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MusicWeb International
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Ralph Moore
   David Barker
Jonathan Woolf
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   Len Mullenger

A List of All-Time Great Recordings


David J Barker
Choosing such a list is both easy and difficult at the same time: easy because some recordings are imprinted in the subconscious from first playing, difficult, because it is the music itself that is providing the greatness and there are numerous recordings that have equal impact and merit.

Imprinted in my memory is the Robert Shaw Firebird suite and Prince Igor dances. This was the first classical LP I bought, back when my only musical interest was the rock music of my generation.

I did find it very difficult with the truly great and famous works to pick one or two recordings that stood out above others, so there is no Beethoven 5 or Mozart 40. I didn't have this problem with Mozart's crowning glory among the piano concertos, the g minor K466 (No. 20): Richard Goode's recording is simply out of this world.

The Bach cantata series from Japan is a case where I could not decide between the 37 volumes thus far released. Certainly some stand out more than others, but in terms of sheer consistency and quality, I felt I couldn't pick just one.

However, it isn't always the great music that provides the great recordings. In fact, it could be argued that the greatest music is almost impossible to ruin, while fair to middling music requires a truly great performance to make it stand out. Bearing witness to this are Stephen Hough's Hummel concertos on Chandos, the Kalliwoda symphonies on CPO, and the first volume of symphonies by the "Swedish Mozart" Johann Kraus on Naxos. Three reasons why the music lover must take the road less travelled!

There are also the instances where the recording brings to mind a memorable concert experience; my list has two examples of this. In January 2002, my wife and I were privileged to hear Fabio Biondi and his band play the Four Seasons in Christopher Wren's Sheldonian Theatre in Oxford - they turned this overplayed and clichéd work back into the masterpiece it is. It may have been cold and foggy outside, but inside, the hot days of summer were interrupted by a thunderstorm crashing around us. The other was the world premiere of the oboe concerto Inflight Entertainment by the Australian composer Graeme Koehne by its dedicatee Diana Doherty and the Sydney Symphony under Edo de Waart in the Opera House. Normally the term "world premiere" fills me with dread, but not this time.

I hope my rather diverse selection (mid-17th century German chamber music to 21st century concerto) provides some food for thought. I know one of my choices has been criticised in a review on this site, and there are probably others. If you do find some of the selections to differ drastically from your own preferences, then just bear in mind that if we all liked the same things, the world would be a very boring place!


Arensky Suites for two pianos Stephen Coombs, Ian Munro Hyperion CDA66755

M Arnold Dances London PO/composer Lyrita SRCD201

JS Bach Cantatas Bach Collegium Japan/Masaaki Suzuki BIS various

JS Bach Goldberg Variations • Angela Hewitt • Hyperion CDA67305

JS Bach Keyboard Concertos Murray Perahia/ASMF Sony SK89245 & SK89690

Beethoven Piano Sonatas Volume 3 Paul Lewis Harmonia Mundi HMC90190608

Beethoven Symphonies 6 & 7 COE/Nikolaus Harnoncourt Teldec 2292 464522

Biber Missa Salisburgensis Musica Antiqua Koln, Gabrieli Consort/Reinhard Goebel, Paul McCreesh Archiv 4576112

Blake Violin concerto Christiane Edinger, English Nthn Phil/Paul Daniel ASV CDDCA905

Braga Santos Symphony 4  Ntl SO Ireland/Alvaro Cassuto  Marco Polo 8.225233

Brahms Piano concertos Emil Gilels, Berlin PO/Eugen Jochum DG 4355882 & 4399792

Brahms Piano trios 1 & 2 Julius Katchen, Josef Suk, Janos Starker Decca 4211522

Brahms/Schumann Piano quintets • Leif Ove Andsnes, Artemis Qt • Virgin Classics 3951432

Elgar Cello concerto, Sea Pictures • Jacqueline du Pre, Janet Baker, London SO/John Barbirolli • EMI 5562192 (currently available on EMI 5628862)

Elgar/Vaughan Williams English string musicSinfonia of London/Sir John Barbirolli EMI 7475372 (currently available on EMI 5672402)

Fauré Piano quartets Domus Hyperion CDA66166

P Glass Violin concerto Adele Anthony, Ulster O/Takuo Yuasa Naxos 8.554568

P Glass 'The Hours' soundtrack Michael Riesman, Lyric Qt Nonesuch 7559 796932

Gorecki Symphony of Sorrowful Songs • Dawn Upshaw, London Sinf/David Zinman • Nonesuch 7559 792822

Handel/D Scarlatti Keyboard works Murray Perahia Sony SK62785

Handel Water music, Royal Fireworks music Tafelmusik/Jeanne Lamon Sony SMK89986

Howells Orchestral works Volume 2 • Yvonne Kenny, Lydia Mordkovitch, London SO/Richard Hickox • Chandos CHAN9557

Hummel Piano Concertos • Stephen Hough, English CO/Bryden Thomson • Chandos CHAN8507

Kalliwoda Symphonies 5 & 7 • Das Neue O/Christoph Spering • CPO 7771392

Koehne Inflight Entertainment • Diana Doherty, Sydney SO/Takuo Yuasa Naxos 8.555847

Kraus Symphonies Volume 1 Swedish CO/Petter Sundkvist Naxos 8.553734

Mozart Le nozze di Figaro Giuseppe Taddei, Anna Moffo, Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, Phil O & Ch/Carlo Maria Giulini EMI 7632662

Mozart Piano concertos 18 & 20 Richard Goode, Orpheus Ch Ens Nonesuch 7559 794392

Mozart Violin concertos Arthur Grumiaux, London SO/Colin Davis Philips 4383232

Preisner Requiem for my friend • Sinfonia Varsovia/Jacek Kaspszyk • Erato 3984 241462

Prokofiev Symphonies 1 & 5 • Berlin PO/Herbert von Karajan • DG 4372532

Puccini La Bohème • Luciano Pavarotti, Mirella Freni, Berlin PO/Herbert von Karajan • EMI 4210492

Respighi The Birds, Ancient Airs and Dances Suites 1-3 • Australian CO/Christopher Lyndon-Gee • Vanguard/Omega OCD1007 (currently available on Vanguard ATM1227)

Rimsky-Korsakov Scheherezade, Capriccio Espagnol London SO/Charles Mackerras Telarc CD80208

Roman Drottningholm music Uppsala CO/Anthony Halstead Naxos 8.55373

Rubbra Symphonies 2 & 6 BBC Wales Ntl O/Richard Hickox Chandos CHAN9481

Scharwenka/Sauer Piano concertos Stephen Hough, City of Birmingham SO/Lawrence Foster Hyperion CDA66790

Schumann/Grieg Piano concertos • Murray Perahia, Bavarian RSO/Colin Davis • Sony MK44899

Shostakovich Symphony 11 Verdi Milan SO/Oleg Caetani Arts 476768

Stravinsky/Borodin Firebird suite, Prince Igor Atlanta SO/Robert Shaw Telarc CD80039

Tchaikovsky Ballet Suites • Berlin PO/Mstislav Rostropovich • DG 4290972

Telemann Concertos Capella Istropolitana/Richard Edlinger Naxos 8.550156

Vaughan Williams Symphonies 3 & 5 New PO, London PO/Sir Adrian Boult EMI 7640182

Vivaldi Four Seasons Europa Galante/Fabio Biondi Opus111 OPS569120

Das Partiturbuch • Ensemble Echo du Danube • Naxos 8.557679

Live at Wigmore HallMarc-Andre Hamelin • Hyperion CDA66765


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