Which conductors do you like? Need some help...

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danglam
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Which conductors do you like? Need some help...

Post by danglam » Fri Jan 26, 2007 8:49 pm

Hi, this is my first post here so I hope it will pay...
I came to notice that it really makes a big difference to me who is conducting the piece I'm listening to. The way a conductor interprets a musical piece can make it sound completely different.
Currently, I am not listening to a very lot of different pieces. I am mainly listening to:
Brahms - 3rd (which I absolutely love!) and 4th symphonies
Dvorak - Cello concerto in B minor, Op. 104
Dvorak - From the New World
Beethoven - 6th and 9th symphonies
Mozart - Requiem
and some more stuff that I "pick up"...

I hope I won't be stoned for saying this, but I listened to Karajan doing Dvorak's cello concerto + From the New World and Beethoven's 9th, and came to the the (perhaps rash?) conclusion that I really don't like him... It always seems like he's "running", and that he doesn't give each rhythm it's deserved attention... His recordings sound really technical to me... Does anyone agree?
I really like a piece to sound like it's trying to tell a story. For example, I think Bruno Walter's recording of Beethoven's 6th with the Columbia SO is really moving. Perhaps this is the word that I should emphasize, **moving**.

Can you recommend me on any more such recordings? I will be happy to get recommendations to any of the pieces that I've listed above in particular, and about different conductors in general.

Thanks!!!

Barry
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Post by Barry » Fri Jan 26, 2007 8:58 pm

I don't think anyone is going to stone you for not liking Karajan. He's got plenty of detractors, although I like him.

Since you like Walter's recording of Beethoven's sixth, you might also like his Columbia Symphony recordings of Brahms second and third symphonies (I happen to prefer his NY Philharmonic recordings of the same symphonies, but they fall more in the category of historic recordings.
You might also like Giulini, who tended to use slowish tempos and had a nice flow to his performances. Klemperer may also be to your liking.

My personal favorite is Furtwangler. Based on what you've written, I suspect you might like some of his work too. But again, they are historic performances in mono and often not real good sound. You're better off learning the music from modern-sounding recordings, then trying the real old stuff. But when you're ready, definately give Furtwangler a shot. His Beethoven is sensational.
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Post by jbuck919 » Fri Jan 26, 2007 9:05 pm

Welcome here, and I hope you are never "stoned" at all. :D

Others will be far more helpful here, but I will say that you are far from the only one who has had that or similar jaundiced impressions of the recordings of Karajan, so don't feel alone. Sometimes our instinctive reaction remains our best guide.

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Sapphire
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Post by Sapphire » Sat Jan 27, 2007 1:27 am

These are my choices:

Brahms 3rd - Klemperer/Philharmonia

Dvorak Cello concerto in B minor, Op. 104 - Rostropovich/LPO

Dvorak New World - Reiner/Chicago (many others sound OK too)

Beethoven 6th - Karl Bohm/ VPO (the VPO at its best here)

Beethoven 9th - Furtwangler 1951 Bayreuth Festival, and Klemperer 98 re-mastered version

Mozart Requiem - Karajan/BPO (you probably have it)

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Post by RebLem » Sat Jan 27, 2007 4:25 am

Saphire wrote:These are my choices:

Brahms 3rd - Klemperer/Philharmonia

Dvorak Cello concerto in B minor, Op. 104 - Rostropovich/LPO

Dvorak New World - Reiner/Chicago (many others sound OK too)

Beethoven 6th - Karl Bohm/ VPO (the VPO at its best here)

Beethoven 9th - Furtwangler 1951 Bayreuth Festival, and Klemperer 98 re-mastered version

Mozart Requiem - Karajan/BPO (you probably have it)
And mine:

Brahms 3 & 4--Solti, CSO, also Szell in 3rd.
Dvorak Cello Concerto: Rostropovich, Talich, Czech Phil.
Dvorak New World: Zdenek Macal, London Phil.
Beethoven 6: Szell/CO, best MOR recording. Toscanini/NBC SO--very lyrical performance, Solti/CSO, very dramatic. Monteux/LSO is very good, too.
Beethoven 9--Szell/CO for first 2 movements, Toscanini/NBC for last movement, Mengelberg/Concertgebouw for 3rd movement, Zander for radical rethinking of whole work, esp the 3rd movement, Tennstedt--any one of a number of recordings; he was a pretty consistent conductor.
Mozart Requiem--Giulini.

