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Thread: Do You Prefer Cycles or Individual Recordings?

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    Senior Member realdealblues's Avatar
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    Default Do You Prefer Cycles or Individual Recordings?

    This has probably been discussed before, but I haven't seen it in recent posts.

    I usually prefer cycles. They are quick and easy and are usually semi consistent being played by the same orchestra or performer or made on the same record label, but it always seems like there is at least 1 recording that isn't up to my expectations. One Example (of many since it's what I'm currently listening to):

    I currently have 6 recordings of Mozart's Piano Sonatas.

    Maria Joao Pires
    Alicia De Larrocha
    Daniel Barenboim
    Christoph Eschenbach
    Mitsuko Uchida
    Glenn Gould

    I like them all for one reason or another but in each case there is at least 1 piece played in a way I don't like it. Either the tempo is wrong, or the feeling is wrong, or there is something that just doesn't gel with me.

    It often makes me think I should have just pieced together collections. Although it also seems like many of the recordings I like are only released in box sets and not available on an individual basis.

    I guess that's the beauty of an ipod and itunes in that I can choose which version I like and I admit sometimes I just get bored with one version and want to hear something played in a different way, but in general it would be nice to find a set that makes you totally happy instead of having to hunt and peck for versions that you prefer. I guess it's just one of life's little things.

    But anyway, do you prefer cycles or do you like to build your own cycle from different performers/orchestras/conductors?

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    Senior Member elgars ghost's Avatar
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    Hi r.

    Buying a box is initially better for various reasons - economy, storage etc but the possible downside is that there is always a chance that at least one performance from it is going to be overshadowed by another recording. That said, I suppose this would only become apprarent while collecting different recordings of the same works (which I don't tend to do apart from collecting symphonies by Mahler, Bruckner, Beethoven and, to a lesser extent, Schubert).

    Buying a box set is also a good way of introducing yourself to the whole cycle - then once the music has kicked in the choice is yours if you want to buy additional recordings to compare/augment. Where the original box set features in the pecking order after that is obviously down to the listener.

    For example I bought Kubelik's box set of Mahler symphonies about 10 years ago in order to get to know the works and then subsequently bought additional recordings of each symphony as my passion and familiarity for the works increased in equal measure. The box set therefore served its purpose even if some of the individual performances from it are not exactly my absolute favourites now (still a fine cycle when taken as a whole, though).

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    Senior Member realdealblues's Avatar
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    I totally agree. Box sets definitely serve a purpose. They definitely serve as a great introduction to a composer or performer, they are usually cheaper and have a nice neat packaging. Maybe I think I should have never bought box sets though and have saved myself a ton of money by buying individual recordings of works that I liked. I don't know it's all so mind boggling to think about it makes my head spin...lol.

    I know very well what you say when you speak of the Mahler sets. My introduction to the complete symphonies of Mahler was the Bernstein Sony set. Which to this day still holds a special place in my collection. I now have Both Bernstein Sets, Kubelik, Tennstedt, Solti, Sinolpoli, Waart, Tabakov, Haitink, Chailly and then a handful of others that didn't record the entire cycle.

    Each has it's own offering. I just becomes so addicting. It's like trying new drugs or something. This one made me feel spacey, how will this one make me feel, kind of thing.

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    Senior Member World Violist's Avatar
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    I actually generally prefer cycles to individual recordings, because cycles give a total artistic conception of the works. For example, I'm likely to get Gardiner's complete Brahms cycle despite that many people dislike his performance of the third; it's part of Gardiner's overall conception, and I feel that having four different conductors doing different Brahms symphonies would be doing a disservice to the music and the integrity of those conductors/orchestras in some way.
    You get a frog in your throat, you sound hoarse.

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    Senior Member Sid James's Avatar
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    I prefer individual cd's. One thing is that I don't have the head space to listen to all of the works in one go - & I like to listen to all of it within two weeks of buying, so I can return the cd's in case they are faulty. But in any case, I like to listen to a variety of interpretations. But I have access to City of Sydney library's collection & I often borrow works I am familiar with if I want to listen to a different interpretation. I also have a friend who has about 300 cd's and we have regular sessions listening to eachother's cd's. & then there are also two classical radio stations here, so if I want to hear something different, I tune into those (sometimes live performances). I am generally not the type of collector who likes to double up on different versions of the same work. I am interested more in the music itself than listening to umpteen different interpretations, although with things like the piano repertoire I am beginning to be more flexible. But I still only buy single or maybe double discs...
    Genuine ersatz classical listener since 1981.

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    Senior Member Weston's Avatar
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    The only complete cycle I have obtained are the Schiff recordings of the Beethoven piano sonatas, only because I loved his lectures and his interpretation of Beethoven. They are not available as a boxed set that I know of. It surely would have been a lot easier if they had been.

    Other than that I prefer to mix it up and I've even begun enjoying different interpretations of the same piece.

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    Senior Member HarpsichordConcerto's Avatar
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    The larger the oeuvre, the more likely it will be bought as a cycle. That's a marketing/sales fact. And I'm talking about many, many works, not just a dozen sonatas or nine symphonies, but maybe 500 harpsichord sonatas or over 100 symphonies, for example. I picked up a brilliant set of all 500 plus harpsichord sonatas by Domenico Scarlatti on the Brilliant Classics label/ Pieter-Jan Belder, for example. BIS label has packaged Bach's cantatas nicely done by The Bach Collegium, Japan in box-sets of 10CDs (not all but many recorded so far, to fit in lots of 10), for example.

    So yes, I quite like the box-sets but no, I do not hunt for them per se. The works themselves and the performers count first and foremost.

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    Senior Member science's Avatar
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    I go through phases. I've been in an "individual recordings" phase for a year or two. Might be getting back into big sets though... (I'm coveting Schiff's Schubert sonata set...)
    Liberty for wolves is death to the lambs.

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    Senior Member Conor71's Avatar
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    I like cycles as collecting in box-sets is the most economical way to own and listen to large amounts of repertoire - I also like the uniformity of sound-quality in cycle recordings.
    I do think that probably the way to get the best performances possible is to buy individual discs but for the reasons above I usually opt for economics - probably only in one instance have I built a cycle out of individual recordings and thats with Mahler (although in this case I also own 2 complete box-sets as well).
    I also see nothing wrong with buying cycles in box-sets and supplementing any poor performances with individual discs.

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    I prefer individual cd's. One thing is that I don't have the head space to listen to all of the works in one go
    I also prefer to buy individual Cd because of that reason (I don't have the head space to listen to all of the works in one go too). Therewith, box-sets are not so cheap in Russia, as in Europe.

    Sometimes I prefer to buy individual CDs, because I don't want to listen to the complete set (for example I have only 5th and 8th Shostakovitch with Haitink on separate disks. Haitink has non-Russian solotists in 13th and 14th, so I don't need them.

    So, I decided to buy individual CD with Haitink's Shostakovich's Eighth which is out-of print now.

    I don't like that Universal alway tries to force you to buy a box-set. They shold re-print individual CDs not only box-sets. A customer sholud choose that is better for him, not some marketologists.
    Last edited by Moscow-Mahler; Dec-05-2010 at 18:39.

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