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Definitive classical music collections

petergodlypetergodly Registered User regular
edited April 2007 in Help / Advice Forum
I was spoiled growing up - my father had vast knowledge of symphonies and selected excellent versions of classical pieces for his collection.

Now that I'm building my own classical collection, I find that many pieces are poorly played, or the tempo seems off, or there's a harpsichord mixed super loud (like on a version of Albinoni's Adagio that I recently purchased).

Unfortunately, I can no longer get advice from my father, but I'd like to build a good solid collection from the definitive works. My favorite composers are Dvorak, Beethoven, Mozart, Bach, and many of the baroque composers.

Does anyone know some superior collections? It seems like the market is saturated with 3rd rate orchestras just out to make a buck with some lame "Music for Lovers" mix CD.

I hope this doesn't come off as snobbery - I just have had very bad luck so far, and I have no knowledge of which symphonies and which versions are good - it's just been trial and error.

petergodly on


  • FawkesFawkes __BANNED USERS regular
    edited April 2007
    Deutche Grammaphon do Complete Works or Masterpieces boxed sets, certainly for Mozart and Beethoven, most likely for Bach, and perhaps others. Those are generally very good recordings.

    EMI have a good back catalogue of operas available which give you more than enough choice to find a version you like.

    Phillips also have a lot of good classical recordings, but they are less obviously linked or marketed in their catalogue, so you really have to know the recording you want from them.

    Aside from that just listen to some stuffs and work out which orchestras/conductor tends to have a similar style/taste to what you want to hear. Tempo is usually a good indicator, I've heard plenty of recordings from widely acclaimed conductors which I just don't like, because I think they have the pace all wrong for the music. In my experience, tempo preference tends to be a career trend for conductors, so if you find one you like, chances are you'll like his other stuff.

    Fawkes on
  • EggyToastEggyToast Jersey CityRegistered User regular
    edited April 2007
    Do you have a record player? I just recently found that classical records are a boon for collectors and afficionados. Not only are there a lot of them, but they can be had for surprisingly cheap at pretty much any local record shop. My wife likes "Pictures at an Exhibition" but only had 1 recording of it, and while at a music shop I happened across another recording for $3.

    You could also listen to selections on iTunes as well as emusic. I found that emusic is a fantastic resource for classical music if you have at least some idea what you're looking for, as it's $9.99 a month for 40 drm-free mp3 files. And that can turn into a LOT of classical music.

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  • Alistair HuttonAlistair Hutton Dr EdinburghRegistered User regular
    edited April 2007
    While possibly not your cup of tea I have found some of the recordings of Rachmaninoff playing Rachmaninoff to being close to a transcendental experience. These are old recordings and are certainly not perfect, their a fair amount of hiss on a few of them. I can't find the precise set that I listened to a few years ago but I feel you really can't beat the composer playing his own songs, if anyone's going to know how they should sound then it's him.

    Alistair Hutton on
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  • ElendilElendil Registered User regular
    edited April 2007
    My own approach is to build bit by bit, doing research of the recordings I want to pick up. I've never gotten more than a three or four CD boxset, preferring variety. There's always going to be some degree of trial and error (for example, Bernstein is usually one of the first recommendations for Mahler, but I found I hated his recordings, so I based further choices in Mahler on that). After a while, you'll start to build an impression of certain performer's mannerisms, your own taste in that style of music, etc.

    That said, don't be too quick to dismiss a performance; some take some getting used to, some are spoiled by previous impressions.

    Elendil on
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