I am least confident about the last recommendation.
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jserraglio
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Post by jserraglio » Sat Jan 27, 2007 8:16 am

Brahms 3: Ansermet
Brahms 4: Ansermet
Dvorak Cello Concerto: Jacqueline du Pre-Barenboim
Dvorak New World: Stokowski
Beethoven 6: Walter (Philly, if you can find it)
Beethoven 9: Cluytens
Mozart Requiem: Scherchen

Jack Kelso
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Post by Jack Kelso » Fri Feb 09, 2007 6:53 am

These are some of my all-time favorite recordings of great symphonies:

Haydn: The London Symphonies (Beecham/Royal Phil.)
Beethoven: Third Symphony (Schmidt-Isserstedt/Vienna Phil.)
Beethoven: Sixth Symphony (Reiner/Chicago Sym.)
Schumann: Third Symphony (Karajan/Berlin Phil.)*
Schumann: Fourth Symphony (Klemperer/Philharmonia Orch.)
Bruckner: Fourth Symphony (Walter/Columbia Sym.)
Brahms: Fourth Symphony (Carlos Kleiber/Vienna Phil.)

(*Yes! Believe it or not---Karajan!)

Some of these are next to impossible to find anymore.

Tschüß!
Jack
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Hondo
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Re: Which conductors do you like? Need some help...

Post by Hondo » Sat Feb 10, 2007 2:21 pm

danglam wrote:

"I hope I won't be stoned for saying this, but I listened to Karajan doing Dvorak's cello concerto + From the New World and Beethoven's 9th, and came to the the (perhaps rash?) conclusion that I really don't like him."

Karajan was a very controversial conductor for many reasons. For one, he recorded an incredible number of works, and many several times over (Bethoven symphonies, as an example). Not every conductor can conduct everything well, and Karajan was cetainly one of those. Some of the outstanding recordings he made include:

- Beethoven - Nine Symphonies (1977 - DGG)
- Sibelius - 4th Symphony
- Debussy - La Mer
- Beethoven - Missa Solemnis (DGG)

Gabe[/b]

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Post by anton_jerez » Sat Feb 10, 2007 3:21 pm

While I am usually no great fan of Karajan I still think he was one of the best Brahms conductors of his generation. His 1978 symphony cycle with the Berliner Philharmoniker is very good. But if I would have to pick out the gem among all his Brahms recordings it would have to be the recording of the 3rd with the Wiener Philharmoniker, made in the 60ies. I don´t think anybody beats his conducting of the andante and the finale. In the andante he perfectly captures the almost fairytale mood (reminds me of Humperdinck´s Hansel and Gretel) with a flowing tempo that never drags. The strings and woodwinds of the orchestra play like magic. In the finale Karajan beats up a passionate frenzy that makes me sweat with pleasure everytime I listen to the recording. The music burns ironhot like magma from a volcano.

As for the 4th symphony I second the recommendation of Kleiber with the Wiener Philharmoniker. Near perfect tempos and conducting throughout.

A classic recording of Dvorak´s 9th that I think is something special is Ferenc Fricsay with the Berlin Philharmonics.

And since many of you here on the list seem to be such an oldfashioned bunch of nostalgics I would recommend Gardiner or Herrewhege in period instrument recordings of Mozart´s requiem.

Best wishes
Antonio Jerez

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Post by Lance » Sat Feb 10, 2007 8:44 pm

Just selecting favourite conductors without mentioning actual compositions seems like a good thing to do here. Surely no single conductor can present the music of every single composer he performs will be the best every. But in general terms, I tend more toward the conductors of the last half of the twentieth century, such as:

Dimitri Mitropoulos
Serge Koussevitzky
Pierre Monteux (almost everything)
Wilhelm Furtwängler
Leopold Stokowski
Otto Klemperer (but only in a few things, Beethoven's 6th for example)
Fritz Reiner
Bruno Walter (Brahms symphonies, particularly)
George Szell
Sir Thomas Beecham
Charles Munch
Arturo Toscanini
Ernest Ansermet
Ferenc Fricsay
Fritz Lehmann
Eduard van Beinum
Rafael Kubelik
William Steinberg
Leonard Bernstein

The list could go on much longer, but those are among the highlights. I'm not alone in much of these names. The classical music world, in general, seems to gravitate to the recordings of the conductors. Like you, I'm not a great von Karajan fan but still recognize his musical genius. One favourite recordings of his that I do enjoy very much is Gustav Holst's The Planets on DGG.

