Audiophile Classical cds?

Looking to broaden my classical collection. I don't really know much other than I have tended to enjoy what gets termed 'warhorses' (Beethoven and Mahler's 9th, holst - the planets) and also the more serious chamber pieces.

Need some recommendations to get things rolling. Top notch sound is a must have as I have found that it really keeps me engaged. I'd like to get a set of 15 or so must have classical audiophile cds. Any Ideas?

Cheers, Nik
You WILL get people who question the performances of my recommendation but most would likely agree the sound is excellent - look into almost anything by Reference Recordings.

Personally, call me a non-purist but I do like the performances and love the sound of them - particularly Eiji Oue and Fennell. Exotic Dances, Ports of Call, Holidays and Epiphanies, Arnold Overtures, Bersteins Candide, Pomp and Pipes, Respihi's Bedlkus, Rachmaninoff Symphonic Dances, Tutti Sampler and Mepshisto are just a few of the titles. They are very dynamic recordings.

Also, check out some of the XRCD2 or XRCD24 classical titles.

Good luck and good listening.
You might want to check out the Diversity Records, Ltd. from Elusive Disc, 800-782-3472. In particular, the "Violoncello". Also, the Tchaikovsky "Seasons" has an insane violin player, very fast and gutsy. There was a review at Pos. Feedback a couple of years ago. Amazing sound. Sacd hybrids.
If you decided to get into SACD or Vynil, you will find more classical music then you will know what to do with. And it will sound very very good.

I'll let the more seasoned classical listeners recommend which is best.
I'll just throw this out there for what it's worth...

I think you'll will find that a lot of serious classical music listeners are primarily concerned with the quality of the performance when choosing a recording.

The quality of the recording is secondary and for my money mostly irrelevant.

Now if a better quality disc is available, then fine. The Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab vinyl LP's come to mind. A lot of the MFSL vinyl LP's were reissues of famous recorded performances, so they are worth collecting whether you are an audiophile or just a music lover.
Brahms String Sextet op 18 in B flat major, by the Leipziger Quartet (+ an additional violist and cellist) on Dabringhaus und Grimm (MDG). This is truly wonderful music and is a gorgeous recording. As an aside, I have found the MDG label produces recordings easily on a par with the highly regarded ECM label.
Try any (or all) of the Mercury Living Presence recordings
Thanks for the recs, keep them coming! I haven't heard any of the Reference Recordings discs, but they cover a wide range so I'll give a couple a go.

Any thoughts on a must have starter 'big red wine' classical collection?

Beethoven 5 and 9
Mahler's 9th
Holst - the planets
Mozart - ???
If you are new to classical or not I highly recommend the Mahler and Beethoven CDs recorded by Benjamin Zander conducting the Philharmonia Orchestra of London.

Not only do you get a good sounding CD (Telarc) and an excellent performance, you get a second CD with Zander analysing the music in detail.

Many in the Mahler Society in New York consider Zander one of the best living Mahler conductors. (His Beethoven is also good.) Having hear Zander conduct for many years when I lived in Boston, I agree 100%. Zander teaches young gifted students at the New England Conservatory and has his own Boston Philharmonic that is more fun to listen to live than the Boston Symphony. He even speaks to corporate managements nationwide on inspiring people.

Be sure to check out this two page Telarc brochure..

Sugarbrie is right Zander has done some masterful stuff. I met him a couple of years ago in Boston. Terrific person as well as a legendary conductor.

Zander produced a CD of Mahler's 3rd with the Boston Philharmonic which includes a bonus CD with Zander's detailed verbal explanations highlighting all the complexity and detail of this work.

Telarc's recording of Rachmaninov's 2nd and 3rd (Guitierrez) is also awesome. (basically any Telarc recording is of very high standard)
Lorin Mazel and Cleveland Orchestras 5th by Shostakovich
Christopher Hogwood/Academy of Ancient Music did some brilliant stuff in the past. (Mozart Mass in C Minor K427, Requiem K626, Eine Kleine Nachtmusik K525, Mozart Symphonies 40 and 41, Exultate Jubilate with Emma Kirby, Bach Double Concertos, for example)

If you don't have already, you should have Mussorgsky Pictures of an exhibition, Grieg Peer Gynt, Borodin Polovstian dances, Rimsky-Korsakov Scheherazade, and, of course, the usual well known fare of Chopin, Beethoven, Strauss, Kachaturian, Handel, Tchaikovsky, Prokofiev...just to name a few. I can't recommend a particular recording for these....but once again Telarc is a safe experience with Reference Recordings is limited to jazz fare and it was NOT good at I don't recommend those.

