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Thread: Herbert Blomstedt Recordings

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    Senior Member starthrower's Avatar
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    Default Herbert Blomstedt Recordings

    I appreciate all the responses to my Antal Dorati thread so I thought I would like to continue with another great conductor underrepresented in my collection. I'm pretty sure all I have is his fine Nielsen cycle with the SF Symphony which I like very much. What else have I been missing by the old maestro?
    In Mahler I usually prefer the Solti approach -caveman having a seisure whips orchestra into a frenzy!! - Radames, TC member

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    Senior Member Becca's Avatar
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    See my post from yesterday in the Brahms symphony thread about his recent (2020) 1st & 2nd symphonies. He is also well regarded for his Bruckner recordings. You might also want to view his Stenhammer performancfes on the Gothenburg website (gsoplay.se)

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    Senior Member Knorf's Avatar
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    I'm definitely a fan of Blomstedt's Bruckner, with the Gewandhausorchester Leipzig. He made numerous worthy recordings with the San Francisco Symphony as well, Nielsen, Sibelius, Hindemith...

    It's quite remarkable how active he still is, at age 94.

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    Really fine Sibelius Sym #2 with SFSO..

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    Senior Member Merl's Avatar
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    I love his Beethoven, Schubert, Sibelius, Bruckner and Nielsen cycles best of all. A remarkable conductor who I've had the priveledge of seeing live a few times. His Mahler 9 (on Accentus) is highly recommended too (not just by me).

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    Senior Member Kiki's Avatar
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    It is a mystery that I have only a few of his records, given that I like them very much, e.g. his Carmina Burana and Eine Alpensinfonie. His recent Bamberg Mahler 9 and Gothenburg Stenhammar 2 are also excellent, and refreshingly so!

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    His first Nielsen cycle with the Danish Orchestra was my introduction to both Blomstedt and Nielsen. I prefer it slightly to the SFSO cycle although the latter is better recorded. His Dresden Staatkapelle Beethoven and Schubert cycles are core listening for me. His Hindemith with SF are my favorites of that composer. I also like his Strauss and Carmina Burana from SF, and his Sibelius as well.
    His most recent Leipzig recordings are pricey. I shelled out for the Bruckner but have streamed Brahms and Beethoven

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    Senior Member starthrower's Avatar
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    I forgot about the Hindemith. I've borrowed the 3 disc set from the library a couple times. I should buy a copy.
    In Mahler I usually prefer the Solti approach -caveman having a seisure whips orchestra into a frenzy!! - Radames, TC member

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    I always have and will be nostalgic to his Beethoven cycle. Specifically: the one he did with the Staatskapelle Dresden. It was the first one I ever listened through from start to end. I actually relistened to a bit of it not long ago, held up quite well. Not the greatest but by no means the worst. I don't mind his Bruckner or Schubert either, but not quite as much. Nothing holds a candle to it.

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    Senior Member Helgi's Avatar
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    I just got his new Brahms recordings (Gewandhaus) and think they are really something special. They were both recorded in 2019 so I would be surprised if they've yet to record the other two... but who knows.

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    His San Francisco accounts of Brahms' major choral works aside from the Requiem are great.

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    Um...everything?

    But here's my shortlist:

    Beethoven Symphonies (2nd cycle) Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra

    Strauss, Sibelius and Nielsen cycles, Brahms choral works, Mahler 2 - San Francisco

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    Senior Member starthrower's Avatar
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    I found an old Denon CD of Mozart 40 & 41 conducted by Blomstedt that I bought at least 36 years ago. I remember listening to it once when I was still living with my parents. I'll have to give it a spin.
    In Mahler I usually prefer the Solti approach -caveman having a seisure whips orchestra into a frenzy!! - Radames, TC member

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    Herbert Blomstedt's tenures in Dresden & Leipzig yielded some of his best recordings, in my view,

    1. His two recordings of Beethoven's 9th with the Staatskapelle Dresden are very special performances & underrated, IMO. The first 9th was recorded in the studio at the Lukaskirche in Dresden in 1980 & is ADD. For me, it is easily the highlight of Blomstedt's Dresden 1-9 cycle; which, over the decades, has been issued by both Denon & King in Japan, Berlin Classics & Brilliant--though the 9th has been available individually, too. The latest release of this cycle is newly remastered, though the 1970s sound quality was never an issue, since the cycle sounded excellent in the previous Berlin Classics bargain box set--this one: https://www.amazon.com/Beethoven-Sym.../dp/B001D3FAQC, and here's the new release: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uBtz...PqHatWzME58gvo. (I've just bought the newly remastered set, but haven't yet compared it the older set, sound-wise, so I can't say whether it's an improvement or not.) The Dresden set is even less expensive on this 2015 Brilliant release: https://www.amazon.com/Complete-Symp...rpt=ABIS_MUSIC.

