one of the greatest orchestral recordings ever

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not in sound quality, but in the sheer perfection of the performance...

the main piece on it is Dvorak Symphony #8, performed by the Cleveland Orchestra under George Szell. however, this is NOT the early/mid 60's recordings on the Sony/Columbia label - this is a special EMI Japanese import, very hard to find but worth it! i believe it is either the last or 2nd to last recording that Maestro Szell made, along with another amazing recording of Schubert "Great" symphony. They were made in 1969 or 1970 (don't have the CD on me now sorry).

this is probably the greatest ensemble playing i have ever heard from a symphony orchestra, and a side of Szell many may not have heard before - warm, thoughtful, tender, and incredibly beautifully phrased; much less dry than the more popular recordings on Sony. the orchestra had been honed to perfection by this time, and they play with an amazing conviction, sensitivity, and unity - you really must hear it to believe it.

the sound quality is not bad either, but not great. it sounds like the mic placement was very good (a mid-hall rather than on-stage presentation, with lots of hall ambience), but i think the tape has degraded a bit over the years, and maybe the remaster job was not so great. these shortcomings are not enough to impede enjoyment of this remarkable performance. this is easily the most treasured CD that i own - i'm currently searching for the other recording of the Schubert 9.
Don't bother with the Columbia reissues

of Szell's work. They really stink. It's a disgrace that the Orchestra would allow such awful reproduction, but I guess they had a deal -- too bad Telarc wasn't the successor.

I pick up the Szell's recordings now and again on EBay -- I grew up in Cleveland when he was conductor and orchestra leader, At one concert he stopped the performance as there were so many people who had coughs -- he asked them to leave!

BTW, the organ in Severance Hall has been completely rebuilt and it sounds phenomenal.
the Columbia reissues are not Living Stereo recordings, but theyr'e not all that bad either. well, they vary from bad to acceptable. the Dvorak Slavonic Dances on SACD is actually pretty good sound quality, and the performance is excellent. and the performances of the Schumann symphonies are definitive.
remembering what you posted about your background, i just was wondering how long it took you to find that music board.

Thank you for your hint :) i will grabb it if i see it. Szell? Must be existent on vinyl, with patience anything can be found :)

I like Szells Mozart performances very much, any of them.

As you hinted to that particular performance, am i allowed to add my preferred orchstral performances? or is this threadjacking? :)
hi bernhard,

let's hear it! would love to see what recordings you like. i must say i have a strong preference for european orchestras (the exceptions being american orchestras from the "golden age," e.g. Chicago under Reiner, Cleveland under Szell, etc.), so i'm interested to hear what you like over there in deutschland.

Szell is widely praised for his Mozart, but my definitive recording of the late symphonies is actually of Berlin Phil. under Karl Bohm. the tempi are on the slow side for my tastes but the exquisite phrasing and tonal quality more than makes up for it in my book. what i really find Szell definitive for is his Strauss (e.g. Don Juan) and Schumann symphonies, among others. some of his Beethoven overtures are also thrilling, thought his symphonies can be a little dry. however, my teacher, who was concertmaster under Szell for many years, noted how many recordings of Szell don't do his interpretations full justice. i heard a live tape of the La Forza del Destino overture and it was incredible - as polished as the recordings but with more energy and passion. i feel that the last two recordings of Szell - the Dvorak i mentioned and the Schubert "Great", both recorded in 1970 i believe - are the culmination of his artistry.

other orchestral recordings i like - most any recording of Vienna or Berlin with a good conductor is a safe bet. not a huge Karajan fan but i like his earlier work (in his later years he got too impressionistic for my tastes, too much texture and color not enough definition.) Berlin under Furtwangler made some amazing music. i have a recording of Schubert 9 with Vienna/Gardiner that i love. hmm, what else... Concertgebouw/Haittink a little dry at times but their 1970's recording of Debussy La Mer is absolutely phenomenal (and excellent recorded sound too). oh, let's not forget Munich/Celibidache of course - haven't heard too many recordings but what i have heard is excellent. did you go to any concerts in Munich under him?

oh, almost forgot two other incredible orchestral performances in my collection:

Stravinsky Rite of Spring, Cleveland/Boulez - get the 1960's recording on Sony, NOT the later one on DG. THE definitive Rite of Spring.

Berlioz Symphonie fantastique, Vienna/Sir Colin Davis. probably my favorite living conductor. the performance is exquisite. not the most wildly passionate interpretation (a little "buttoned-up" i suppose) but the playing is ravishingly beautiful. the waltz movement in particular is tops.
ok, let me see. My preferences are vinyl-based with one exception, tracing the recordings on :cd: is up to you all. I am unable to limit myself to a best, most preferred orchestral performance.

I am not that deep into composed music for the Romantic Era, but as mention Dvorak, like the 9th symphony recording ("From The New World") on Decca UK very much: Istvan Kertesz cond. LSO or LPO (not VPO!! which i own the re-issue from and do not like). In fact, only Dvorak 9th i can be convinced to follow thru if ion certain mood. I do not only like this recording, i "buy" it, emotionally. BTW, as an add-on, sonics are breathtaking if the original pressing (black/wide band) is spinning. But my preference for the recording is purely musical.

