100 Greatest Classical Music Works

Many thanks @jacobacci! Delighted to find that the Tomaskirche recording is available on Qobuz!

My Qobuz account is still anchored in the UK (I became a subscriber before it was available here in Sweden) and I can see and play the Eterna (search on “Biggs Bach Eterna” @PAR), but not the Brilliant Classics. It comes up if I click on Rudi’s link:

…but then I am not logged in so I can’t play it, however once logged in it goes up in smoke and I have been completely unable to find it.

A search on “Bach Biggs Berlin Classics” however brings up this:

…which appears to be the same album with different cover art. The credits are no help at all (artist is specified as “Various Interprets”) but the track timing is identical to the Eterna so I am pretty sure this is the Tomaskirche recording.

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Thanks for posting Rudi. That article provides fascinating background.

Week 16 Nos. 21-25

Sorry chaps, falling a bit behind here. Just too much going on in the run up to summer. I’ll do my best to get back on track. Promise!

21. Piano Concerto No. 2 in B-flat Major, Op. 83

519 Johannes Brahms Piano Concerto 1881 Play

Gilels or Richter? Almost impossible to choose, but I will go with Richter’s warmth and elegance.

For a more recent alternative try Nicholas Angelich’s absolutely compelling reading with Paavo Järvi where they fuse in a completely natural partnership of understated intensity.

Richter, Chicago SO, Leinsdorf “Brahms: Concerto No.2, Op.83; Beethoven: Sonata No.23, Op.57” 1960, 16/44.1

Angelich, Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra, Järvi “Brahms: Piano Concerto No.2, Op.83 & Klavierstücke, Op.76” 2010, 16/44.1

22. Piano Concerto in A Minor, Op. 54

26 Robert Schumann Piano Concerto 1845 Play

Leif Ove Andsnes makes an easy first choice here. Spontaneous but elegant in equal measure with the BPO (as always) at the top of their game under Mariss Janssons. Contrast with the classic pairing of Stephen Bishop Kovacevich with the BBC Symphony under Sir Colin Davis, simply beautiful and fully deserving of its inclusion in Philips’ “50 Great Recordings” series.

Andsnes, BPO, Janssons “Grieg & Schumann: Concertos for Piano” 1991, 16/44.1

Kovecevich, BBC SO, Davis “Grieg & Schumann: Piano Concertos” 1971, 16/44.1

23. String Quintet in C Major (Cello Quintet), posth. 163

417 Franz Schubert String Quintet 1828 Play

Some people regard this as the finest chamber music ever written so needless to say there is a huge field to choose from. The version I was hoping to find is the classic 1951 recording by the Hollywood Quartet with Kurt Reher (this quintet is scored for two cellos so almost always performed by a string quartet with an “extra” cellist), however as best I can tell that recording doesn’t appear to have made it onto either Qobuz or Tidal. Rudi, I’ll be over the moon if you prove me wrong!

Luckily however we are spoilt for choice with more recent reference recordings. The Belcea Qt + Valentin Erben from 2009, the Haas + Danjulo Ishizaka from 2013 and the Ebènes with Gaultier Capuçon from 2016 are all superb in different ways. I’ll probably plump for the Haas, but it’s your call.

Hollywood Qt, Reher, 1951, (not available - help!)

Belcea, Erben “Schubert: String Quintet, String Quartets Nos.15 & 14 ‘Death and the Maiden’” 2009, 16/44.1

Haas Qt, Ishizaka “Schubert: String Quartet No.14 ‘Death and the Maiden’, String Quintet” 2013, 16/44.1

Ebène, Capuçon “Schubert: String Quintet, Lieder” 2016, 16/44.1

24. Aida

404 Giuseppe Verdi Opera 1871 Play

Two pretty easy choices here. Firstly, Muti’s 1974 reading with Montserrat Caballé as Aida (generally considered her finest performance) and Placido Domingo in his prime as Radames.

And that would be that if Antonio Pappano had not come along nearly 20 years later and trumped it. Anja Harteros and Jonas Kaufmann combining perfectly against the sonic backdrop of the superb Santa Cecilia orchestra.

