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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I thought it would be fun to play a recommendations game, but to do it a bit differently. How about we recommend two sets of recordings for one piece (or cycle) but we must make one an analog recording, and one a digital recording? Then, we say one we think should be avoided.

I will start. I've been on a Brahms bender for a week or so, and I have two symphony cycles in mind.

ANALOG

Forehead Hair Chin Human Publication



I'm sure those who know me suspected I would go with this, but I recommend the early-60s Brahms cycle by Herbert von Karajan/Berlin Philharmonic, published by DG. I think they are muscular, mid-tempo readings that have very good sound quality, especially for the era. The standout section for me is the brass, who really blast us with a thrilling sound in various finales.

DIGITAL

Forehead Human Gesture Flash photography Font



I have just finished a complete run-through of Riccardo Chailly's cycle with the Gewandhausorchester Leipzig on Decca. It took a few minutes to adjust to the swifter tempii, but I was able to, and boy, is it a rewarding set from a sonic perspective. The percussion is lovely and the level of detail in strings and woodwinds is sky high. If you want thrilling Brahms in the best modern sound, this is the cycle to beat.

ONE TO AVOID:

Brown Organism Font Symmetry Pattern


I love Herbert Blomstedt, and have been collecting his recordings with alacrity of late. But boy, was his new-ish Brahms cycle with the Gewandhausorchester on Pentatone was a massive disappointment. Turgid, lifeless, and with muffled sound (as if the microphones were in the hallway). It's probably the worst Pentatone release I've ever heard, by the way, which is a shock because their sonics are usually first rate.
 

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I'm surprised you don't like the Blomstedt. I disagree with each of your points. To me, the sound isn't muddled, but rather quite bass-heavy (though still clear; cavet: I'm no audiophile and my equipment isn't all that expensive). This isn't a feature of Janowski's second Brahms cycle, though, with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra and also recorded for Pentatone. I wonder if you would like that more. It's also quite fast throughout, which would probably ameliorate your complaints about Blomstedt being turgid and lifeless.

Chailly represents the modern-day culmination of one of the styles of Brahms conducting; his is classical, economical, objective, rhythmic. The other antipode I think is Thielemann, who is Romantic, subjective, and more lyrically focused.

Anyway, looking through my library and selecting recordings somewhat at random, here are three choices for me (sticking for now with Brahms cycles):

Analogue:

Georg Solti: Chicago Symphony Orchestra (1978–1979)

I was actually about to post Kertész but Solti also fits here. His Brahms is nothing like his Wagner; he adapts very well to this repertoire. The sound is great, too, and balanced fairly across all sections, just before the advent of digital recording. On another day, I might have picked Klemperer, or Jochum, or Steinberg, or Walter, or half a dozen others...

Digital:

Claudio Abbado: Berliner Philharmoniker (1988–1991)

Abbado preserved the Karajan sound for this cycle, made just around/just after Karajan's death. Rattle would later completely dismantle it, but the sound, combined with Abbado's unfussy yet impassioned conducting makes for a memorable cycle. Also includes the overtures and other works.


Sergiu Celibidache: Radio-Sinfonieorchester Stuttgart des SWR (1974–1976)

It's hard for me to choose a cycle to "avoid" because I don't really avoid any Brahms cycles; I have a bunch that I love, and some that I only like. This one strikes me as very, very normal, which is a weird feeling to get following a Celibidache performance. It's so normal, in fact, that it doesn't really seem to have much to say. Nothing wrong with it, but I just felt uninspired by the performances in this cycle. I'm no big fan of Celibidache, though, and I find this performances more approachable than his Bruckner, so there's that... but all in all, not really my cup of tea here. But "avoid" seems like a stronger word than I intend; I still listen to these once in a while for variety, even if it's not more than once every few months at most.
 

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I thought it would be fun to play a recommendations game, but to do it a bit differently. How about we recommend two sets of recordings for one piece (or cycle) but we must make one an analog recording, and one a digital recording? Then, we say one we think should be avoided.

I will start. I've been on a Brahms bender for a week or so, and I have two symphony cycles in mind.

ANALOG

I'm sure those who know me suspected I would go with this, but I recommend the early-60s Brahms cycle by Herbert von Karajan/Berlin Philharmonic, published by DG. I think they are muscular, mid-tempo readings that have very good sound quality, especially for the era. The standout section for me is the brass, who really blast us with a thrilling sound in various finales.

DIGITAL

I have just finished a complete run-through of Riccardo Chailly's cycle with the Gewandhausorchester Leipzig on Decca. It took a few minutes to adjust to the swifter tempii, but I was able to, and boy, is it a rewarding set from a sonic perspective. The percussion is lovely and the level of detail in strings and woodwinds is sky high. If you want thrilling Brahms in the best modern sound, this is the cycle to beat.