My most preferred orchestral recordings (an utterly German choice :) ):
Ludwig Van Beethoven, 5th symphony, Serge Koussevitzky cond the BSO. My undisputed preference. Koussevitzky is the only one to succeed in merging 3rd and 4th movement completely. His Gestaltwille (best translated as: will to shape, to design, to model) and his powerful, mighty but not fast way to drive the work forward is something i like very much. The performance has a magic tautness. And then, it is genuine, differntiated, undiluted Beethoven.
Just, it is not an audiophile jewel.
Ludwig van Beethoven, 5th symphony, Erich Kleiber cond. the Concertgebouw Orch.of Amsterdam. My second best choice for the 5th. A bit more bombastic, a bit less of that magic tautness that the Koussevitzky recording has. Oh yes, and 3rd and 4th mvmnt fall apart, albeit not near as severe as with almost all other performances.
Audiophile jewel, best mono recording on vinyl IMO. Outperforming many stereos. Who has not top-notch cartridge with spherical stylus, better hunt the LXT 5358 (released 1958), but who has (may i hint to the Andreoli cartridges?) is better on with the early original, LXT 2851 recorded 1953 and released 1954.
Ludwig van Beethoven, 3rd symphony, Erich Kleiber cond. the Concertgebouw Orch.of Amsterdam. My preferred choice for the 3rd.

Both 3rd and 5th available as CD on Decca , order code 467-125-2
CD hint here: go and hunt Herrmann Scherchens rehearsing and conducting of Beethovens 5th symphony with the . Orchestra della Svizzeria Italiana .My copy is on the Aura label, order code AUR 138-2 ADD.
Different in style but very close quality-wise to the Koussevitzky recording . Particularly the rehearsal has a magic mood. Undisturbed by the fact that the conductor gives hints and explanations and orders to the orchestra now and then.
Ludwig van Beethoven, 6th symphony "Pastorale", Erich Kleiber cond. the LSO. My undisputed preference for the 6th; have to top that: the only 6th sounding 6th sounding like Beethoven. I have a crappy Ace-of-clubs pressing; who provides me with a 1st pressing in decent condition gets a :hug: and :$::$::$:
While we are on Beethoven,
Violin concerto with David Oistrakh, violin and with Sixten Ehrling cond. the Festival Orch.Stockholm.
There are other fine Oistrakh performances but this one has the best orchestral part, Orchestra and soloist talk with each other and support each other on euqla terms.
With many other performances i have got the feeling "Romantic Era opus". With this one: Beethoven, undiluted unaltered Beethoven. See my 6th symphony preference, same story. :)
J.S.Bach, Brandenburg concertos, Karl Münchinger conducting the Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra, with Irmgard Lechner at the harpsichord. Decca LXT 5512/5513.
Errrr, make that any Karl Münchinger recording available of Bach's orchestral works.
Each and any Mozart recording with Peter Maag or Igor Marchevitch or George Szell as conductor. And i grow to like conductor Karl Böhm more and more.
Just obtained Böhm/Pollini piano concertos, sheer beauty! :cloud9:
Stravinsky, Rite of spring:
dorkus, here i disagree.
I have the 1960 Boulez performance on CBS, later SonyClassical. Very good indeed as a performance of modern orchestral music; the orchestra plays flawless but the conducting is academic and brain-oriented.
Heck, this is ballet music and as such, it must be danceable and imaginable as such. And it is depicting a barbaric ritual, a sacrifice of a human being. not an outrigth brain-orineted situation, atleast in my book.
Listen to Pierre Monteux cond. the Paris Conservatoire Orchestra, RCA Victor LSC-2085.
I know, this is temple desecration in two respects. 1st, Boulez is considered undisupted master and demi-god of 20thcentury music conducting. 2nd, the Monteux performance is know to have had way less than sufficent rehearsal time and the RCA bible heaps scorn on less than sufficent orchestra performance. And is right with this (peanuts! :irked: ). And probably is also right with the hint that better Monteux performances exist on shellac.

I don't care, i do know this one. Monteux gets the less than average orchestra to play the music as ballet music and as an entirety pleasing body and brain as well.
The tension never slips, rhythmics are simply getting you, the barbaric ritual and almost bloodyminded mood as well. And on the brain level, i must say that Monteux shapes a way more different and plausible image than Boulez.
Monteux' conducting is massive and solid entirety while Boulez' conducting remains
a mosaic not perfectly fitting together.

Dorkus, sorry being the critic here, i loathe it. But this is my opinion.
The Mercury SR90316 "Vienna 1908-1914" (Schoenberg, 5 pieces for orchestra op.16; Webern, 5 pieces for orchestra op.10; Berg, 3 pieces for orchestra op.6; Antal Dorati cond. LSO).
Where other performances break into pieces, this performance is completely consistent and subsequent, it is highly detailed and always plausible, i "buy" it emotionally. And rhythmically it is outright outstanding, particularly in the slow passages, it makes my foot tap all the time.
And tension is just grabbing me from the 1st moment. The five Webern pieces are the tautest, most clinker-free orchestral compositions i know. IMO this applies to Anton Webern in general.
About the sonics of this recording, i raved elsewhere, IMO the best sonics i ever heard coming from a vinyl groove.