Caballé, Domingo, New Philh O, Muti “Verdi: Aida” 1974

Harteros, Kaufmann, Orchestra e Coro Dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, Pappano “Verdi: Aida” 2015

25. Piano Concerto No. 5 in E-flat Major (Emperor Concerto), Op. 73

816 Ludwig van Beethoven Piano Concerto 1811 Play

As with the 4th (100 Greatest Classical Music Works - #19 by struts001) I will fall back on the incomparable Hans Richter-Haaser here. Such a delight that these fine performances are now available again after almost disappearing in the CD era.

I would be more than happy to listen to that recording on my desert island, however I do have a Scandinavian soft-spot for Leif Ove Andsnes. Don’t miss his latest recording leading the Mahler Chamber Orchestra, pure genius!

Richter-Haaser, Philharmonia O, Kertész “Beethoven: Piano Concerto No.5, Op.73 ‘Emperor’ & Rondo, Op.51 No.1” 2020, 16/44.1

Andsnes, Mahler Chamber Orchestra “The Beethoven Journey - Piano Concertos Nos.1-5” 2014, 16/44.1

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Week 17 Nos. 16-20

Top 20 time! (and this was easier than last week’s so I am catching up :smiley:)

16. Symphony No. 41 in C Major (Jupiter Symphony), K. 551

817 Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart Symphony 1788 Play

I’ve stated my preferences for these late symphonies before (Bernstein/VPO and Mackerras/SCO for modern and HIP respectively) but since I know you prefer HIP I’ll throw in another and recommend Gardiner’s superb reading with his EBS.

Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, Bernstein “Mozart: Symphonies Nos.35 ‘Haffner’ & 41 ‘Jupiter’” 1985, 16/44.1

Scottish Chamber Orchestra, Mackerras “Mozart: Symphonies Nos.38-41” 2008, 24/88.2

English Baroque Soloists, Gardiner “Mozart: Symphonies 39 & 41” 2011, 16/44.1

17. Piano Concerto No. 20 in D Minor, K. 466

579 Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart Piano Concerto 1785 Play

For the Mozart piano concertos Murray Perahia will always be my primary go-to, but for HIP try Malcolm Bilson again with the incomparable EBS under Gardiner.

Perahia, European Chamber Orchestra “Perahia Plays and Conducts Mozart: Piano Concertos Nos.11 & 20” 2013, 16/44.1

Bilson, English Baroque Soloists, Gardiner “Mozart: The Piano Concertos” 1990, 16/44.1

18. The Well-Tempered Clavier, BWV 846–893

948 Johann Sebastian Bach Piano Sonata 1742 Play

This is a big one Ben. For me this is some of the most beautiful (and important) music ever written, worth reading up a bit beforehand (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Well-Tempered_Clavier).

András Schiff is my primary go to for most of Bach’s keyboard works and as good as his first cycle for Decca is I definitely prefer his second outing for ECM. Likewise Angela Hewitt, a very safe pair of Bachian hands and here again I prefer her second recorded cycle, interestingly on a Fazioli piano instead of a Steinway.

Schiff “Bach: The Well Tempered Clavier Books 1 & 2” 2012, 24/44.1

Hewitt “Bach: The Well Tempered Clavier Books 1 & 2” 2009, 24/44.1

19. Symphony No. 9 (From the New World), Op. 95, B. 178

1253 Antonín Dvořák Symphony 1893 Play

My go to here has always been the BPO under Rafael Kubelik, but I recently discovered Jakub Hrůša’s “insightful and inspirational interpretation” which I love.

Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, Kubelik “Dvořák: Symphonies Nos.8 & 9 'From the New World” 1973, 16/44.1

Bamberger Symphoniker, Hrůša “Brahms: Symphony No.4; Dvořák: Symphony No.9 ‘From The New World’” 2018, 16/44.1

20. Winterreise, D. 911

23 Franz Schubert Lieder / Song 1827 Play

I’ll start with an absolute classic, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, one of the finest baritones of his generation and a safe bet for any of Schubert’s lieder. This is the last of his three recordings of this piece and IMO is his finest, superbly accompanied by Jörg Demus.

