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The Great Classical Composer Collection Thread


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#1 of 35 OFFLINE   JohnRice

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Posted February 15 2010 - 01:09 PM

For the last several months I have been collecting some of the Composer sets that are popping up these days and I've been very happy with what they tend to offer.  I'm talking about the large sets Brilliant Classics is known for, but that the more established labels seem to be finally offering as well.  They are a great, inexpensive way to introduce yourself to lesser known pieces.

I know there are at least a couple other classical fans out there and I hope we can get a discussion going on the strengths and weaknesses of the various sets we have found.  There have been threads on individual sets, but I'm not aware of an all encompassing one, which seems a lot more productive.

These are what I have so far...

Brilliant Classics
Johannes Brahms Complete Works (60 discs)
Haydn ("mini" 40 discs)
J. S. Bach Complete Works (155 discs)
Mozart Complete Works (170 discs)

Sony Music
Beethoven "Complete" Masterpieces (60 discs)

RCA/BMG Classics
Julian Bream Edition (28 discs)  I bought this over 15 years ago, and it was NOT cheap
Artur Rubinstein/Chopin Collection (11 discs)

EMI
Aldo Ciccolini - Complete Recordings (56 discs)
Jacqueline DuPré - Complete Recordings (17 discs)

DG
Martha Argerich Collections 1 & 2 (15 discs)

Decca
Vivaldi Masterworks (40 discs)


I love being to pick out a disc and listen to something I have never heard before.

Some favorite discoveries...

Brahms' Piano Trio #1.  Great piece of music, plus outstanding performance AND recording
2 and 4 hand piano versions of several normally orchestral pieces.
Beethoven Piano Trio based on Symphony #2.  Actually, this is in the Beaux Arts Trio set of Beethoven Trios I have.  Not on this list.


On the whole, there have been few low points.  The overly fast Zinman Beethoven Symphonies would be one.  Of course, there are those who consider that approach more "authentic".  I just don't like it.

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#2 of 35 OFFLINE   Ockeghem

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Posted February 15 2010 - 03:54 PM

John,

I own the Beethoven Bicentennial Collection, the Mozart complete works, and about 60% of J. S. Bach's works on many different labels.  I also own the Great Men of Music (Time Life) series and The Story of Great Music (also Time Life) series.

I am with you as far as works that are played overly fast.  I own the six Brandenburg Concerti done that way, and in my opinion a fast tempo often does incredible violence to the music.  BTW, I am not sure why anyone (I am speaking generally) would maintain that Beethoven played very fast (excepting, e.g., some scherzo movements) would necessarily be considered authentic in the way of performance practice.  The 'Pastoral' Symphony played too fast can IMO convey a very different F major ethos than if played at a more 'relaxed' (e.g., allegro molto) tempo.  Another example is the five-voiced fugue from the ninth symphony (second movement).  If played too quickly, the interdependence of the contrapuntal lines is (at least to my ears) lost somewhat, and this is even if one knows the work fairly well to begin with.

I am very intrigued by your Martha Argerich Collections.  I do not own all of her interpretations, but her rendering of Chopin's Scherzo in C-Sharp minor is (along with Abbey Simon) one of my all-time favorite recordings of that work.  I also greatly appreciate Van Cliburn's interpretation of the third scherzo, and was fortunate to have heard him play it live many years ago.

#3 of 35 OFFLINE   JohnRice

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Posted February 15 2010 - 04:34 PM

Scott, I recently got the Argerich Collections through Amazon Marketplace for about $45 total delivered.  I got it at almost the same time as the Ciccolini set (for about $55, for a 56 disc set!) so that was 71 discs of piano.  Therefore, I haven't had time to really dig into them.  Unfortunately, the first disc I pulled out from the Ciccolini set was Pictures at an Exhibition, which was recorded some 35 years ago but was apparently never released anywhere.  My incomplete listen to it proved why.  The recording was not good.  I was listening on my lesser system and not closely, but it was tinny and had no body at all.

I've enjoyed the Argerich selections I have listened to so far.  There are some disappointments with the Concerto Set (#2) however.  This is in the pieces she recorded.  There are several duplications.  Ravel, Beethoven #2 and Tchaikovsky #1 are both included twice (different recordings/orchestras) while so many other possible choices are missing.  I guess she just didn't record any others.