ONE TO AVOID:

View attachment 182664

I love Herbert Blomstedt, and have been collecting his recordings with alacrity of late. But boy, was his new-ish Brahms cycle with the Gewandhausorchester on Pentatone was a massive disappointment. Turgid, lifeless, and with muffled sound (as if the microphones were in the hallway). It's probably the worst Pentatone release I've ever heard, by the way, which is a shock because their sonics are usually first rate.
I very much disagree with this. I am not much on Brahms but found this to be very enjoyable and worth getting. As to Chailly, maybe good sound but I don't much care for his style. I can't speak to the HvK, nor have any interest in trying. My only other set of Brahms symphonies is by Klemperer.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
This needn't be all about Brahms, BTW! I'm taking my kids to martial arts presently, but I would like to do some Mozart, Haydn, Tchaikovsky, Schosty, and more :)

Also I hate to do it, but Hurwitz agrees with me!

 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
I'm surprised you don't like the Blomstedt. I disagree with each of your points. To me, the sound isn't muddled, but rather quite bass-heavy (though still clear; cavet: I'm no audiophile and my equipment isn't all that expensive). This isn't a feature of Janowski's second Brahms cycle, though, with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra and also recorded for Pentatone. I wonder if you would like that more. It's also quite fast throughout, which would probably ameliorate your complaints about Blomstedt being turgid and lifeless.

Chailly represents the modern-day culmination of one of the styles of Brahms conducting; his is classical, economical, objective, rhythmic. The other antipode I think is Thielemann, who is Romantic, subjective, and more lyrically focused.

Anyway, looking through my library and selecting recordings somewhat at random, here are three choices for me (sticking for now with Brahms cycles):

Analogue:

Georg Solti: Chicago Symphony Orchestra (1978–1979)

I was actually about to post Kertész but Solti also fits here. His Brahms is nothing like his Wagner; he adapts very well to this repertoire. The sound is great, too, and balanced fairly across all sections, just before the advent of digital recording. On another day, I might have picked Klemperer, or Jochum, or Steinberg, or Walter, or half a dozen others...

Digital:

Claudio Abbado: Berliner Philharmoniker (1988–1991)

Abbado preserved the Karajan sound for this cycle, made just around/just after Karajan's death. Rattle would later completely dismantle it, but the sound, combined with Abbado's unfussy yet impassioned conducting makes for a memorable cycle. Also includes the overtures and other works.


Sergiu Celibidache: Radio-Sinfonieorchester Stuttgart des SWR (1974–1976)

It's hard for me to choose a cycle to "avoid" because I don't really avoid any Brahms cycles; I have a bunch that I love, and some that I only like. This one strikes me as very, very normal, which is a weird feeling to get following a Celibidache performance. It's so normal, in fact, that it doesn't really seem to have much to say. Nothing wrong with it, but I just felt uninspired by the performances in this cycle. I'm no big fan of Celibidache, though, and I find this performances more approachable than his Bruckner, so there's that... but all in all, not really my cup of tea here. But "avoid" seems like a stronger word than I intend; I still listen to these once in a while for variety, even if it's not more than once every few months at most.
Both the Solti and the Abbado sound interesting! I will have to suppress my consumerist urges!
 

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Opus: Ecuatorial by Edgard Varèse

analog

Nonesuch LP (1972)



digital

Erato CD (1996) volume 2



one to avoid ...

... the complete works on Decca/London. Very handy to have Edgard's entire output in a 2-CD set, but the recordings herewithin have a distant/concert sound which appeals to me much less than the closer miking of other studio recordings. Not a poor edition ... but not recommended if one shares my sonic aesthetics.

 

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Discussion Starter · #8 · (Edited)
Opus: Ecuatorial by Edgard Varèse

analog

Nonesuch LP (1972)



digital

Erato CD (1996) volume 2



one to avoid ...

... the complete works on Decca/London. Very handy to have Edgard's entire output in a 2-CD set, but the recordings herewithin have a distant/concert sound which appeals to me much less than the closer miking of other studio recordings. Not a poor edition ... but not recommended if one shares my sonic aesthetics.

Thanks for this! I need to listen to the only Varèse I own, which is this album:

Organism Font Gas Science Event


Edit: The sound quality is incredibly good for the vintage. Quite competitive with modern digital. The repertoire is certainly challenging, too ;-)
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Sibelius symphonies:

ANALOG

Water resources Water Nature Natural landscape Font


This complete Sibelius cycle has lovely sound, very brisk "Nordic" playing, and a very unified account of all seven Sibelius symphonies. It was captured on tape and pressed into vinyl using EMI's "Direct Metal Master" method, in the waning 1980s days of analog vinyl pressings. I guess EMI was somewhat late to the digital party. Either way, it's an extremely credible cycle.

DIGITAL

Natural landscape World Font Twig Line


As soon as I got this, it became my number one complete cycle. The sound is just lush and gorgeous, but bristling with detail. The depth of sound on the basses is quite representative of the best digital, with ragged string vibration coupled with bass that goes down deep into the audible spectrum. This set of recordings also has the climaxes that show off digital recording's dynamic range without breaking up.

