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  1. #1
    Shostakovich fan Feanor's Avatar
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    Some favorite classical recordings

    I'm starting this thread in case there's some interest. I know that classical music is of interest only to a minority, but maybe some good recommendations will help a few to expand their interests.

    I'm not a musician so I won't be recommending much of anything purely on the basis of great performance ... nor "great" music for that matter, though I'll mention it if a particular piece happens to be among the iconic works as defined by broad consensus.

    I will usually comment on the sound quality which will always be average or better.

    My first instalment ...

    "Lux Ĉterna"; religiously-inspired choral works by Maurice Duruflé, Francis Poulenc, and Olivier Messiaen, all 29th century French composers. (Don't worry: nothing here is atonal or weird by most people's standards). The performance is by The Gents male ensemble and female choir, accompanied by pipe organ.

    This is a two-disc hybrid SACD album from Channel Classics, CCS SA 22405,

    The sound is great to my ear, whether multi-channel SACD or the stereo CD layer. This type of choral work, IMHO, is the sort that benefits the most from decent multi-channel presentation, and this particular one is very fine.

    My favorite piece on the album is Duruflé's Requiem which is a very beautiful work. It was supposedly inspired by Gabriel Faure's also very beautiful (and more famous) Requiem composed many years earlier.

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  2. #2
    Aging Smartass
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    Thanks for the suggestion, though seeing "Lux Aeterna," my hopes were that you had somehow found a newer (and better) recording of Morten Lauridsen's "Lux Aeterna."

    To my knowledge, only two recordings of Lauridsen's piece are avaialable, and both leave much to be desired. While the piece was actually dedicated to Paul Salamunovich and the Los Angeles Master Chorale, one would think that their recording would be the one to choose. It's only avaialble as an RBCD, and a rather bad one at that: the excessive reverberation from the poor mike placement in the church in which the piece was recorded leaves much of the work drowned in a sea of mud.

    The Hyperion SACD, with the group "Polyphony," conducted by Stephen Layton is the better choice, but it too has a serious flaw: for whateve reason, the recording engineer seems to favor the oboe over everything else, and it is just much too loud, and totally out of balance with the otherwise delicate approach to the piece.

    On another matter, if you're interested in a top-notch Faure Requiem, the Pentatone recording, featuring the Netherlands Chamber Choir, is the best I've ever heard, and has several other gorgeous works by Faure as well.

    Lastly, you've stated before, that your posts here on classical music have rarely received much attention. I, for one, hope, this one will yield different results.

  3. #3
    Shostakovich fan Feanor's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by emaidel View Post
    Thanks for the suggestion, though seeing "Lux Aeterna," my hopes were that you had somehow found a newer (and better) recording of Morten Lauridsen's "Lux Aeterna."

    ...
    On another matter, if you're interested in a top-notch Faure Requiem, the Pentatone recording, featuring the Netherlands Chamber Choir, is the best I've ever heard, and has several other gorgeous works by Faure as well.

    Lastly, you've stated before, that your posts here on classical music have rarely received much attention. I, for one, hope, this one will yield different results.
    Thanks for your caution about Morten Lauridsen's Lux Aeterna. I heard of the piece but haven't heard and was wondering. Perhaps I'll hold of for a while.

    On the other hand your Faure Requiem recommendation is very tempting. I have only this version directed by Louis Fremaux. The performance is alright I should say, but the sound quality is very mediocre.


  4. #4
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    I have a 10-disc NAXOS box set of Rachmaninov piano music (Idel Biret) that is gorgeous.
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  5. #5
    Can a crooner get a gig? dean_martin's Avatar
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    Most, if not all, of my small classical collection is made up of performances that seem to get a lot of attention online and in print because I feel lost on my own in the sea of so many classical recordings.

    One standout that comes to mind is Ravel - Daphnis & Chloe (a/k/a Daphne et Chloe) Boston Symphony Orchestra dir. Charles Munch. The chorus seems to eminate from the netherworld. My copy is on 200g vinyl which is a little excessive, I think, but very good nonetheless.

