101 Best Classical Music CDs:
Hadyn - Mozart - Beethoven
HAYDN (1732-1809): The Creation
Fritz Wunderlich, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Walter Berry
Herbert von Karajan, conductor
Haydn's oratorio The Creation, where he puts to music the birth
of the universe, has two spectacular bits: "Chaos" and the final
chorus. This version ranks as the most polished and the most accomplished
in terms of the orchestra and chorus. It is one of Herbert von Karajan's
HAYDN (1732-1809): Symphonies no 93, 94, 95 + 98
Eugen Jochum, conductor
Symbolizing the height of Viennese classicism, Haydn's four London
symphonies are the equal of the great symphonies of Mozart and
Beethoven...with a sense of humor thrown in! Eugen Jochum (1902-1987), who
mastered these scores like nobody else, leads the Dresden Staatskapelle,
the oldest and most aristocratic of German orchestras.
HAYDN (1732-1809): Six Last Piano Sonatas
Haydn's piano sonatas, masterpieces adored by Beethoven, are pieces
bubbling with intelligence. Known for his iconoclastic and sometimes "off
the deep end" readings of Bach and Mozart, the great Canadian pianist
Glenn Gould (1932-1982) signs a recording whose refinement and tonal
nobility inspire admiration.
MOZART (1756-1791): Requiem
Edith Mathis, Julia
Hamari, Wieslaw Ochman, Karl Ridderbusch
Karl Böhm, conductor
Despite having been finished after his death by his student Franz Xaver
Süssmayer, Mozart's Requiem remains one of Western music's all time "hits".
Karl Böhm's second version for Deutsche Grammophon (the first,
recorded on Philips, was splendid) is one of those rare recordings which
makes history. A classic.
MOZART (1756-1791): Don Giovanni
Cesare Siepi, Lisa
Della Casa, Suzanne Danco, Fernando Corena, Anton Dermota, Hilde Gueden,
Walter Berry, Kurt Böhme
Josef Krips, conductor
According to Wagner, Don Giovanni was "the opera of operas";
In other words, it is unthinkable not to include it in your record
library. Warning! Don't buy the wrong version. Thanks to an exuberant
orchestra and soloists, this recording under the leadership of Josef Krips
is fabulous and the famous dinner scene where Don Giovanni defies the
statue of the Commandeur (better than Hammer Studios!) is simply
MOZART (1756-1791): The Magic Flute
Lucia Popp, Nicolai Gedda, Walter Berry, Gottlob Frick, Christa Ludwig,
Philharmonia Chorus and Orchestra
An opera which dramatizes the struggle between good and evil, innocence
and sin and all the rest, The Magic Flute has an improbable cast
of hallucinogenic characters: Papageno, the batty bird-catcher; Pamino and
Tamino as the perfect TV sitcom suburban couple; Sarastro a crusty old
bore; and the unforgettable Queen of the Night - an unlikely cross between
a Studio 54 drag queen and a New York feminist. Up to you to find the
moral to this story. The "tongue in cheek" German conductor Otto
Klemperer (1885-1973) keeps a straight face throughout.
MOZART (1756-1791): Symphonies no 21-41
Josef Krips, conductor
In just six chock-full CDs, Philips gives you Mozart's most famous
symphonies. Why Krips? Because his frank and luminous musical direction
gets straight to the point.
MOZART (1756-1791): Piano Concertos no 10, 12, 14, 17, 19, 20 +
Rudolf Serkin, piano
Philadelphia Orchestra, Marlboro
Festival Orchestra, Columbia Symphony Orchestra
Eugene Ormandy, George
Szell, Alexander Schneider
Like the Beethoven "Emperor" concerto, the Mozart piano
concertos exist on a plane of their own. Their supernatural beauty makes
them immediately accessible. Mozart has rarely ever sounded so right as he
does in the hands of the Czech-born pianist Rudolph Serkin (1903-1991).
Available at mid-price on Sony Classical, this collection is terrific
value for money.
MOZART (1756-1791): Piano Sonatas K.333+545 - Rondo K.494 -
Sviatoslav Richter, piano
Imagine packing your favorite piano into a rented van, driving out into
the French countryside, stopping at a particular wheat field that strikes
you just so, rounding up some of the locals and giving a historic
performance of Mozart sonatas in a barn. That should give you an idea of
the appeal of Ukranian-born Sviatoslav
Richter, who at 80 is today's leading draw in concert pianists.
Critics often say that Mozart piano sonatas are too difficult for children
and too easy for adults. Richter proves the opposite.
BEETHOVEN (1770-1827): Symphonies no 5+7
Carlos Kleiber, conductor
Number one on the hit parade since 1808, Beethoven's Fifth was the
first symphony to be recorded in its entirety. That was in Berlin in 1913
and the conductor Artur Nikisch was the Karajan of the time. Since then,
there is no counting the number of recordings from excellent to
impossible. Pay your money and take your choice. Many go for Carlos
Kleiber (b. 1930), a conductor who, despite an intense cult following, is
seen as rarely on the rostrum as Marlon Brando is on the screen. Warning!
The recordings are rare, but once heard are not forgotten.
BEETHOVEN (1770-1827): Piano Sonatas no 27-32
Beethoven's late piano sonatas present challenging enigmas for even the
greatest of players. As a result, interpretations vary widely from one
artist to the next, because of the intimate engagement between performer
and composition through which meaning is either intuited from the piece or
projected onto it. Some say Solomon (1902-1988), an English pianist, alas
dead, was the one to get to the heart of these strange compositions.
BEETHOVEN (1770-1827): Piano Concerto no 5 L'Empereur - Piano
Sonata no 7
Edwin Fischer, piano
Wilhelm Furtwängler, conductor
There is no need to be a musicologist to understand that the marriage
between pianist and conductor is so total that they have produced a
performance truly worthy of the name Emperor. Whoever has not heard the "sincerity"
of their second movement (adagio un poco mosso) has missed one of the
miracles of recorded music. If you must have a stereo recording, choose
the Michelangeli/Giulini version on Deutsche Grammophon.
BEETHOVEN (1770-1827): Violin Concerto (+ Brahms, Tchaikovsky,
Leonid Kogan, violin
Orchestre de la Société
des Concerts du Conservatoire
Constantin Silvestri, conductor
A work which achieves great warmth, without pyrotechnical indulgence.
Beethoven's violin concerto has been the subject of other splendid
interpretations: Menuhin/Furtwängler (EMI), Ostrakh/Cluytens (EMI),
Schneiderhan/Jochum (DG), Heifetz/Toscanini (RCA-BMG), Perlman/Giulini
(EMI) to give some examples. The somewhat feverish interpretaion of Leonid
Kogan has the great advantage of being accompanied by blood and guts
interpretations of the Brahms and Tchaikovsky concertos. Two CDs for the
price of one: who could resist?
BEETHOVEN (1770-1827): Missa Solemnis (+ Mozart: Coronation
Gundula Janowitz, Christa Ludwig, Fritz Wunderlich, Walter
In the Missa Solemnis, Beethoven succeeds where Mahler,
ultimately failed - to produce "absolute" music which knows no
frontiers. Karajan, haunted by this enormous challenge, produced no less
than four versions. Recorded in 1966, this interpretaion (not to be
confused with the bloated one recorded in the '80s for DG) is blindingly
beautiful, but venomous.