The reasons for these selections generally rests with the conductors' extraordinary musical precision and balances, the deeply human feelings conveyed to the listener (you walk away knowing something is very special, indeed), the general sonority of the orchestra (something Stokowski was known for especially), and the individual personality these great musicians brought to their music-making.
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Heck148
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Post by Heck148 » Sat Feb 10, 2007 11:39 pm

>>Which conductors do you like??>>

that's a big question, of course - but to start with, a conductor must be effective in many different styles, use a full dynamic range, and make full use of the extensive colors of the orchestral palette...

I tend to like the conductors who are "drivers" - who really let the orchestra play out, with a wide dynamic range, and often, but not always, hard-driving tempi....
of course, they must be able to play the dolce, cantabile, long lyrical lines as well....

some favorites of this genre:

Reiner
Toscanini
Solti
Mravinsky
Bernstein
Abbado
are a few examples. these guys can really "light it up" - give the orchestra the "Green light", so to speak.
Szell, and Kertesz can do this also...

of course, there are other great conductors who aren't known as such hard drivers, but get great results anyway -
Walter
Monteux
Stokowski
Rozhdestvensky
Levine,
to name just a few

anasazi
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Post by anasazi » Sun Feb 11, 2007 3:54 am

What about conductor-less groups like Orpheus? Although, actually they do sort of have a conductor: all of them.

Here are some of my favorites, and my reasons:

Stokowski: an orchestra builder (Cincy and Philly) and a programmer of contemporary music par excellence.

Szell: his Cleveland Orchestra came out of nowhere to become, critically, the sine qua non. His influence on their sound is still there.

Bernstein: the conductor who became (or defined) that to millions of TV viewers. The first 'rock star' conductor.

I don't mean to say that these conductors are always favorites when I buy CDs. Just that they have had an influence on us long after their passing.

There are hundreds of fine conductors and orchestras. Fine performances abound. When it comes to picking conductors based on musical criteria, it is obvious that so many can do justice to the music, and it becomes more and more a personal perspective.

And I will add a favorite that has not been mentioned so far, Andre Previn.
I think he is better as a 'technician' than as a 'leader', but here we have a conductor/pianist/jazz artist/composer/arranger, etc. This man really has all of the musical credentials, and yet has been seemingly on a downward spiral ever since his days with the LSO in the 1970 's.
"Take only pictures, leave only footprints" - John Muir.

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Post by Heck148 » Sun Feb 11, 2007 10:35 am

anasazi wrote: Stokowski: an orchestra builder
orchestra builders are few and far between these days...it's the nature of the industry - conductors are always on the move, being seen and heard in as many places as possible...

conductors generally don't spend enough time with just one orchestra to really develop their own sound.

Reiner and Monteux were probably the greatest orchestra builders of all-time. their methods were diametrically opposed - Reiner was a nasty domineering SOB, and Monteux was a courteous, considerate teacher.
one thing they had in common was the ultimate respect [if not affection in Reiner's case] of the musicians for their superb musicianship.
Toscanini, Stokowski were very effective too, and to a slightly lesser degree, Dorati...
Szell, of course did a great job with Cleveland, bringing it to the front ranks.

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Post by Hondo » Sun Feb 11, 2007 12:51 pm

heck148 wrote:

"Reiner and Monteux were probably the greatest orchestra builders of all-time. their methods were diametrically opposed - Reiner was a nasty domineering SOB, and Monteux was a courteous, considerate teacher.
one thing they had in common was the ultimate respect [if not affection in Reiner's case] of the musicians for their superb musicianship.
Toscanini, Stokowski were very effective too, and to a slightly lesser degree, Dorati..."