AVOID

Water resources Cloud Ecoregion Sky Natural landscape


I just want to state for the record that I am not a Rattle hater. I have several recordings of his with the BPO that I enjoy, such as their Dvorak tone poems. But this Sibelius is a kind of a snooze. It's not even that it's slow, because it actually isn't. It just sounds a bit distant and emotionally detached, which I know isn't a technical description that points to easily identifiable passages, but my favorie Sibelians (such as Karajan and Blomstedt) have me fanning myself off after the conclusion of something like the 1st, 2nd, or the 6th, and this just leaves me cold.
 

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Bruckner symphonies:


Analog

Flash photography Sleeve Gesture Poster Font


I couldn’t decide between Jochum’s DG or EMI bruckner cycles, but I went with the EMI one mainly for the sound of the Staatskapelle Dresden.


Digital

Coat Gesture Font Suit Publication


This is one of the most consistently great Bruckner cycles out there IMO.


One to avoid

Forehead Chin Coat Dress shirt Collar


I know some people really like this cycle, but even though I like the sound of the brass in Dresden, I’m not the biggest fan of the sound Solti gets out of the Chicago Symphony. If I want to hear Chicago, I usually lean towards Barenboim’s first cycle with that orchestra.
 

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I'll jump in with some Rings myself! I'll avoid the ones mentioned already.

Mono:

Clemens Krauss: Orchester der Bayreuther Festspiele (1953)

Stereo (analogue):

Herbert von Karajan: Berliner Philharmoniker (1966–1970)

Digital:

Bernard Haitink: Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks (1988–1991)

Avoid:

Christian Thielemann: Orchester der Bayreuther Festspiele (2008)

The playing is all right but I wasn't that impressed by the singing. To each their own. I haven't heard this recently so I may be misremembering, and I also haven't heard Thielemann's other Ring with the Vienna State Opera. Anyway I think it's crushed by some of its competition.
 

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Karl-Birger Blomdahl's "Facetter" (Symphony No. 3)

analog

Caprice Records' 1982 vinyl LP - (AAD) - recorded November 21, 1980, Sixten Ehrling conducting Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra



digital

BIS 1994 CD (DDD) recorded October 23, 1991, Leif Segerstam conducting Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra


BIS Records - Blomdahl - The Three Symphonies

redundant one

Sixten Ehrling had previously conducted the Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra in an early stereo recording for this opus (February 2, 1958) which surfaced onto a 1970 LP ... but one need not hunt down this version which clocks in 1 minute earlier than their '80s edition. Folks who prefer performance over sonics might instead avoid the '80s Caprice in favor of this vintage.

 

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Oh...this thread could be fun and I see many of you have already been having some fun:

Stravinsky - Le sacre du printemps

ANALOG



I was just revisiting this performance earlier today and was blown away by it yet again. Markevitch not only has complete command over the orchestra and the score itself, but the incisiveness of his performance puts him near the top for me. I mean I own over 50 recordings of Le sacre, but this Markevitch is one performance I continuously come back to time and time again.

DIGITAL



For me, this one of greatest early digital recordings of Le sacre. Precision, power and total command of every nuance and texture this work offers to the listener. Razor-sharp playing from the Clevelanders, too.

AVOID



One of the worse Le sacre performances in my collection. Salonen plays this music like he's got some kind of bus to catch. He recorded this work earlier on Sony when he was much younger and at that time, it was a valid view of the work. This newer one with the LA Philharmonic lacks nuance and I've only listened to this recording once 15 years ago, but I have never felt the need to revisit it. I mean it's like he hasn't matured at all with this work. He's still performing it like hell-on-wheels.
 

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As I scanned through my catalog, I could only find a couple of such cases - maybe I have mentally blocked out other clear avoids! I guess I'll go with this one ... Sibelius Kullervo

ANALOG

Berglund / Bournemouth Symphony

DIGITAL

Berglund / Helsinki Philharmonic

AVOID

Vanska / Lahti Symphony - The slooow tempi and the long pauses make me wonder if Vanska had a case of narcolepsy.

I could perhaps also do Smetana's Ma Vlast but the only clear one is the 'avoid' - Levine / Vienna Phil.
 

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As I scanned through my catalog, I could only find a couple of such cases - maybe I have mentally blocked out other clear avoids! I guess I'll go with this one ... Sibelius Kullervo

ANALOG

Berglund / Bournemouth Symphony

DIGITAL

Berglund / Helsinki Philharmonic

AVOID

Vanska / Lahti Symphony - The slooow tempi and the long pauses make me wonder if Vanska had a case of narcolepsy.

I could perhaps also do Smetana's Ma Vlast but the only clear one is the 'avoid' - Levine / Vienna Phil.
I'll do Kullervo, too:

ANALOG



DIGITAL



AVOID



In his later years, I don't know if it was because LSO Live microphone placement at the time or what, but Davis grunts his way through performances to the point where it's like "Okay, he's louder than the brass." Also, I think his Sibelius LSO Live performances in general don't quite reach the same heights as his earlier BSO cycle (his RCA cycle, also with the LSO, is forgettable).
 
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