    While Blomstedt's second 9th was recorded live in celebration of the (re)opening of the Semperoper in Dresden in 1985. The initial Capriccio CD was criticized at the time for having sound issues--which isn't surprising, considering that it was recorded live at the outset of the digital era: https://www.amazon.com/Beethoven-Sym...music&sr=1-245. However, the sound problems were later improved for subsequent reissues, such as this 2010 Capriccio release: https://www.chandos.net/products/catalogue/C5%201036, and a 2014 Hanssler Profil remaster--see below*.

    For me, the best recent conductors of Beethoven's 9th have been the late Bernard Haitink (esp. his exciting 1980 live Concertgebouw performance on Philips, and the studio 9th in the 1989 Philips box set cycle), Blomstedt, & John Eliot Gardiner. Therefore, I would strongly recommend acquiring one or both of Blomstedt's two 9ths (along with Haitink's Philips 1980):

    --1980 studio 9th: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=diLDnStIYUc
    --1985 live Semperoper 9th: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sjBVJQuI0FE

    --*Hanssler, Profil: I don't own this 2014 CD, but it is the 1985 live Semperoper performance likely more expertly remastered than the Capriccio CDs. So, the former sound issues should be virtually, if not entirely eliminated, considering that Hanssler is known for their superb remasters of older recordings: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WtRg...dLt36RHiYKZx0o

    I've not heard Blomstedt's recent live Leipzig Beethoven 1-9 cycle, but it has received strong reviews. David Hurwitz raved about it, for instance, among others. Judging from the listening samples, the performances sound more HIP inspired than those on Blomstedt's earlier Dresden cycle: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vUif...X4LB1elF7bXT0Y, which offered fairly traditional, conservative performances (with a good 5th & 6th, & as noted, a standout 9th, & of course fantastic orchestral playing).

    2. Blomstedt's Denon recordings of the orchestral music of Richard Strauss with the Staatskapelle Dresden are excellent, too. I'm hoping that MDG will remaster & reissue them soon, since they've now got the rights to the old Denon catalogue, and so far, they've reissued Blomstedt's Denon Mozart & Bruckner--see below. Blomstedt additionally made several Strauss recordings in SF, but, in the music of Strauss, the Staatskpelle is, IMO, the better orchestra (though the SFSO play well). After all, the Staatskapelle had a close working relationship with the composer that lasted nearly half a century, & they premiered many of his greatest works. So, in effect, they were Strauss's orchestra, & that tradition of playing his music lasted through the Rudolf Kempe era, & at least up to & including the Blomstedt tenure in the 1970s & 80s. Though I don't know what their Strauss sounds like today under Thielemann, but did hear a good Alpine Symphony from Fabio Luisi in the early 2000s.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F7Bq0Qk94eo
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ef6gg4PRbuE
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FxZ7UTl9K58
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D3em...&start_radio=1
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4nQG2JicCUQ

    https://www.amazon.com/Strauss-Till-...=music&sr=1-19
    https://www.amazon.com/Strauss-Till-...NsaWNrPXRydWU=
    https://www.amazon.com/Strauss-Ein-H...music&sr=1-107
    https://www.amazon.com/Strauss-Ein-H...music&sr=1-146
    https://www.amazon.com/Also-Sprach-Z...music&sr=1-221

    However, I don't mean to dissuade anyone from purchasing the Blomstedt SF Strauss recordings. Besides, in SF, he recorded a Strauss work that he didn't get to in Dresden, the Alpine Symphony, Op. 64, which is a very fine performance: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JcOBjcatRSE. Plus, until the 1980s Denon Strauss recordings get newly remastered--hopefully by MDG soon (as noted), the SF Decca sound recordings must be considered superior. Although that will likely change with new remasters, since on LP, the Denon Strauss series offered 'state of the art' audiophile sound for its time...