I disagree with your last sentence: Dorati was one of the great orchestra re-builders. He was credited with re-building the Minneapolis, BBC Symphony, London and National Symphony Orchestras. He wasn't particulary nasty like Reiner, nor courteous like Monteux, but he certainly got the job done!

Gabe

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Post by Hondo » Sun Feb 11, 2007 1:05 pm

Lance wrote:

"Just selecting favourite conductors without mentioning actual compositions seems like a good thing to do here. Surely no single conductor can present the music of every single composer he performs will be the best every. But in general terms, I tend more toward the conductors of the last half of the twentieth century..."

I love your list! Especially Koussevitzky, Fricsay, Mitropoulos and Munch. Being a displaced Bostonian, I had the opportunity to hear Munch conduct both in Boston and Tanglewood. His recordings of Berlioz have never been equaled by anyone, not even the fabled Berliozian Colin Davis! The only conductor I would have added to your list was Weingartner whose recordings of the Beethoven and Brahms symphonies are still up there with the best.

Gabe

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Post by rogch » Sun Feb 11, 2007 1:24 pm

I think Harnoncourt can be recommended in most of the works mentioned in danglam's first post. In particular if you already own recordings of these works, he can be a refreshing alternative. Harnoncourt is a rather paradoxical conductor: He started as one of the pioneers on period instruments, but now he has developed into something of a maestro. Like few other conductors these days he has the courage to do personal interpretations of famous works. At the same time he is the only conductor i know of who has been criticized in Gramophone for reading the score too well.

I second the recommendations for Furtwängler, Reiner and Monteux. And Bernard Haitink seldom puts a foot wrong even if he is not as spectacular as some other conductors (but he is far from boring).
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Heck148
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Post by Heck148 » Sun Feb 11, 2007 1:33 pm

Hondo wrote:to a slightly lesser degree, Dorati..."

I disagree with your last sentence: Dorati was one of the great orchestra re-builders. He was credited with re-building the Minneapolis, BBC Symphony, London and National Symphony Orchestras. He wasn't particulary nasty like Reiner, nor courteous like Monteux, but he certainly got the job done!
I didn't mean to slight Dorati, because his accomplishments were indeed considerable, he was truly an fine orchestra builder...I don't put him quite on the level of Reiner or Monteux, but that's only because their records were so amazing...

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Post by pizza » Sun Feb 11, 2007 2:26 pm

Horenstein was one of the great Mahler conductors of all time. His 1st, 3rd and 4th are among the best and his 8th is without equal. He never really had an orchestra of his own, but he did have a fine working relationship with the London SO in in his later years.

Celibidache, Jochum, Skrowaczewski and Wand must be mentioned as the great Bruckner conductors of their time. Celi rebuilt the Munich PO and turned it into one of the great European orchestras.

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Post by Lance » Sun Feb 11, 2007 3:24 pm

Hondo wrote:Lance wrote:

"Just selecting favourite conductors without mentioning actual compositions seems like a good thing to do here. Surely no single conductor can present the music of every single composer he performs will be the best every. But in general terms, I tend more toward the conductors of the last half of the twentieth century..."

I love your list! Especially Koussevitzky, Fricsay, Mitropoulos and Munch. Being a displaced Bostonian, I had the opportunity to hear Munch conduct both in Boston and Tanglewood. His recordings of Berlioz have never been equaled by anyone, not even the fabled Berliozian Colin Davis! The only conductor I would have added to your list was Weingartner whose recordings of the Beethoven and Brahms symphonies are still up there with the best.

Gabe
Oh, no question. I have those Weingartner Beethoven symphonies on a Japanese LP set that is still magnificent ... and have them on CD as well. I collect his recordings voraciously! Weingartner remains a favourite, but I was mostly referring to those conductors from about 1950 forward. The "extended" list also included Willem Mengelberg among others. Koussevitzky didn't make it very far past the half-century mark of the twentieth century, yet his recordings are still wonderful and fullfilling these many years later. His Sibelius Second Symphony (the second recording) is among the best of the work I have ever heard. It seems like we share similar views!
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Re: Which conductors do you like? Need some help...