    I picked up Rimsky-Korsakoff - Sheherazade Chicago Symphony dir. Reiner over the holidays. Mine is a JVC XRCD2 issue of the Living Stereo release. I've listened to it twice so far and enjoyed each listen. I don't have another copy to compare it to. There seems to be more detail conveyed than in other standard RCA Living Stereo cds I have such as Pictures at an Exhibition, but I'm not sure the XRCD2 process makes a difference. As someone who only sticks his toe in the classical waters, that's about all I can say.

    I have a Naxos collection of overtures which includes many familiar and fun pieces and a few others that I haven't spent enough time with to comment.

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    I don't have much in the way of classical but this one is very good


  7. #7
    Shostakovich fan Feanor's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dean_martin View Post
    ...
    One standout that comes to mind is Ravel - Daphnis & Chloe (a/k/a Daphne et Chloe) Boston Symphony Orchestra dir. Charles Munch. The chorus seems to eminate from the netherworld. My copy is on 200g vinyl which is a little excessive, I think, but very good nonetheless.

    I picked up Rimsky-Korsakoff - Sheherazade Chicago Symphony dir. Reiner over the holidays. Mine is a JVC XRCD2 issue of the Living Stereo release. I've listened to it twice so far and enjoyed each listen. I don't have another copy to compare it to....
    I have both of these versions on RCA Living Stereo SACDs. Both very nice, though I think the Living Stereos SACDs are a bit over-rated in general.

    My favorite Sheherazade version is by Jose Serebrier & the London Philharmonic on Reference Recordings, RR-89, an HDCD encoded CD. Most Reference Recordings have excellent sound and this is very good example.


  8. #8
    Shostakovich fan Feanor's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MasterCylinder View Post
    I have a 10-disc NAXOS box set of Rachmaninov piano music (Idel Biret) that is gorgeous.
    Naxos CDs are huge bargain in general. Recording quality is a bit variable though; new CDs seem better than the older ones.

  9. #9
    Forum Regular Jack in Wilmington's Avatar
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    I've been spending my afternoons listening lately to all classical. Here's this weeks selections
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    2 Channel System
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  10. #10
    Shostakovich fan Feanor's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hyfi View Post
    I don't have much in the way of classical but this one is very good

    That's interesting. If I'm not mistaken, Schnittke composed only the Gogol Suite, for orchestra; Love for Love, for orchestra is by another, relatively obscure composer, Tikhon Khrennikov.

    I don't have any version of these pieces. I have a small Alfred Schnittke collection but it is mostly chamber works.

  11. #11
    Shostakovich fan Feanor's Avatar
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    My favorite composer is the 20th century Russian composer, Dmitri Shostakovich -- yes, I like enjoy him perhaps even a bit more than Beethoven. This isn't to say that I think that former is a "greater" composer than the latter, but Shostakovich is certainly among greatest composers of classical music of all time.

    Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975) lived and worked in the Soviet Union all his life, (i.e. from the Bolshevik Revolution onwards). He had a very tenuous relationship with Stalin and other Soviet officials all that time: sometimes a hero, sometimes in very real danger of liquidation. But Shostakovich was krafty managed to survived. For example, Stalin personally denounced Shosti's opera, Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District, Op. 29; to redeem himself, he composed this Symphony No. 5 which eschewed the "formalism" that the Soviet officials despised. And fortunately the Fifth was a great success in the Sovien Uniot, and was and is considered a great Symphony everywhere since.

    Shostakovich is probably best know by the public for is symphonies, (he wrote fifteen, though one was really a song cycle). However he also wrote in other classical subgenre, notably chamber music.

    In particular Shostakovich wrote fifteen string quartets which are, as a group, are considered amongst the greatest string quartets written, perhaps second only to Beethoven's quartets.

    I love all of Shosti's quartets though possibly my favorites are 3, 5, 7, 8. I'm linking to a version of his String Quartet No. 8 played by the Emerson String Quartet as available in Youtube ...

    http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL2BC24C7FC8754495

    (If somebody can tell me how to properly insert a video, please let me know.)