Regarding tempo, and Beethoven's "Pastoral" (my favorite of his), I have seen comments that when Beethoven walked in the woods, it was not a stroll but a distinct clip.  I don't see the validity.  My favorite recording is Solti's mid 70s cycle.  I've hoped to find another cycle that I might also like.

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#4 of 35 OFFLINE   Ockeghem

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Posted February 16 2010 - 05:40 AM

John,

Thanks for the information. I may pick up the Argerich collection. :)

It's too bad about your Pictures At an Exhibition recording. (BTW, are you speaking of the Mussorgsky or Ravel work?) Often, I prefer older recordings than more recent (Toscanini, Solti, Szell, et al.). But there are some fine young conductors (and orchestras) out there that I appreciate quite a lot. I've been a fan of Muti's for quite some time, among others.

My favorite recording of the Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto no. 1 in B-Flat Minor is Cliburn, conducted by Kondrashin. I probably mentioned this in another thread, but I own three or four LP recordings of that landmark work, including two copies that have not been opened.





Have a peek at who was on the jury when Cliburn played. Wow.

http://www.npr.org/t...toryId=87771963

Incidentally, Cliburn could reach at least a twelfth comfortably. (I have large hands, I can reach only a tenth.) Harvey Lavan's reach would have made Scriabin proud.




#5 of 35 OFFLINE   JohnRice

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Posted February 18 2010 - 01:34 PM

Scott, I certainly recommend the Argerich collections.  One is solo, the other is concertos.  I'm sorry to say, I was not familiar with her, but I am loving her playing.  The down side is I find DG recordings hit and miss.  I despise excessively multi/close mic orchestral recordings and some of these are downright annoying.  Certain pieces I find I can only listen to for Argerich's playing.  They have no "space" or decay to them at all.

Regarding "Pictures", I am referring to the recording in the Complete EMI Recordings set of Aldo Ciccolini.  It is the Moussorgsky, solo piano version.  I'll listen to it on my good system and see if my assessment is the same.   This recording was made around 1977 and never released anywhere in the world, as I understand.  My first listen would explain why.  The recording is awful.  Something is seriously wrong, but give me another closer listen to confirm.  That set was one of the many steals I have found lately by placing sets in a wish list on Amazon and waiting for marketplace deals.  a 56 disc set I got for about $55 delivered.  Usually goes for about $100.

I also have several more sets on the way from the UK and Germany.  Amazon really has some amazing deals over there.


There must be more than just the two of us interested in this....?  Maybe not.


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#6 of 35 OFFLINE   Mike Frezon

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Posted February 18 2010 - 02:12 PM



Quote:
Originally Posted by JohnRice 

There must be more than just the two of us interested in this....?  Maybe not.

Hold your horses, John.

I've got a few of these sets.  /img/vbsmilies/htf/smile.gif

I've got the:

--Brilliant Classics Mozart set

--Sony/BMG Beethoven set

--RCA/Gold Seal Rubinstein Chopin Set


I'm not the world's biggest classical fan.  There's so much about the music about which I'm ignorant.  My goal with these sets was to be able to randomly pull out a disc...give it a listen and learn something about it. 

My hope someday is to find a good deal on the big Bach set.  He's my favorite of all composers.


There's Jessie the yodeling cowgirl. Bullseye, he's Woody's horse. Pete the old prospector. And, Woody, the man himself.Of course, it's time for Woody's RoundUp. He's the very best! He's the rootinest, tootinest cowboy in the wild, wild west!


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#7 of 35 OFFLINE   JohnRice

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Posted February 18 2010 - 02:43 PM

Way to go Mike.  That Beethoven set is quite nice.  I especially like several of the Piano Trio performances, even if the recordings are a bit echo-y.  That's a word.  Like I said before, I really don't like the Symphonies in the set though.

This should kill you.  I got the Bach set last summer from Amazon for $83.  It's gone up a bit since then, to say the least.  I don't see it for less than about $300 these days.  I got the Sony Beethoven set around the same time for $35.  Just crazy what some of this stuff was going for last summer.