Last w/e at the Frantkurt AAA show, i attended a demo of professional equipment, EMT TT and very good studio speakers and i just wanted to test sonic performance. So i asked if i was allowed to play that record and, for fairness to unprepared innocent listeners, announced it as "close to acoustical warfare" :). 2/3 of the people left. None of those who stayed left while the music played and as Herr Dusch, the nice guy who ran the demo, asked if this could be stopped now (he obvioulsy was into a bit more easy listening :D), i accepted at once :guilty:. Looked into the faces of the others present, found regretting this had to stop and one guy objected this to be acoustical warfare.
dorkus said:
oh, almost forgot two other incredible orchestral performances in my collection:

Stravinsky Rite of Spring, Cleveland/Boulez - get the 1960's recording on Sony, NOT the later one on DG. THE definitive Rite of Spring.

Actually, another recording of Rite of Spring that is really outstanding, preformance-wise, is the Detroit Symphony Orchestra with Antal Dorati.
I love the CSO/Reiner recording of Rimsky-Korsakov Scheherazade. I also have a video tape of the CSO with Reiner doing Hindemith Symphonic Metamorphosis that is spectacular. The Minnesota Orchestra/Oue recording of Strauss Alpine Symphony is one of the best ever. I love the passionate playing of the Cleveland Orch./Szell in their 60s recording of Strauss Don Juan, Death and Trnsfiguration and Til Eulenspiegel. The horn playing on "Til" is wonderful!
diyAudio Senior Member
Joined 2002

Hi guys,

Actually, another recording of Rite of Spring that is really outstanding, preformance-wise, is the Detroit Symphony Orchestra with Antal Dorati.

And would that be on Mercury Living Presence vinyl by any chance?

I love it when Dorati is conducting,emotional without overdoing,never too cerebral.

Too bad all that vinyl is now probably sitting with collectors that probably never listen to their records in the first place.

Do any of you listen to chambermusic BTW?

See you,:)
1) Sony Szell 2) Mercury Living Pres

1)due to the urging of forum members I purchased the re-re-issued Szell performance of the Dvorak Slavonic Dances. I should never go into Tower Records before the Met Opera !

2) Mercury Living Presence -- I amassed a collection via EBay -- about 6 of the recordings which had been favorably re-reviewed in Brit and US hifi mags. Initially (in the late 1999) there werent' that many people looking for them on Ebay so you could buy 'em for a buck. I don't know if this has changed.

for many unknown Mercurys this has not changed much. Many were outstanding recordings but not up to the standard performance-wise. With Dorati as exception in many cases, not in all.

But those records with fancy performances **and** fancy recording call fancy prices meanwhile. >$100 easy.
My buddy Peter had somehow laid his hands on a white Promo of the "Vienna 1908-14" i raved about above. I congratulated him .... months later it turned out he wanted to tease me, he did not like the music. He was very fond of the Prokofiev "dance of the 3 oranges" of which he had a copy having only inferior condition. So, still teasing me, he said that if i could lay my hands on a mint minus copy of this record, he would be willing to trade. He considered my chance to get it to be zero. I asked if he meant it serious.
3 weeks later i had it, from ebay. $155.
He got what he asked for and i got my Vienna promo. :cloud9:

Many talk bad about ebay today. Particularly in Germany. I do not.
Before ebay, the 3 oranges as well as the Vienna were $800 - $1000 or more and $2000 as promo.

Such prices still happen for real collectors items. Task Johanna Martzy; the right British Columbia pressings of certain Dvorak and Bach recordings climb well over UKP 600 per record.
Recently the complete J.S.Bach violin sonatas/partitias went to $1800 for 3 records. Should you wonder if this is only a collectors item or if she also plays well, well, who am i to judge if $1800 are justified ... all i can say is: she is one of the few i can stand playing this Bach stuff. She does it extremely well, just, it is very romantic. I have it on CD.
Just like Pablo Casals on the cello. Yes, Martzy and Casals are of the same kind, looking at their approach.
My other preference for Bach is Henryk Szeryng and Otto Büchner (playing with a round bow), and Anner Bylsma on the cello. I guess i raved about them elsewhere :)

For $1800 i would order another record and still have money left for a big fat Lundahl transformer order. The record would be the Carmen Suite, LSC-2449.
I have been collecting the Mercury Living Presence and RCA Living Stereo CD re-issues and I like them all.

Interesting to note that the early releases of Mussorgsky's Pictures sounds more somber and solemn than the newer Reference Recordings relese by Ouji. It seems that the character of the music was artificially lightened...

To me the older versions have a sense of cloudy days, while the new ones as being sunny,,,,I prefer the old versions.

If the last movement of Pictures (The Great Gates of Kiev) doesnt move you emotionally, dont know what will....
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