But I almost feel he is upstaged by Johan Kaufmann whose superbly clear and tonally beautiful performance forms my new reference. He is perfectly matched in colour and texture by Helmut Deutsch.

Dieskau, Demus “Schubert: Winterreise” 1965, 16/44.1

Kaufmann, Deutsch “Schubert: Winterreise” 2014, 24/96

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70 (Beethoven Symphonies Nos.7 & 8, Abbado, and also Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique, Gardiner) The Abbado version was alright. Again, the period one for me, please. By a mile. I’d love to work out why the period versions tickle me more.

69 (Grieg: Chasing the Butterfly, Slåttebrekk) Apparently I do have a lower limit for recording quality. The versions that Grieg himself played were unlistenable for me. The rest was ok, but not write-home-to-ma wonderful. The concerto at the end was lovely, though. I’ll give it all another go one day. But I’ll keep Grieg’s version away from my tweeters.

68 (Debussy: Complete Piano Works, Giesking) This was ok. Nothing I’d seek out again. Tinkle tinkle yawn, mostly. (Is that sacrilege?! :flushed:) Maybe I’d like it in smaller doses. Tried again, just in case. Second time around was on headphones — the Shangri-La on the T2 — and my feelings were…similar. I thought it was fine, but no more. (The SGL and T2 are a nice pairing though.)

67 (Bach: Complete Sonatas & Partitas (Vols 1 & 2), Faust) I don’t know why I enjoyed this one so much. The repetition up and down sections made it sound like someone doing their scales. But really, really, really well. (The T2 & Shangri-La on this sounded incredible.)

66 (Strauss: Also Sprach Zarathustra & Ein Heldenleben) Liked this a lot. Need to give it another listen for more useful thoughts, though. Second listen was good too — the mixtures of scale really appealed.

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And once again, @struts001 — thank you :pray:

Ben raises an important point here. So for the benefit of anyone else reading this thread my recommendations only apply to the work in question (in this case the “lovely” concerto “at the end”), in some cases I haven’t even listened to the rest of the disc.

In this case I didn’t listen to the Lyric Pieces or the Piano Sonata so I had no idea that they had also included Grieg’s own 1903 performances (second generation recordings of a phonograph) as a point of reference. The Concerto was presumably included as a sweetener on what would otherwise have been a pretty niche and commercially unappetizing disc.

In other cases labels will couple different recordings of different pieces, sometimes by the same artists and sometimes by completely different ones to make the most of the 74-minute capacity of a disc. This is particularly common with reissue labels. I am listing the title and picture of the recording I am recommending to help people locate the correct one but in many cases I have only listened to the actual piece in question for reasons of time. And in a few cases I haven’t even done that as I have the CD and know it inside out. Sometimes the couplings will be great and sometimes not.

I have (and will) occasionally recommend historical performances because of their legendary status. Usually no earlier than the 1950s and usually with surprisingly good analog sound. But when I do I will not only make it clear but also try to provide a modern digital alternative. I tend to ignore performances from before the LP-era for this very reason.

Apologies to @all2ofme for the confusion!

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Week 18 Nos. 11-15

So. Much. Choice. I think I have broken some kind of record for the number of recommendations here with three per piece, but there are just so many great recordings to choose from. And I expect it will only get harder over the last couple of weeks. So, apologies Ben, I hope my brief notes will help you navigate to the ones that are right for you.

11. Symphony No. 3 in E-flat Major (Heroic Symphony), Op. 55

741 Ludwig van Beethoven Symphony 1804 Play

Of the many Eroicas I grew up with Pierre Monteux’s 1957 reading with the VPO and Otto Klemperer’s 1959 Abbey Road recording with the Philharmonia remain my favourites. For a great HIP version give Roger Norrington and his London Classical Players a spin.