Another thing to try is film soundtracks from composers like Zimmer, Williams, Elfman, Howard Shore... these are recorded with BIGGER budgets than many classical fare and for Cinema quality theatre systems....i.e. big dynamic range, good low frequencies and good overall quality. Sound may be a little over powering at times, however, movies not being known for delicacy...

Here is a link about Telarc...
Thanks Sugarbrie, those look great.
Any comments on this Recommended list?

Seems like their 10/10 artistic quality/sound quality might be a simple way for me to browse.

The Kempe R. Strauss recordings on Brilliant are wonderful conductions. Recording quality is good for the time. The Jochum Bruckner and the Barshai Shostakovich, both also on Brilliant, are also really great. All three of these sets are among my favorites. As a bonus, the Barshai Shostokovich recording quality is quite good. Generally, I'd take the Archiv 10's for sound quality with a grain of salt. The reviewers may not have the golder ears typical of this group.
Several have recommended Zander. I concur! Don't overlook his latest, Mahler 1 which also includes 'Songs of a Wayfarer'. This is an outstanding recording, performance, and program.

Other 'audiophile' greats would include Barber/Menotti Violin Concertos on Reference Recordings.

Beethoven Sym #5 () by Carlos Kleiber on DG. What this lacks in absolute audiophile terms it more than makes up in performance. It is outstanding!

Copland 3rd Sym and Applachian Spring on Reference Recording.

Debussy's orchestral music on two disc's by Pierre Boulez. On DG. Outstanding performances and recordings. Not for folks looking for a romantic/warm/mushy Debussy.

Liszt's Dante Symphony and Tasso on Telarc. The Symphony is good, the Tasso is outstanding, and the recording is excellent.

Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition on Reference Recording.

Respighi's Pines and Fountains of Rome by Reiner on RCA Living Stereo. A classic recommendation.

Rimsky-Korsakov's Scheherazade on Reference Recordings. Best sound - If you want the 'best' performance in very good sound, get Beecham's - its a lot cheaper too.

Stravinsky's Firebird and the Rite of Spring. Reference Recording.

FWIW, most all of the Reference Recording's catalog are easy picks if audiophile quality is your first priority. When you find some works that really turn you on come on back and I'm sure you'll have no problem getting folks to give you some suggestions on the more outstanding performances of your favorites.

If you like Mahler, don't miss the recent Mahler Ninth by Chailly and the Concertgebouw on Decca. It's not only a magnificent performance, but far and away the best-sounding Mahler Ninth ever recorded (and I speak as a Mahler nut who has many Ninths). Sound and performance are breathtaking.
Thanks, lots to try now.
HEh.. If you want to experiment and set your system through a test.. Check out Karlheinz Stockhausen's OKTOPHONIE. It is originally meant for 8 channel performence (meaning true 3d - actually 4d- sound). It is the most amazing 20th century electronic piece I have heard. I believe it is the instrumental version to the second act of one of his operas from the series called LICHT, one for each day of the week. It sounds like it may be some sort of fight scene between Satan and gabriel. Anyways, since hearing this, "classical" music doesnot interest me so much anymore. However, it is a fairly envolved listen, being 8 channels (mixed to stereo) of fantastic sounding drones, tape manipulations and electronic sounds, so it isnot everyones cup of tea. Plus it is fairly hard to get. I found it in Amoeba Hollywood, so if you are in a major city, you can find it, otherwise order it from Stockhausen himself. Just google Stockhausen. AND I guareenty you will NOT be able to download it. Period.
Here are a few suggestions to get you started. You seriously cannot go wrong with most of these. They're mostly from the top of my head and from what I have lying around me as I type. They consist mainly of chamber and solo instrumental works, with a few symphonic performances that stand out. I consider all of the following to be must own CDs either on the basis of performance alone (with sound not too bad) or on the basis of both performance and audiophile appeal. They were also chosen for their musical accessibility to those without many years of active listening experience. Some great works which every classical music lover must also get at least one good recording are: Mozart's Requiem (remember the particular's of the one I own); Mozart Symphies 39&41; Mozart String Quartets, including the "Dissonant Quartet" (there's a great one on Deutsche Grammaphon); Schoenberg's Verklaerte Nacht&String Trio on Deutsche Grammaphon