Post by rogch » Mon Feb 12, 2007 11:45 am

Hondo wrote:da

Karajan was a very controversial conductor for many reasons. For one, he recorded an incredible number of works, and many several times over (Bethoven symphonies, as an example). Not every conductor can conduct everything well, and Karajan was cetainly one of those. Some of the outstanding recordings he made include:

- Beethoven - Nine Symphonies (1977 - DGG)
- Sibelius - 4th Symphony
- Debussy - La Mer
- Beethoven - Missa Solemnis (DGG)

Gabe[/b]
Karajan was not only good in Sibelius' fourth, he has plenty of good Sibelius recordings both with the Berlin PO and the Philharmonia orchestra. His 1963 cycle of Beethoven's symphonies is often considered to be the best. I found it slightly disappointing though, it would not surprise me if i liked his later cycle better. There are some splendid recordings from this stage of his career and later: The Brahms and Bruckner symphony cycles, his Mahler recordings and Schönberg's Verklarte Nacht.
Roger Christensen

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Artur Schnabel

Brendan

Post by Brendan » Mon Feb 12, 2007 5:18 pm

I would have thought Beecham would rate a mention as an orchestra builder - so I am.

Leibowitz (sp) used to be championed in these parts quite a bit, and his LvB9 at least is superb.

Karajan's Scheherezade and Concerto for Orchestra are my favourite pieces of his, along with Sibelius.

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Re: Which conductors do you like? Need some help...

Post by Jack Kelso » Tue Feb 13, 2007 1:14 am

rogch wrote:
Hondo wrote:da

Karajan was a very controversial conductor for many reasons. For one, he recorded an incredible number of works, and many several times over (Bethoven symphonies, as an example). Not every conductor can conduct everything well, and Karajan was cetainly one of those. Some of the outstanding recordings he made include:

- Beethoven - Nine Symphonies (1977 - DGG)
- Sibelius - 4th Symphony
- Debussy - La Mer
- Beethoven - Missa Solemnis (DGG)

Gabe[/b]
Karajan was not only good in Sibelius' fourth, he has plenty of good Sibelius recordings both with the Berlin PO and the Philharmonia orchestra. His 1963 cycle of Beethoven's symphonies is often considered to be the best. I found it slightly disappointing though, it would not surprise me if i liked his later cycle better. There are some splendid recordings from this stage of his career and later: The Brahms and Bruckner symphony cycles, his Mahler recordings and Schönberg's Verklarte Nacht.
Yes, Karajan was excellent with Beethoven---but spotty with Schumann, Wagner, Bruckner and Brahms. But DO get hold of his Schumann 3rd, it will turn ANYONE on to this masterpiece who may have up to now had trouble finding the "desert-isle-performance".

And I prefer his Brahms 1st with the Vienna Phil (old RCA).

Tschüß,
Jack
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Post by anton_jerez » Tue Feb 13, 2007 1:34 pm

rogch wrote:I think Harnoncourt can be recommended in most of the works mentioned in danglam's first post. In particular if you already own recordings of these works, he can be a refreshing alternative. Harnoncourt is a rather paradoxical conductor: He started as one of the pioneers on period instruments, but now he has developed into something of a maestro. Like few other conductors these days he has the courage to do personal interpretations of famous works.
Yes, I agree that Harnoncourt is a good bet among modern recordings in the works mentioned. His Dvorak no 9 with the Concertgebouw is among the best there is. And his Dvorak no 8 (also with Concertgebouw) is the BEST I have ever heard. The sound of this live recording is fabolous. Every phrase of the score breaths in this interpretation. And the way the Concertgebouw brass roar and stomp in the finale has to be heard to be believed.

Best wishes

Antonio Jerez

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Post by johnshade » Tue Feb 13, 2007 1:59 pm

If I was looking through a bin of CDs to buy (and didn't know the recording), these are a few of conductors I believe I could trust:
Abbado, Barbirolli, Beecham, Bernstein, Böhm, Davis Colin, Dorati, Gardiner, Karajan, Kleiber Carlos, Klemperer, Kubelik, Monteux, Reiner, Rodzinski, Solti, Szell, Toscanini, Walter
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Post by val » Wed Feb 14, 2007 8:04 am

Regarding the repertories, here are some of my favorite conductors:

MOZART: Bruno Walter, Szell, Beecham, Giulini, Fritz Busch, Böhm and, regarding his recent recording of the 38 and 41 Symphonies, René Jacobs.