VPO, Monteux “Beethoven: Symphony No.3 in E-Flat Major, Op. 55 ‘Eroica’; Schubert: Rosamunde, Op.26 D.797 (Excerpts)” 2021, 16/44.1

Philharmonia Orchestra, Klemperer “Beethoven: Symphony No.3 ‘Eroica’, Overtures: ‘Leonore’ Nos.1 & 2” 2005, 24/192

London Classical Players, Norrington “Beethoven: Symphonies & Concertos” 2011, 16/44.1

12. Symphony No. 6 in B Minor (Pathétique), Op. 74

825 Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky Symphony 1893 Play

The stand-out from my childhood was Karajan’s first account (of six!) with the BPO from 1964 and this is the reference against I will judge all comers. Looking at more recent performances I have been a fan of the Pletnev/RNO recording since its release (see also here), but when researching this post I came across this 2017 recording by Kirill Petrenko with the BPO which I also love. Fascinating to compare with the same orchestra under Karajan from 50 years earlier.

Berliner Philharmoniker, Karajan “Tchaikovsky: Symphonies Nos.4, 5 & 6” 1997, 16/44.1

Russian National Orchestra, Pletnev “Tchaikovsky: Symphony No.6 ‘Pathétique’ - Marche Slave - The Seasons, Op.21 - The Sleeping Beauty” 1991, 16/44.1

Berliner Philharmoniker, Petrenko “Tchaikovsky: Symphony No.6 ‘Pathétique’ (Multi-Channel Version)” 2019, 24/96

13. Otello

300 Giuseppe Verdi Opera 1885 Play

My long-term reference is Tullio Serafin’s recording with the Rome Opera from 1960. Listening again now I can hear that the RCA Living Stereo recording is not the last word in SQ (even after the 2022 remastering) but the principals, Jon Vickers as Otello and Leonie Rysanek as Desdemona are absolutely excellent. No such problem with Myung-Whun Chung’s 1993 studio recording with the Opera Bastille, and Placido Domingo and Cheryl Studer are every bit as excellent as you would expect.

Rome Opera, Serafim “Verdi: Otello by Tuillo Serafin (Remastered 2022)” 2022, 24/96

L’Opéra Bastille, Chung “Verdi: Otello” 1994, 16/44.1

14. Piano Sonata No. 23 in F Minor (Appassionata), Op. 57

977 Ludwig van Beethoven Piano Sonata 1805 Play

Beethoven’s Piano Sonatas are absolute cornerstones of the classical repertory and have been tackled by just about every pianist of note from the last 200 years. A special mention has to go to Artur Schnabel’s landmark mono set (recorded between 1932-1938) which can probably be considered as “definitive” as any recording of anything. For a classic stereo set my vote goes for Stephen Bishop Kovacevich with, as Gramphone’s reveiwer put it “playing that teeters on the edge of sanity, roars with ferocious power and frequently moves the listener to tears”. For a HIP performance on pianoforte I also love Paul Lewis’s set, beautiful playing throughout.

Schnabel “Beethoven: Complete Piano Sonatas (2016 Remaster)” 2016, 16/44.1

Kovacevich “Beethoven: Complete Piano Sonatas” 2003, 16/44.1

Lewis “Beethoven: Piano Sonatas, Vol.3” 2007, 16/44.1

15. The Marriage of Figaro (Le nozze di Figaro), K. 492

851 Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart Opera 1786 Play

Erich Kleiber (1955) and Karl Böhm (1968) are my long-term favourites here. But that all changed when i discovered HIP. Now I find these are the only ones I reach for, my favourites being John Eliot Gardiner and René Jacobs.

VPO, Erich Kleiber “Mozart: Le nozze di Figaro” 1955, 24/96

Berlin Deutsche Oper Orchestra, Böhm “Mozart: Le nozze di Figaro” 1996, 24/192

English Baroque Soloists, Gardiner “Mozart: Le nozze di Figaro” 1994, 16/44.1

Concerto Köln, Jacobs “Mozart: Le Nozze di Figaro” 16/44.1

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