    I have multiple versions of most of Shostakovich's quartets, not including the Emerson version which is well regarded. Of what I got I very much like the version of the complete quartets by the Fitzwilliam Quartet. The sound is very good RBCD; the perspective is close up but not right in the midst of the performers, which is the way I like it for chamber music.

    Last edited by Feanor; 01-31-2013 at 04:12 PM.

  12. #12
    Big science. Hallelujah. noddin0ff's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Feanor View Post
    My favorite composer is the 20th century Russian composer, Dmitri Shostakovich -- yes, I like enjoy him perhaps even a bit more than Beethoven.

    [edit]
    In particular Shostakovich wrote fifteen string quartets which are, as a group, are considered amongst the greatest string quartets written, perhaps second only to Beethoven's quartets.

    I love all of Shosti's quartets though possibly my favorites are 3, 5, 7, 8. I'm linking to a version of his String Quartet No. 8 played by the Emerson String Quartet as available in Youtube ...

    http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL2BC24C7FC8754495

    (If somebody can tell me how to properly insert a video, please let me know.)

    I have multiple versions of most of Shostakovich's quartets, not including the Emerson version which is well regarded. Of what I got I very much like the version of the complete quartets by the Fitzwilliam Quartet. The sound is very good RBCD; the perspective is close up but not right in the midst of the performers, which is the way I like it for chamber music.

    Shostokovich is one of my favorites as well. I think it started when I picked up Kronos Quartets - Black Angels that has Quartet No. 8. It's really haunting. It never really became a favorite but it put sounds and themes in my head that started off my interest. Haven't listened to it in ages. I should.




    I have the Fitzwilliam collection and haven't listened to it nearly enough (or recently) so I fired up the server and am letting them run. The one album that gets the most play by me is usually the Ax, Stern, Ma one.



    I've read criticisms that its not as edgy or nervous as it should be but I really love how it flows from pain to beauty so fluidly and effortlessly. There's passages where the whole spectrum of emotion rolls by nearly note by note. Remarkable players and remarkable transitions.

    For fun, I often put on The Jazz Album (Royal Concertgebouw Orch; Chailly) is my recording.



    You also brought up Beethoven. I don't think I ever really appreciated Beethoven until I listened to his late string quartets. Completely dispelled my 'classical' image of his music. These are so modern and engaging. I really enjoy them.

    TCA ATT GGA

  13. #13
    Shostakovich fan Feanor's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by noddin0ff View Post
    Shostokovich is one of my favorites as well. I think it started when I picked up Kronos Quartets - Black Angels that has Quartet No. 8. It's really haunting. It never really became a favorite but it put sounds and themes in my head that started off my interest. Haven't listened to it in ages. I should.




    I have the Fitzwilliam collection and haven't listened to it nearly enough (or recently) so I fired up the server and am letting them run. The one album that gets the most play by me is usually the Ax, Stern, Ma one.



    I've read criticisms that its not as edgy or nervous as it should be but I really love how it flows from pain to beauty so fluidly and effortlessly. There's passages where the whole spectrum of emotion rolls by nearly note by note. Remarkable players and remarkable transitions.

    For fun, I often put on The Jazz Album (Royal Concertgebouw Orch; Chailly) is my recording.



    You also brought up Beethoven. I don't think I ever really appreciated Beethoven until I listened to his late string quartets. Completely dispelled my 'classical' image of his music. These are so modern and engaging. I really enjoy them.

    It so happens I have both the Kronos Quartet and Stern-Ma-Ax recordings you mention.

    I like the Fitzwilliam version of Shosti's Quartet No. 8 better but the Kronos is good. I like the Stern-Ma-Ax record very much indeed.

    Not everybody likes Shostakovich. Some people feel he is an emotional down or just don't understand him. IMHO, he is one of the most express composers of all time, however he often seems to express less happy emotions, e.g. angst, cynicism, and irony -- these things are understandable given his personal experiences under the Soviet regime.

  14. #14
    Shostakovich fan Feanor's Avatar
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    I was listening to this recording on my stereo system last night and was reminded that it is a fine performance and excellent sounding recording -- both in stereo and multi-channel.