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#8 of 35 OFFLINE   Mike Frezon

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Posted February 18 2010 - 03:04 PM

I don't remember the exact prices I paid for the Mozart & Beethoven sets...but I know they were very cheap.  I should look them up.  When I think about the amount of music I got for the price (bang for the buck as it were), I shudder. 

I've never seen the Bach set as cheap as $83...but i would still want it to go lower before I pulled the trigger (I know, I know...).  But a budget's a budget. 

The quality of the performances--and especially the recordings--seem, to me to be all over the place.  Some sound great, others...not so much.

There's Jessie the yodeling cowgirl. Bullseye, he's Woody's horse. Pete the old prospector. And, Woody, the man himself.Of course, it's time for Woody's RoundUp. He's the very best! He's the rootinest, tootinest cowboy in the wild, wild west!


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Dieting with my Dog & Heart to Heart/Hand in Paw by Peggy Frezon


#9 of 35 OFFLINE   Ockeghem

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Posted February 19 2010 - 02:08 AM

John,

Thanks again -- great information there.  I love Argerich's playing, and have for years. :)

I think I understand what you are saying regarding some recordings lacking decay (if I understand your usage of the term here).  There is something similar which can occur with reverberation during organ performances.  Too much is treacherous (especially if you're the one playing), as a three or more second delay can be very disorienting.  (You have to keep playing, even though you do not hear the notes you are playing as you are playing them!)  But too little decay can rob the performance of any life, if that makes sense.  It may be analogous to trying to perform vocal and/or instrumental music in a 'dead' room acoustically.

I haven't done this yet, but I am thinking of picking up 50 Years of Vox (Box set).  The primary reason for this is because it includes a performance of my all-time favorite set of variations, Mendelssohn's Variations Sérieuses.  These are performed by one of my favorite pianists, Abbey Simon.  The work isn't on any CD that I know of other than being included in this set.



http://www.amazon.co...66591114&sr=8-1

Mike,

You can't go wrong with J. S. Bach.  A very good choice!

I also own the complete Beethoven Piano Sonatas (Kempf) which I had purchased for me by a colleague who visited China (his home) a couple of years ago.  These are also DG recordings, and I picked up the set for $20.00 (which I thought was a steal).


#10 of 35 OFFLINE   Aaron Silverman

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Posted February 19 2010 - 07:43 AM

I'm lurking.  :)  I have the Brilliant Classics 40-discers for Haydn (Most Underappreciated Composer Award in a landslide) and Mendelssohn and that 60-disc Sony Beethoven set ($32 or so from Amazon, IIRC).

I have several complete symphony sets that I snagged from BMG (RIP) sales -- Chailly doing Mahler, Haitink doing Bruckner, Krips doing Mozart 21-41, Muti doing Brahms, and a few others.


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#11 of 35 OFFLINE   Ockeghem

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Posted February 19 2010 - 08:51 AM



Quote:
Originally Posted by Aaron Silverman 

I'm lurking.  :)  I have the Brilliant Classics 40-discers for Haydn (Most Underappreciated Composer Award in a landslide) and Mendelssohn and that 60-disc Sony Beethoven set ($32 or so from Amazon, IIRC).

I have several complete symphony sets that I snagged from BMG (RIP) sales -- Chailly doing Mahler, Haitink doing Bruckner, Krips doing Mozart 21-41, Muti doing Brahms, and a few others.

 
Aaron,

Your remark about Haydn caught my eye.  He's hands down my favorite composer from the 'classic' period.  (I like a few from the pre-classic as well, such as and K. P. E. Bach, Stamitz, W. F. Bach, and Sammartini.)  Classic period composers such as Mozart, Beethoven, and (to some extent) Schubert are all excellent, of course, but Haydn captures my imagination like no other from that historical period (ca. 1720-1820).  He's quite tricky at times, and quite imaginative with regard to key relationships and other compositional elements/procedures.