SACD: (just got my SACD player, so I can't recommend many yet)
Stravinksy: Rite of Spring, Jaervo Paavi conducts, on Telarc
(also check out the CD recording of Benjamin Zander conducting Boston Philharmonic. That recording also has the piano role transcription of the Rite (supervised by Stravinsky himself), performed on a Pianola - a thrilling experience!
Complete Orchestral Suites - Boston Baroque conducted by Martin Pearlman on Telarc
Brahms Violin Sonatas 1-3, performed by Csaba and Heisser, Praga Digitals
Yo-Yo Ma Solo, works of Tcherepnin, Kodaly, Wilde, and others, on Sony
(also on CD).
Beethoven's Ninth, Karajan, (1976 performance is considered the best)
(complete symphonies also on CD)

Debussy: Images and Preludes performed by Thibaudet (London Label)
Complete Lute Suites - John Williams, classical guitar (best performance)
Complete Cello Suites performed by Janos Starker - Mercury Living
Presence (also avail. on SACD)
Toccata BWV 911;Partita 826;English Suite No.2 BWV 807, performed by
Martha Argerich, Deutsche Grammaphon
Complete Partitas, Preludes, and Fugues, Glenn Gould, piano - Sony
Goldberg Variations, ditto
Early Music, Kronos Quartet
Brandenburg Conceros 1-3, and 4-6 (2 disks), Martin Pearlman conducts
The Boston Baroque
Complete Works for Solo Violin, Nathan Milstein, Deutsche Grammaphon
Sonatas, performed by Mitsuko Uchida on Phillips CD (soon to be SACD!!!!)
multiple CDs
Clarinet Quintet;Kegelstadt Trio, Charles Neidich w/ L'Archibudelli Sony Vivarte
Concertos 1-5, Isaac Stern& Pinchas Zuckerman (? Label) 3 CDs
Mahler, Das Lied von der Erdel Eije Oue conducts Minnesota Orchestra,
Reference Recordings HDCD
Complete Symphonies, Leonard Bernstein
Octet, Sextet, Mozzafiato,(wind music) Charles Neidich&others on Sony Vivarte
Complete String Quartets, Vegh Quartet (performance)
(6 CDs)
The Legendary Pablo Casals, Cello Sonatas of Bach, Beethoven, and
Brahms, EMI Classics
Beethoven-Lizt Piano transcriptions of Beethoven's Symphony No. 6,
performed by Glenn Gould, Sony Classical
Schubert Lieder, Elly Ameling, Soprano (also on SACD) - amazing technique+ sweet voice
For Two to Play, Harpsichord Music for Four Hands, performed by Moroney and Baumont, on Virgin Classics label
Brahms, String Quartets Op.51 &OP.67 and Clarinet Quintet Op 115,
Charles Neidich, clarinet;Julliard String Quartet, on Sony Classical (2 disk)
Boccherini, Cello Sonatas; Fugues for 2 Cellos, performed by Anner Bylsma and others, Sony Classical
Chopin: can't go wrong with Rubinstein or Ashkenazy
Bartok Complete String Quartets, performed by Emerson Quartet, DG
Shostakovich: String Quartets Nos. 3, 7, 8 - performed by Borodin Quartet
on Virgin Classics.

Ninth Symphony, conducted by Isserstedt, Marilyn Horne
Soprano, London Decca Records (very special performance)
Violin Concert; Nathan Milstein, violin
(I forget the orchestra and label). One of my favorite performances ever!
Symphony No. 3 "Eroica", Ansermet conducts L'Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, London ffrr
(easy to find and cheap)
Symphony in C; Symphony in Three Movements, same conductor/orchestra as above, London Records (C S6190)
Get this one: (performance and AUDIOPHILIA)
L'Histoire Du Soldat (The Soldier's Tale - Suite); also has Rimsky Korsakov's Capriccio Espangol. Chicago Pro Musica, REFERENCE RECORDINGS
(also on HDCD)
Thanks Tedd, Your list is what exactly what I'm looking for.

If I was to go for a Beethoven's complete symphonies set, How is the sound quality of the Karajan 1976 series?

By audiophile standards, the CD sound quality of the1976 Karajan series verges on good. I have both the original Deutsche Grammaphon CD release and the remastered SACD release and can definitely recommend the latter, though if you want the ultimate sound quality you'll need to pick up a more recent 'Pure DSD' recording such as that conducted by Runnicles on Telarc. The Karajan performance is so good that combined with decent (but not great) sound you shouldn't have any problem staying engaged, but the Telarc DSD version is decidely superior in every way when it comes to sonics. SACD has been a godsend for classical music lovers. Even my unmodded Sony DVP-s9000es DVD/CD/SACD player (avg. used price ~$425-550) trounces my almost four grand redbook Linn Ikemi cdp when playing back the SACD layers of *certain* classical recordings vs. the redbook layer on the Ikemi. For redbook only, you're best bet for sound quality in classical is going to be anything on the Reference Recordings label (most or all of which also support HDCD).