Any particular period or composer(s)?
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No, my tastes are pretty eclectic, and I like to explore new interpretations of classic works. Just interested in the CD's you think are a good investment by virtue of both musical content and quality of recording. I do remember reading a thread whose author suggested that recordings produced in the last 5 years or so are generally superior to those previous.
I'll start you off with two 20th Century music discs, both from Reference Recordings with Oue and the Minnesota Orchestra, Bernstein's Candide and other pieces and Copland's Third Symphony. Quite frankly, anything from Mephisto and Company onwards from Reference with the Minnesota Orchestra will give you some of the best sound you'll ever hear on CD, and while you may find Oue's tempi a little slow, still satisfying performances. Also the Adams/Glass and Rosza violin concerto discs on Telarc are superb performances and recordings. Also check out Harmonia Mundi recordings produced by Robina Young, always well-recorded and played--the recordings with McGeagan and the Philharmonia Baroque, such as the Corelli Concerti Grossi and Handel Arias for Cuzonni, are exceptionally natural even though comparatively older recordings. Finally, while it is not the definitive performance, the Delos recording of the Mahler 2nd with Litton and the Dallas Symphony is probably one of the best full-scale orchestral recordings you'll hear of that piece (and even better on SACD). There are many more, but I'll leave them to others for now.
A few of my favorite: On the Decca label, their Legends Series, Vivaldi le quattro stagioni - The Four Seasons - Neville Marriner, Academy of St Martin-in-the-Fields, this CD is 96kHz 24-bit Super Digital Transfer. This version of the Four Seasons is more "alive and vibrant" than any other version that I've heard. Also on the Decca Label-Beethoven:The Symphonies-Christopher Hogwood, The Academy of Ancient Music, this is an excellent 5 CD set with the best version (IMHO) of #5 in C minor and a warm wonderful version of #9. An excellent 5 CD collection of Mozart is on the Philips Label-The Mozart Experience-Sir Neville Marriner, Academy of St Martin-in-the-Fields. Every cd in this collection is a "gem." Next!
If you're interested in any contemporary music, I would suggest any of the available EMI recordings of Thomas Ades's music. This young man is really remarkable, and all four of the disks (as well as the new recording of him playing other people's works) are very well recorded. I would also suggest the Argo recordings of Mark-Anthony Turnage's work. One of my favorite cds has always been the Telarc recording of Andreas Schmidt with Lopez Cobos doing Mahler songs. I'm not especially fond of some Telarc disks, but this one has always had a special place in my collection. I often take this with me to demo new equipment. I think that this disk also demonstrates that Schmidt is one of the most underrated baritones around today.
Thanks folks, this is exactly what I was looking for. Here are a few I have found so far: Schubert, 8th and 9th Symphonies, Karajan, EMI Classics 66105; Haydn, Cello Concertos 1&2, Rostropovich, EMI Classics 67263; Liszt, Sacred Music Transcriptions, Thompson, Naxos 8.553659. These are not sonic masterpieces, just good recordings of great music and excellent performances. Regards...Dan