#12 of 35 OFFLINE   JohnRice

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Posted February 20 2010 - 06:02 PM

Scott, that is what I mean regarding "decay".  At times I find it quite annoying, or at least regretful how engineers have sometimes essentially destroyed recordings by just placing too many mics too close to the instruments.  I do NOT like the feeling of being some kind of blanket spread out across the orchestra, and also not being able to feel the hall.  Sometimes it works out acceptably, which was often the case with London/Decca recordings, but other labels, DG among them, have come up with recordings I find unpleasant to listen to.  I noticed this as my listening switched from one Argerich Concerto disc to the next.  Suddenly, all the life was gone.  This is a big reason I like Telarc.  They never did that.

I'm being a bit of a glutton with these sets.  The fact is, even though I grew up in a house where music was a big influence, there was a lot of stuff that has always been excluded and I didn't venture beyond that until recently.  Baroque and even most early classical were pretty much scorned.  I have no idea why.  Also, for decades I was really only comfortable with that one familiar performance of any given piece.  Recently I have been appreciating the merits of different interpretations, so I am seeking out duplicate pieces.

A bunch of stuff is on the way.  Schubert, Dvorak, Mendelssohn (the new one) and Rachmaninoff sets by Brilliant are on the way from Germany, plus Elgar and a big Karajan Symphony set from here in the States.  I have virtually no Karajan and I hear only love or dislike for him.  The set appears to be out of print, so I figured I better jump.  I would like to grab a few more composer sets before I settle down.

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#13 of 35 OFFLINE   Ockeghem

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Posted February 22 2010 - 07:07 AM

John, Okay, thanks.  I completely understand why that would be annoying.  This, and other engineering and recording aspects, are some of the reasons why I’ve said on occasion that recorded music often gives an ‘unreal’ performance.
As far as the music that was in your home as you were growing up, I’m not really too surprised.  In my experience, it is not all that unusual for general listeners to believe that music begins with (or slightly after) J. S. Bach.  Even in some of my earliest music history and musicology seminars, this was mentioned by various professors as the norm among non-musicians, and even among some whom have studied music seriously.  It’s unfortunate, because there is so much music before Bach out there to listen to, to study, and to perform.  For example, primitive musics; Greek and Roman music; Byzantine, Gallican, Mozarabic, and Sarum chant; Notre Dame, Limoge, and Santiago de Compostela polyphony (e.g., organum, conductus, and motet); later medieval and renaissance music, etc.  And I’m not even touching the tip of the iceberg.  There is a plethora of ethnomusics and a vast Eastern corpus of work that is out there to enjoy and to appreciate. Another interesting perception that I have run across in my experience is that to the general listener, there is a belief that music somehow ‘progresses’ and/or ‘evolves’ through time as we move from earlier musics to more recent musics.  However, the music of the medieval period (including works in mannered notation), the polyphony of the Franco-Flemish school, the musique mesurée of Le Jeune et al. (ca. 1560-1580), and the atonal and (eventual) serial works of Schonberg and his students, etc., to name just a few genres, are extremely profound and complex, and each for entirely different compositional reasons.  There are a number of other genres and styles that are several hundreds of years old that are far more complex and progressive than (e.g.) certain musics that were to come later.

#14 of 35 OFFLINE   Mike Frezon

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Posted February 22 2010 - 07:38 AM

In my house (when I was growing up) all music began and ended with Rachmaninoff's 2nd, Tchaikovsky's 1st and a little-known piece called Warsaw Concerto by Addinsell.  And there is another "popular" piece of music called Beyond the Blue Horizon (recorded by none other than Morton Gould and his Orchestra).  To this day my dad (now 78 years old) will pretty much insist you don't need any other pieces of music!  /img/vbsmilies/htf/laugh.gif

[I just recently digitized a recording of Gould's 78rpm record of Beyond the Blue Horizon for use on my dad's iPod!  /img/vbsmilies/htf/smile.gif  I had found him a Gould re-recording of the song for a later LP release...but the orchestration was changed and didn't retain the "driving effect" of the original which matched the starting and stopping of a locomotive.]

To that end, one of the first things I did when I got to Syracuse University in 1977 was sign up for a Music Appreciation course...which involved a LOT of listening at the university library.  I sure did hear a lot of music I liked...none more so than some masses by Josquin Des Prez and Ockeghem himself (remember an early PM between us after you first joined the HTF, Scott?!?  /img/vbsmilies/htf/biggrin.gif ).  What a pleasure to be able to hear such a wide variety of music and have my horizons broadened. 

