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Thread: Great historical recordings

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    Default Great historical recordings

    Hi all,

    Interested on your thoughts on this one, spurred on by a recent discussion with a fellow forum member. I suppose I should begin by defining historical. I would take historical to primarily mean recordings made upwards of 30 years ago. Recordings made in an era where we didn't have days of recording and re-recording, where music with all its technical flaws but artistic merit was released, often recorded live. A time of passion and emotion, that I feel (with numerous notable exceptions) is perhaps lacking in a day and age where technical brilliance and finding ever diverse ways to interpret existing classics is all the rage. Many historical recordings are also important not just for the recording itself - but the context it was recorded in.

    I would however like to clarify this definition by noting that I think a historical recording can be one that was made last week - if the impact of the recording and what it achieves is such that we will still be talking about it in 50 years. By all means, please mention these.

    I'll start off with a few:

    Dvorák Cello Concerto - Karajan/Rostropovich (1969). This is a personal favourite - I am a huge fan of Rostropovich, and I feel the orchestra under Karajan, who I don't always agree with, really got this one right.

    Dvorák Cello Concerto -Svetlanov/Rostropovich (1968). This is a very different recording of the Dvorák. Made on the very same day Soviet tanks rolled into Prague, it can be read as a personal music protest by Rostropovich, and testament to the strength of emotion music is able to convey.

    Beethoven Symphony 3 - Toscanini (1939). This is my favourite Beethoven 3 recording. The sound quality is very average, but the emotion and excitement conveyed is unparalleled in my view!

    Shostakovich Symphony 8 - Mravinsky (1982). For the extremes of emotion, this recording cannot be overlooked! A live recording by Mravinsky who premièred Shostakovich 8 when it was first written.

    This is a very basic list, and I have only mentioned a few pieces that I feel I know well enough to write on! I have recently begun listening to the Furtwangler 1942 Beethoven Symphony 9 which I am sure qualifies here - but I don't know it quite well enough yet!

    I would be very interested to hear your thoughts.

    Cheers

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    Quote Originally Posted by Xytech View Post
    I have recently begun listening to the Furtwangler 1942 Beethoven Symphony 9 which I am sure qualifies here - but I don't know it quite well enough yet!
    In my opinion, that one definitely qualifies.

    I think Shostakovich's first violin concerto with David Oistrakh and his first cello concerto with Rostropovich would qualify, on Sony Classical's Masterworks Heritage label. Presented at the height of the Cold War/Space Race, the liner notes from 1960 reflect the mood of the time: "The USSR scored the artistic equivalent of a manned rocket to Mars."

    Personally, I think Furtwangler's Bruckner box set, in an excellent remastering from Music & Arts, also qualifies, recorded mostly in the 1940s during a time when the orchestra's fortunes were being affected by personal losses, yet they produced gripping performances made not for the Nazi regime but for the people of Germany.
    Last edited by Manxfeeder; Sep-05-2011 at 16:59.

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    Thanks for your thoughts! Those collections sound right up my alley!!

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    Default Beethoven Quartet recorded 1981

    Here's the link to listen to a recording that's just over 30 years old, a live performance of Beethoven op 59/2 the Quatuor Français and Daniel Rémy as first violinist. Never released as a commercial recording... I transferred it from old cassette tapes, so the sound quality is not amazing, but I love the interpretation.

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    Fritz Reiner's 1955 stereo recording of Bartok's Concerto For Orchestra/Music For Strings, Percussion & Celesta

    A little less than 30 years old is George Solti's London recording of Dvorak's New World Symphony with the CSO.

    The Vaughn Williams symphonic cycle on Decca by Sir Adrian Boult

    Stravinsky Conducts Stravinsky series on CBS.

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    1938 Mahler 9 / Bruno Walter / VPO. This was recorded less than 2 weeks before the anschluss - the takeover of Austria by Nazi Germany. The sense of foreboding and sheer emotion in the music is unparalleled by any recording of the Mahler 9 since. Within weeks, many of the Jewish members of the orchestra would flee Austria, like Walter himself. They would never play together again.

    I have the 1942 Furtwangler Beethoven 9 in my collection. It is white hot in intensity, definitely a white knuckle listening experience. It is terrifying and fearsome - you will never hear a Beethoven 9 like it.

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    For me, Grieg playing Grieg always gives me chills...thanks to me Peruvian granpa, I've got a poor sounding but there nonetheless Victor record of his playing something I barely even like but to know that it is him does a lot more for me than Drac play Drac; regardless of how much better the playing and recordings are.

    I love those old Artur Rubinstein videos where he plays for a small group...this is my favorite of these:

    anything beyond time marking 6:20 may not be suitable for the faint of heart!

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    Richter in Sofia 1958 - Pictures at an Exhibition. Equals but doesn't surpass his recording of the same work in Prague, 1956. Amazing buildup of tension, exquisite releases - at climaxes not in the same place. As powerful as can be achieved without orgasm - and some of those may have occurred in the audiences.

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    Hmmm, I cannot agree with the minimum 30 year definition. I have quite a few originally released CDs of works that were first recorded in the early to mid 1980s under studio conditions (approaching this 30 year minimum "definition", which is not to say I bought them 30 years ago), that do not sound "historical" at all. These are CD quality original recordings released by leading record companies, for example Arkiv/Deutsch Grammophon's Bach orchestral works played by The English Concert/Trevor Pinnock.

    By historical, and certainly as far as the record companies often take to assume, are works recorded decades ago, I would say pre-1960s/stretching it to pre-1970, or certainly before "digital recording".

    I'm not into buying historical recordings (using my definition of "historical"). I don't have any but I certainly enjoy listening to them on the radio when they happen to be on, say when I'm driving or whatever.
    Last edited by HarpsichordConcerto; Sep-07-2011 at 01:05.

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    Rachmaninov Piano Concerto No.3 / Horowitz / Coates (1930) - the first recording of this piece ever made. This recording positively crackles with Horowitz's trademark energy. It is a much more intense reading than the well-known later recordings with Koussevitsky and Reiner. The last movement is taken with amazing speed. Nobody plays like that any more.

    (edit) Found it on Youtube! Listen to the approach to the finale, from 4:45 onwards:


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    The recordings of Wilhelm Backhaus (26 March 1884 – 5 July 1969) go from historical to rather modern. IMO he transcends the classical modern distinction as he is so great.
    Last edited by Johnmusic; Oct-26-2017 at 20:56.

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    Beethoven's Fourth Piano Cto. with Schnabel/Stock/CSO.

    Beethoven's Violin Cto. with Menuhin/Furtwangler/Philharmonia.

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    I would have thought that historical should be at least fifty years ago. Thirty seems too recent to my mind.
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    Quote Originally Posted by HarpsichordConcerto View Post
    Hmmm, I cannot agree with the minimum 30 year definition.
    Same here. If it wasn't recorded before I was born, it's not "historical".

    I would have thought that historical should be at least fifty years ago. Thirty seems too recent to my mind.
    I was thinking sixty, but that's because I'm 59...
    Last edited by wkasimer; Oct-27-2017 at 14:41.

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    You'll find much of what you're looking for in this video I put on YouTube a few years ago:

    Last edited by Brahmsianhorn; Oct-27-2017 at 14:49.

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