    Gustav Mahler: Symphony No. 1 "Titan" ~ Michael Tilson Thomas & San Francisco Symphony Orchestra
    / SFS Media 9715, Hybrid SACD

    SFS Media is an "indie" label founded by Tilson Thomas -- see HERE.



    Gustav Mahler (1860-1911), see the Allmusic biography HERE). Mahler was possibly the most renowned conductor of his time, especially of Opera. He was conductor of the Vienna Court Opera and the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, and subsequently of the Metropolitan Opera and the New York Philharmonic between 1908 and 1911.

    Despite being perhaps the greatest opera conductors of all time, Mahler wrote no operas. Basically all his work consisted of song (lieder) cycles and symphonies. His most famous vocal work is probably Das Lied von der Erde which some consider more a vocal symphony that a song cycle. Mahler is quoted as saying that symphonies ought to include "the whole world" and he pretty much stuck to this: all nine of his actual symphonies are lengthy, sprawling works and the 1st is normal in that regard. See Allmusic's description of the 1st HERE.
    Last edited by Feanor; 02-11-2013 at 08:22 AM.

  15. #15
    Shostakovich fan Feanor's Avatar
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    BUMP !??!

    If there is no interest, I'll discontinued classical music posts.

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    Worry pas.

    Quote Originally Posted by Feanor View Post
    BUMP !??!

    If there is no interest, I'll discontinued classical music posts.
    It seems to me that there has been quite a lot of interest for a classical thread in this venue. I don't think anyone minds. You have as much right to post your interests as anyone else here.

    I don't have nearly as much time or opportunity to listen to music as I used to, with family, political, writing interests and musical rehearsals taking up a lot of time. So I don't visit here nearly as often. I used to post in the Tuesday listening threads most every week (that was years ago), and sometimes people would ask me questions (that's was a little scary, since I am no expert!). So don't get discouraged.

    I did get a chance to listen to my favorite recording of the Mussorgsky/Ravel Pictures at an Exhibition with Ernest Ansermet conducting L'Orchestre de la Suisse Romande. It has been reissued often since 1959. The copies I have are still available but at ungodly prices, but the recording is available more reasonably on this CD:

    Amazon.com: Mussorgsky: Pictures at an Exhibition/Night On: Mussorgsky, Ansermet, Orch De La Suisse Romande: Music
    "Opposition brings concord. Out of discord comes the fairest harmony."
    ------Heraclitus of Ephesis (fl. 504-500 BC), trans. Wheelwright.

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by Feanor View Post
    BUMP !??!

    If there is no interest, I'll discontinued classical music posts.
    It's not the interest in classical music that needs the bump.
    It's the interest in the entire website, which is a very dim shadow of it's former self.
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  18. #18
    Shostakovich fan Feanor's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MasterCylinder View Post
    It's not the interest in classical music that needs the bump.
    It's the interest in the entire website, which is a very dim shadow of it's former self.
    Some truth to that !!

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    After 15 years of on and off trying, the Bartok String Quartets have started to sound like music to me. Numerous writers have said they are the greatest thing since Beethoven's quartets, so every once in a while, I tried to see if I could understand why.

    Presumably in the early '90s, I got a Philips Twofer with the Novak Quartet.

    In the mid or late '90s, I got the Decca recording with the Takacs Quartet, much loved by the Penguin Guide.

    In 2010, I got some recordings by the old Fine Arts Quartet, including Bartok's The Six String Quartets, recorded very well in 1959. This has the advantage keeping the quartets in chronological order. The 3rd CD has Quartet no. 6, plus the sound track of a discussion of Quartet no. 1 they had done for National Educational Television (it was the only one that survived). But still no go. I couldn't get into the performances.

    Recently, after a tiring day for an old guy, I lay down on the sofa and listened to the FAQ recordings. Gee, the Bartok quartets finally made musical sense to me! A breakthrough. I have since listened some more to the Takacs Quartet recordings, especially.

    I am not sure what made the difference. We have been rehearsing Mozart's Requiem, but I don't seen any relationship.
    "Opposition brings concord. Out of discord comes the fairest harmony."
    ------Heraclitus of Ephesis (fl. 504-500 BC), trans. Wheelwright.

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