There's Jessie the yodeling cowgirl. Bullseye, he's Woody's horse. Pete the old prospector. And, Woody, the man himself.Of course, it's time for Woody's RoundUp. He's the very best! He's the rootinest, tootinest cowboy in the wild, wild west!


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#15 of 35 OFFLINE   Ockeghem

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Posted February 22 2010 - 08:49 AM

Mike,

Nice choices there.  I own the Warsaw Concerto, and the Rachmaninoff and Tchaikovsky works were (and still are) standards in our home.  I've actually attempted to perform the piano part to the Tchaikovsky B-flat Minor Concerto.

I do remember that PM!  Yes, great music for sure.  Did I mention (I think I may have in that PM) that I was actually addressed as "Mr. Ockeghem" from a student in Europe who needed some help tracking down some information on the composer?  I had half a mind to write back (with an enclosed photo, of course) in order to inform him that I didn't look half bad for a man of approximately 600 years.

#16 of 35 OFFLINE   JohnRice

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Posted February 27 2010 - 05:47 PM

I don't know what is wrong with me.  I am addicted and in full glutton mode.  It will take years to get through all the music I have been finding.  7 sets in total arrived this week, a few more on the way and several others I plan to order from Germany.  I'm acting like some of the completely carried away people I sometimes criticize here on HTF.  These sets are just such a great way to find so many excellent, little known pieces.  I'm finding EMI has some very nice sets.

One discovery from a recent set is Mendelssohn's Concertos for Two Pianos.  I kind of levitate toward the piano stuff as I explore.  I was enjoying Mendelssohn's Piano Trios as well.  I wonder what I'll find in the Rachmaninoff set.

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#17 of 35 OFFLINE   JohnRice

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Posted March 07 2010 - 04:59 AM

I broke down and ordered several more sets from Germany.

I have been very pleased with these sets.  The Brilliant ones are especially good.  I find them less risky than the ones from more established labels, probably because they often pick from the best recordings in the catalogs of other companies.  I have gotten several EMI sets, and some of their recordings are rather old, which is a slight problem for me.  There was one set I passed on because comments mentioned several of the recordings were mono.  Also, the fact is, there are many exceptional musicians out there other than the big names and Brilliant seems to be good at finding them.  Their recordings also seem to be quite good.

One set I recently received is the Brilliant, Grieg Centenary set.  I have only listened to a few pieces, but the solo piano recordings are just outstanding.  Interesting, since one review of this set specifically said they were awful.  It stated the recording was bright and harsh.  I see this a lot.  I tend to blame it somewhat on that pesky belief that the "Bose" sound is the pinnacle of audio reproduction.  More and more, people have never heard live, acoustic music.  The piano is essentially a percussion instrument and can sound like it.  I found the solo piano recordings in the Grieg set not only to be exceptionally well played, but they sound like a piano.

Maybe if this thread was dedicated to multi-channel recordings there would be more participation. 

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#18 of 35 OFFLINE   ManW_TheUncool

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Posted March 08 2010 - 11:16 AM


Quote:
Originally Posted by JohnRice ">

Maybe if this thread was dedicated to multi-channel recordings there would be more participation.  <br /></span>
 </div></div>
Hehheh...  Since this subforum had never been much for classical music (and that's generally my main interest in recorded music though I'd still like to get more into jazz and such), I don't usually drop by, except if I spot some new posts in that hirez shopping thread.  In this case, I only dropped by just now because this thread happened to show up at the top and is visible from the main forum listing page. /img/vbsmilies/htf/biggrin.gif

Anyway, I've never been one to go for those super budget priced no-frills sets nor even most of the sets from the big labels.  IMHO, there are just too much good stuff out there to warrant risking my time, $ and effort on the clearly unknown stuff.  OTOH, if someone I trust for recommendations give me pointers to specific discs whether they be well-known or obscure, that would be a different story.

Basically, to me, searching out music recordings is not much different than searching out books (or movies on DVD/BD).