    3. During Blomstedt's tenure in Dresden, the Staatskapelle had the reputation for being one of the great orchestras on the planet, but it was also widely considered one of the finest Mozart orchestras in the world, too, & Blomstedt's recordings of the Symphonies 38-41 are very fine (& are arguably competitive to & possibly even preferable to Sir Colin Davis's excellent later Mozart recordings with the Staatskapelle on Philips). Interestingly, the Staatskapelle is an orchestra that Mozart knew & conducted, and they've maintained a long tradition of playing his music at an exceptionally high level over the course of the recorded era (at the very least):

    No. 39: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BaDMqwUUlds
    No. 40: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pnjeG6-m1aI
    No. 41: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M_otGr-y_SU

    Here's a link to MDG's new remasters: https://www.amazon.com/Symphonies-38...s=music&sr=1-4

    4. Blomstedt's Staatskpelle Dresden Schubert cycle is also highly recommendable--though again the performances are fairly traditional & conservative. If you want HIP, you'll need to look elsewhere. I've preferred Blomstedt's Schubert cycle to the Dresden cycle by Sir Colin Davis on RCA, which I found dull in places, & again, the Dresden orchestral playing for Blomstedt is great & very enjoyable: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-n4c...Y54_ppjWBoEf85. (EDIT: In addition, I should mention that conductor Wolfgang Sawallisch conducted a very fine Schubert cycle with the Staatskapelle in the 1960s, on Philips; as well as several remarkable recordings of Schubert's three best known masses.)

    4. Blomstedt's Bruckner is likewise mostly very good, too. I have a theory that first rate Schubertians make excellent Bruckner conductors (as with Jochum & Furtwangler), especially considering that Bruckner was more or less obsessed with Schubert throughout his life. Indeed, the majority of Bruckner's symphonies are, IMO, more strongly influenced by Schubert than Wagner. Blomstedt's approach to Bruckner tends to be more gentle, lyrical, and refined than your typical 'Wagnerian' sounding Bruckner conductor. As a result, he allows the listener to hear the whole score with an extra transparency. Which makes his view of Bruckner an attractive alternative, if one is looking to collect different interpretations of these works. The Staatskapelle Dresden 4th & 7th for Denon are excellent (in those days, I recall a composer friend describing them as the most 'in tune' orchestra in the world); as are Blomstedt's later live Leipzig Gewandhaus recordings of the 6th, 7th, 8th & 9th--in his Querstand 1-9 cycle. The San Francisco Bruckner 6th is excellent too, but I consider the live 6th in Leipzig to be even better: https://www.amazon.com/Bruckner-Symp...rpt=ABIS_MUSIC (though ultimately, I prefer Eugen Jochum's Dresden 6th, if I were pressed to pick).

    However, I was slightly disappointed with Blomstedt's live Leipzig 3 & 4 on Querstand, & the studio Leipzig 9 for Decca, which isn't as good as the live Querstand 9th. & in the end I can't say that I prefer Blomstedt's Bruckner to that of Eugen Jochum or Wilhelm Furtwangler, or to Lovro von Matacic, Gunter Wand, Sergui Celibidache, Herbert von Karajan, Bernard Haitink, Karl Böhm, & Carla Maria Giulini at their very best. But he certainly belongs in the conversation, and, as noted, I do enjoy listening to his Bruckner as an alternative view (as with Kurt Masur's Bruckner), & largely because Blomstedt allows the listener to hear the whole score with exceptional clarity, and at times, that can be very exciting.

    --4th, Dresden, 2nd movement: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=60hZy_bDbpE
    --7th, Dresden: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=npjpX3_lFzI

    Here's a link to the new MDG remasters of the Dresden 4th & 7th: https://www.amazon.com/Symphonies-Br...rpt=ABIS_MUSIC

    --7th, the live Gewandhusorchester Leipzig recording on Querstand,
    Adagio: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MReX8gnZiRQ
    Scherzo: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FgUOY98ElZw
    --& here too is a YT link to the Leipzig 4, 5, 7 & 9 on Querstand, starting with the 4th that I'm not overly crazy about: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=biLjyOJc96g

    5. You can't go wrong with the Sibelius, Nielson, & Hindemith recordings that Blomstedt made in San Francisco, either (although I can't say that I don't prefer other conductors in certain works by these composers; nevertheless, they are excellent recordings).