BEETHOVEN: Furtwängler, Toscanini, Bruno Walter, Reiner, Monteux, Erich and Carlos Kleiber, Karajan, Jochum.

SCHUBERT / SCHUMANN / BRAHMS: Cantelli, Sawallisch, Walter, Furtwängler, Carlos Kleiber, Toscanini, Rudolf Kempe, Karl Böhm, Giulini.

BRUCKNER: Jochum, Van Beinum, Giulini, Knappertsbusch, Böhm, Furtwängler.

20th CENTURY MUSIC: Monteux, Ansermet, Boulez, Ancerl, Szell, Reiner, Ferencsik, Mravinsky, Kondrachin, Munch, Abbado, Atherton, Gielen.

Barry
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Re: Which conductors do you like? Need some help...

Post by Barry » Wed Feb 14, 2007 10:15 am

Jack Kelso wrote: Yes, Karajan was excellent with Beethoven---but spotty with Schumann, Wagner, Bruckner and Brahms. But DO get hold of his Schumann 3rd, it will turn ANYONE on to this masterpiece who may have up to now had trouble finding the "desert-isle-performance".
I'd say HvK was up there with Jochum as the two best Bruckner conductors on record. His Wagner orchestral excerpts on EMI are also classics.
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Re: Which conductors do you like? Need some help...

Post by xiaopv » Wed Feb 14, 2007 10:58 am

Barry Z wrote: I'd say HvK was up there with Jochum as the two best Bruckner conductors on record. His Wagner orchestral excerpts on EMI are also classics.
Recently I have a chance to compare Wagner's orchestral excerpts by Karajan, Klemperer and Tennstedt. Klemperer is still my favourite in these pieces.

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Post by pizza » Wed Feb 14, 2007 4:20 pm

Kondrashin was an excellent all-round conductor and I just recently discovered his Mahler recordings, most of which are superb.

Rakhlin was also a fine Soviet conductor whose work is not as well known in the West as it should be. His recording of Gliere's 3rd Symphony, Ilya Mourometz is simply amazing.

Leon Botstein is another for whom I have great respect. I'm currently attending his "Discovery Series" with the JSO -- unusual repertoire that's rarely played -- and enjoying it immensely.

And where Mexican and South American music is concerned, there are some wonderful conductors, including Luis Herrera de la Fuente, Enrique Batiz, Fernando Lozano and Eduardo Mata.

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Post by rogch » Sun Feb 18, 2007 12:21 pm

Karl Böhm of course is a very safe recommendation. I have hardly heard a bad performance by him and many of them are sensational. His Beethoven symphony cycle on is "DGs best kept secret" according to Amazon's review.
Roger Christensen

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Post by slofstra » Sun Feb 18, 2007 3:33 pm

Wow. Way too many conductors!

For emotion, I don't think there is a match for Bernstein. His Mahler, Beethoven's 6th. I also think his recordings are underrated in the Penguin - he's from the wrong side of the pond.

On the European side, Haitink is preferred over Karajan. But not one to let it loose. What about Gergiev, who I think no-one has mentioned? Definitely generates excitement.

And Rattle - get Rattle with Kennedy - Elgar's Violin Concerto - that will rattle your socks off.

Rattle your socks off

Regarding Karajan. Did he not record 3 Beethoven cycles? I have a 9th recorded in 1984. Which cycle is best - I've heard that it's the middle one (Seventies). Anyway, I believe Karajan finds his groove in Tchaikovsky.

And for more excitement - Rattle's Beethoven symphony cycle.
These are all recent recordings. With all respect to Furtwangler, Toscanini, Walter et al, the recordings of some of these venerable conductors are just too noisy to recommend to someone starting out. Personally, I love Walter with Ferrier but when I play this for the 'average person', they think I'm a bit cuckoo. Definitely the older recordings can be an acquired taste.

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