For years, I mainly stuck w/ recommendations from the Penguin Guide because of that -- and there's waaaay more than enough in their listings as it is even though they don't cover too many of the more obscure musicians and labels (outside of Naxos and maybe a couple others in more recent years).  Yeah, the Penguin Guide reviewers have their biases much like anyone else, but if you can only realistically afford to go by one (huge) set of recommendations, then they seem to be as good as any, if not necessarily the best.  Supplementing their recs w/ some others as I come across them seems to work very well for me.

Of course, w/ this approach to collecting (at least w/ the Penguin Guide as the primary source of recommendations), it may be hard to find any complete set/cycle that fits the bill.  And now, will 3 kids running loose around the home and a wife who doesn't share quite the same love for music, I haven't really ventured much further w/ my collection over the past decade -- just little bits here and there in part because of the hirez thing and in part because of our venture into music lessons in the past couple years or so.

Speaking of music lessons, I may finally feel a need to delve into some earlier Schubert symphonies on recording.  My kids' youth orchestra is playing some arrangement of one movement (Menuetto) in the Schubert 5th in Gmin.  They're also working on an arrangement of one movement (Allegretto) in Franck's Dmin Symphony.  And I've actually been joining them for the viola parts since they have desperate need of violas (as usual) -- fun for me, but maybe not so much for others.  /img/vbsmilies/htf/biggrin.gif  Learning to play some of this music (even though we're only talking about some simpler arrangements) certainly gives me new appreciation for it -- I still need to revisit the Mendelssohn Scottish, which we played the Adagio 3rd movement w/ its loads of pizzicattos and interesting, (relatively) complex harmonies.

Anyway, back to the discussion on complete sets/cycles, I'd certainly like to own at least another cycle of the Beethoven Symphonies besides Gardiner's DG set -- don't think I'll shoot for the even more controversial Harnoncourt period performance cycle.  I like some of the Gardiner performances in that DG cycle, but yeah, the brisk pacing can sometimes get a bit much -- his 5th can sound like something bordering on a trainwreck at times although it works fine for me on occasion.   I recall that the last Penguin Guide I owned from maybe a decade ago highly recommended Gunter Wand's somewhat-new-at-the-time cycle on RCA(?).  I would also like to complete my collection of Stephen Kovacevich's cycle of Beethoven Piano Sonatas on EMI at some point -- that is, assuming he actually completed recording it.<br /></span>
<br />
I guess if we're talking about small sets/cycles (or maybe less extensively recorded ones) like some string quartets and such, I do own some like the Lindsay's Beethoven String Quartets on ASV, the Borodin's Shostakovich Quartets on ??? (which I've never finished listening to), etc.  I have Uchida's Mozart Piano Sonatos cycle on Philips label, which I also could never finish listening to -- call me a philistine, but I just found Mozart's piano works to be too bland for my tastes so far. <span rel='lightbox'><img class='bbc_img' alt=


RE: older music all that much before JS Bach and company, well, I don't know.  Maybe you do typically need to have the kind of interest to become a serious musician before you're likely to significantly appreciate much of the really old stuff from antiquity.  For myself, I don't even care much for much of Bach's and Vivaldi's contemporaries (near as I can tell) like Telemann much less the older stuff -- I guess though a little bit of Gregorian Chant or the like might interest me, but not nearly as much as the more "recent" music since Bach.  Honestly, we *are* talking about a whole lot of music ranging throughout the ages, and every non-musician only has so much time, $ and energy to put into it all...
 
_Man_


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#19 of 35 OFFLINE   JohnRice

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Posted March 08 2010 - 11:39 AM

Man, one quick response to your post.  My favorite Beethoven cycle is still the 70s Solti, which you can get from Amazon Marketplace HERE for about $32 shipped.

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#20 of 35 OFFLINE   Sumnernor

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Posted March 09 2010 - 12:55 AM

I am a big, big fan of classical music. I need TIME to really post a good reply here. As I am europe, there are probably many things here not yet in the US. I might note that I saw in Amazon.com, the DGG Boulez Bartok box much much cheaper here than in the US. Current 1 Euro is about $1.36. For prices , look at Amazon.de, www.jpc.de. A number of years ago released here by SONY was the Bartok Quartets from the 60's with the Julliard which never was released in the US. More when I can.





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