    Blomstedt's Hindemith is first rate--two discs in SF & one in Leipzig; however, ultimately, I prefer Abbado's DG Berlin Philharmonic recordings. Here are some links to make a side by side comparison of each conductor's "Symphonie Mathis der Maler", for example. In my view, it's difficult to beat Abbado in 20th century music, where he was often at his very best--such as in the music of Berg, Schoenberg, Nono, Bartok, Hindemith, Prokofiev, Stravinsky, Ravel, etc.:

    --Abbado, Berlin Philharmonic: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o6p3NQ1_wvc

    --Blomstedt, San Francisco SO:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l4mKtynKays
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZAvD6Mds9kE
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_GNRpCBpiZY

    Yet Blomstedt recorded more of Hindemith's music than Abbado--a total of 3 CDs, compared to Abbado's single CD; which makes the following box set invaluable (though I don't know if the sound is as good in the 'discount' box set as it is on the individual Decca CDs): https://www.amazon.com/Hindemith-Orc...=music&sr=1-14

    --Sibelius, 7 Symphonies: https://www.amazon.com/Sibelius-Symp...rpt=ABIS_MUSIC

    --Nielsen, Complete Symphonies, etc.: https://www.amazon.com/Nielsen-Compl...music&sr=1-117

    6. One of the recordings that I've most appreciated from Blomstedt's tenure in SF is a CD of Roger Sessions' Symphony No. 2, coupled with John Harbison's Symphony No. 2 & Oboe Concerto. These are fascinating works, which you don't get to hear often in the concert hall:

    --Harbison, Symphony No. 2: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G5ljK4taJlc
    --Sessions, Symphony No. 2: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dKZI9unk9yc
    --Harbison, Oboe Concerto, played by William Bennett:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JL3S7Eiw6Ak
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fmGmyj6KS9E
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=byxqR6pzrqA

    7. There is also Blomstedt's 1977 world premiere recording of Allan Petersson's Violin Concerto No. 2 to consider, played by violinist Ida Haendel & the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra. In my view, this is one of the great Pettersson recordings in the catalogue (along with Sergiu Comissiona's recordings of the symphonies); although I do additionally like violinist Isabelle van Keulen's more recent digital recording of the concerto with the same orchestra, but for different reasons.

    --Haendel/Blomstedt, Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra (analogue): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fJeu5xL_sE4
    --Keulen/Thomas Dausgaard, Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra (digital): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9crY...1fcKO15wWr17T4

    8. Another recording of special interest is Blomstedt's 1976 recording of Beethoven's original, rarely recorded 1805 version of Leonore, or the earlier score of Fidelio. Blomstedt is conducting the Staatskpelle Dresden here. I know some collectors have preferred this recording to Gardiner's later period version. By the way, it has been released by both Berlin Classics & Brilliant:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DDWk...PZrC66rp_m_8iG
    https://www.amazon.com/Beethoven-Leo...=music&sr=1-18
    https://www.amazon.com/Beethoven-Leo...rpt=ABIS_MUSIC

    On the negative side, if I were pressed to pick one Blomstedt recording that I regretted buying, it would be his Mahler 2nd in SF. I've heard better. & I should point out that Blomstedt--though consistently very good--isn't always the most exciting conductor; which is the case here, IMO. Although judging by all the favorable views on Amazon, a lot of people disagree with me on his Mahler 2nd.

    Finally, here are some other Blomstedt recordings that are worth considering, IMO, but may not figure at the very top of everyone's list--yet they're excellent, nonetheless (& I should point out that I've included some duplicate listings below of different releases, in order to provide access to further pricing options & more reviews):

    https://www.amazon.com/Mozart-Flute-...music&sr=1-213
    https://www.amazon.com/Carl-Maria-vo...rpt=ABIS_MUSIC
    https://www.amazon.com/Weber-Clarine...music&sr=1-177
    https://www.amazon.com/Weber-Clarine...=music&sr=1-23
    https://www.amazon.com/Stenhammar-Sy...music&sr=1-158
    https://www.amazon.com/Mendelssohn-C...music&sr=1-160
    https://www.amazon.com/Mozart-Concer...rpt=ABIS_MUSIC
    https://www.amazon.com/Mozart-Divert...%2C192&sr=8-20
    https://www.amazon.com/Wind-Concerto...rpt=ABIS_MUSIC

    Hope that helps.
    Last edited by Josquin13; Nov-21-2021 at 03:00.

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    Senior Member starthrower's Avatar
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    Wonderfully comprehensive list from you as usual, Josquin. Thanks!
    In Mahler I usually prefer the Solti approach -caveman having a seisure whips orchestra into a frenzy!! - Radames, TC member

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