considered the most important/essential of the entire canon.

    I would start out w/ some of their symphonies (odd #-ed Beethoven and late Mozart) and serenades (late Mozart) and concertos (all 3, especially for violin if you generally prefer that over piano). With concertos, you should probably also add Mendelssohn, Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninov. You should also look into chamber pieces like Bach's Cello Suite as suggested, the more famous piano sonatas from Beethoven and Mozart, some violin sonatas, and some string quartets.

    I would stay away from opera at first unless you've somehow already developed a casual appreciation for it. When I first started, I couldn't understand why people love opera. So for a long time, I only owned Mozart's Magic Flute. But years later, after I exhausted much of the essentials (and not-quite-so-essentials), I finally developed an appreciation for it.

    Anyway, enjoy your great new journey down the musical past... [​IMG] [​IMG]

    _Man_
     
  9. Sathyan

    Sathyan Second Unit

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    I'm going to list some specific pieces I consider essential. My classical collection is mostly on LP & cassette so some performances may not be available on CD

    Before the pieces, here are some performers to look for:

    Violinists: Kreisler, Heifetz, Stern, Menhuin, Perlman. Kreisler and Heifetz were the best but recording tech was bad then. Of current young performers I like Bell, Kennedy, Chang Midori and Hahn.

    Cello: Ma, Casals, Du Pre, Rostro...

    Orchestras:
    1. Berlin Philharmonic Orch.
    2. Vienna Phil
    3. Concertegebouw Amsterdam
    4. HAlle
    5. London Sym
    6. Montreal
    7. Chicago
    8. Cleveland Orch
    9. SF Sym (w/MTT)
    10. Philadelphia


    Labels: Chesky, Deutsche Grammophon, RCA Red Label (LP), RCA Victor, Philips, Telarc, EMI Classics, Chandos, Naxos
    Avoid Laserlight like the plague. The only tolerable off-brand is Naxos (it provides an excellent value).




    Conductors: Karajan, Klemperer, Abaddo, Szell, Bernstein, Reiner, Fiedler, mehta, Ormandy, Solti, Furtwangler

    Holst's - The Planets (Bernstein)
    Some Wagner - Ring Cycle (Boulez), Tristan und Isolde
    Some Dvorak - Sym. 8 & 9 (on hybrid SACD with Ivan Fischer), cello conc. (Ma)
    Some Bach - Bach Works for Solo Violin (on HDCD with Lara St. John); Cello suites (Rostro.); double violin concerto (Perlman, Zukerman)
    Some Mozart - sym. 25 & 41 (get these on Naxos)
    Some Vivaldi - 4 seasons (Stern), trumpet conc.
    Some Mahler - Sym. #3 & 6 (SACD, SF Sym)
    Some Tchaikovsky - violin concerto (Perlman), Sym. # 6
    and even a bit of Sibelius - Finlandia, violin conc.
    , Elgar - cello concerto (du Pre), Enigma (London Sym w Slatkin)
    and Berlioz - Sym. Fantastique (on DG)

    I could add many more but will limit my self to one: My favorite symphony composer Bruckner. Get his Sym. #4 & 8 (BPO/HvK)

    Also listen to the 1948(?) movie Humouresque; that's Stern playing the soundtrack

    A warning about BMG music service: Some of their discs are labelled "mfg. for BMG"; these are audibly inferior to the original label's pressings
     
  10. Ken Stuart

    Ken Stuart Second Unit

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    You should listen to Bach, Handel, and Vivaldi as performed by:

    - Trevor Pinnock and the English Concert

    and/or

    - Christopher Hogwood and the Academy of Ancient Music

    and/or

    - Nicholas McGegan and the Philharmonia Baroque

    all of whom perform these works in the style and spirit of the times in which they were originally composed and performed. It makes a significant difference.

    Highly Recommended is:

    - Handel's Complete Water Music (esp by Trevor Pinnock and the English Concert)

    - Bach's Brandenburg Concertos (either Hogwood or Pinnock)

    - Vivaldi's Four Seasons (any of the three)

    PS The Pinnock "Water Music" is one of my Desert Island Discs...
     
  11. Brian E

    Brian E Screenwriter

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  12. Tomoko Noguchi

    Tomoko Noguchi Second Unit

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    When I lived in the US, I bought from BMG club with Mgf by BMG discs. It is absolutely not true that they sound worse. Whoever says that doesn't know what they speak of. Compared many with the store bought. They are the same in sound.
     
  13. Jack Briggs

    Jack Briggs Executive Producer

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    I hope readers are aware of the value of original-pressing Mercury Living Presence recordings (especially those with Antal Dorati). Dennis is aware, I bet!
     
  14. DavidAMallett

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    OK, you probably aren't going to want to hear this, but listen anyway.

    While CD at 16/44.1 is just ducky for rock or electrically generated music, it simply doesn't work for classical or stuff with lots of harmonic information above the "brick cieling." I am going to keep this short and use personal experience rather than a bunch of specs and stuff. Take it or leave it...

    I am a 53 year old recording engineer and hear very little above 12k. OTOH, I can spot a CD in seconds when acoustic music is reproduced, regardless of the quality of the player or system. A lot of the music just isn't there. It doesn't sound bad, it just sounds like low calorie ice cream tastes...something is just missing.

    If you don't want to spring for DVD-A or SACD, grab a turntable and a few LP's. I won't make a recommendation, but I use one up in my home theater system for which I paid 25.00 with a Stanton 681EEE cartridge at an estate sale. There isn't a CD player made that can touch it. LP's can be had for 1.00 at many places, and at that price you can throw them away if they suck. I'd also strongly recommend a DBX 1BX III dynamic (or better) range expander if you like what your hear from the turntable but want to get rid of that inter-track noise and improve the punch. Get'em on Ebay for 85-120.00 regularly.

    Now, to avoid the flames: I've nothing against CD. Great medium for many, if not most, things. DVD-A and SACD are far closer to analog for things that have real nuance and range. LP is a great medium but suffers from limited dynamic range. However, that can be fixed with a judiciously used DBX.

    However you listen to classical music, you will come away better for it.

    Best regards,
    Dave
     
  15. Dennis Nicholls

    Dennis Nicholls Lead Actor

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    Jack,
    Yeah, what's going to get me to buy into SACD is the upcoming release of the Mercury disks with Dorati in the SACD format. I'm starting to look into the combo. DVD-V/SACD/DVD-A players.
     
  16. Daniel Baseman

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    As if you didn't have enough suggestions already....

    The Saint-Saens piano concertos on Hyperion - Stephen Hough, are MARVELOUS.

    The Liszt Hungarian Rhapsodies on Philips - Ivan Fischer

    Mendelssohn Violin Concerto/Brahms Double Concerto on Teldec - Perlman/Ma/Barenboim

    Just a couple of Romantic suggestions.

    D
     
  17. Brian E

    Brian E Screenwriter

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    Dave, I have a very good turntable (Rega Planar 3) and I do plan on picking up a bunch of vinyl. The local used book store sells most vinyl for .50 to $3.00 so I'll load up. It is hard however to bring my tt along in the car or to the office. I have 8-10 hours a day to listen at work. So I'll definately be picking up a ton of vinyl, but I'm not as concerned with getting burned on a $1 record as I am a $10 or $15 CD.

    As for SACD/DVD-A I do plan to get one, but would like them to do a good combo player that gets everything right and does bass management without having to buy an ICBM. Maybe someday. I was looking at either a Pioneer 45A or 47Ai, but everything I've read says I'll still need to get an ICBM.
     
  18. DavidAMallett

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    Outstanding. Hard to argue with the Rega.

    You might consider the DBX. I don't EQ, mix, transcode, or do ANYTHING to my recordings. But I've been using DBX machines with my turntables since the 117 back in 1974, and there are precious few LP's I listen without it. Perhaps 200 gram direct to disc.

    One other bit of advice about classical. Just because you don't like one performance doesn't mean you don't like the piece. A good (though some would argue semi-classical) example is "Rhapsody in Blue." It's been butchered more than almost anything, from syrupy 100 piece orchestras taking 25:00 to harmonica. My favorite recording of it is a 1928 recording on 78 (I have an Empire for 78's) with Gershwin at the piano and the Paul Whiteman Orchestra. Awesome. I've about 400 78's from Edisons to Elvis (Sun) and some of them sound better than CD's.

    Have fun!

    Dave
     
  19. ManW_TheUncool

    ManW_TheUncool Producer

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    How much does a Rega Planar 3 go for these days? Honestly, I have never listened to classical music on vinyl although I did consider getting a turntable like the Rega way back when -- at the time, it was considered a good entry level audiophile turntable. Don't think I'll try to get into that game now, especially w/ DVD-A/SACD making some in-roads.

    _Man_
     
  20. DavidAMallett

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    Let me repeat. I have 25.00 into my Sony P-4300 and Stanton 681EEE, and it sounds better than any CD player, as good as all but the very finest SACD and DVD-A.

    I record at 24/196 so I've the material to make that statement.

    Granted, in the back I've a far superior turntable, arm and cartridge...but the difference is only notable for critical listening.

    LP playback is by far the biggest bargain in audio today.

    The vast majority of all music issued in the 20th century is on those discs, and only a little of that will ever be available in new formats...and then it may be the victim of a transporter accident. I've never neard even a 78 transferred to CD that sounded even close to the original.

    Dave
     

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