Best recording labels for orchestral music

I am in the process of building my music library. Some of my favorite composers are Holst, Copland, Gershwin, and Ravel to name a few. The problem is I'm not sure which recording label to go with on these and other artists. For example I have a recording of Holst's Planets performed by the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra and conducted by John Williams. The recoding label is Decca. This has got to be one of the best recordings I've heard of this piece of music.
My question is this: Are there specific recording labels to stay away from and which in your opinion are the better ones to look at?

i've only been into classical music for the past 5-6 years, so I'm no expert. I generally prefer conductors from the 50's-70's,

So I have found a few remasters that I love from these:

Decca Legends 96kHz 24 bit remastered
Philips 50 great recordings remastered
RCA Red Seal remastered
Mercury Living Presence remastered

These labels are for the most part excellent:

Reference Recordings
AliaVox (Early & Baroque)
Harmonia Mundi
Archiv (Baroque)
Telarc (most but not all)
Chandos (English composers)

and some great budget recordings from:


Of the conducters you mention I have a Decca remaster of Ravel/
Dutoit & Montreal/ Daphis et Chloe; that is great.

Good luck
You have chosen some good "pop" sounding composers. You may also like Shostakovich - try getting Lorn Maazel and the Cleveland Orchestra doing Shostakovich Fifth - they seem to be having a load of fun! Prokoviev is fun too. A lot of the Russian stuff is pompous and bombastic and can be fun (often based around military marching themes). Copland's Hoe Down is worth getting too.

Telarc is hands down the best quality in contemporary recordings....of course, like all labels - the performance/musicianship varies...

I also agree about Naxos and Chandos.

Stay away from RCA and DG - generally poorer quality stuff - although they have gems too.
Actually, one of the most tragic, soul-gripping music in the world of classical music is that of Shostakovich. He barley survived a cruel dictatorship, which killed aout one-fourth of the population of its own country. His music is really about the sufferings and about the fear of human beings. He belongs to the very small group of composers, who devoted his music to the tragedies of his own time.
record labels to consider:

harmonia mundi

you will hear excellent sound and good performances.
My favorite classical labels are:
Alia Vox
But there are many, many more with fine sound and performances.
Mrtennis, just a thought. I've found some of my Glossas to be on the bright side. One of Guerrero motets is the most noticeable. In your opinion, do Glossas seem to be balanced a bit brighter than the Klaviers and Harmonia Mundis, or is there no difference you can hear?

For the OP: among my own label preferences are ASV and sometimes Bis. Two Norwegian labels are also excellent: Simax and 2L.
I have a bunch of old Lyrita CDs that sound very nice. I see that this label has recently been resurrected.
Also have some old Unicorn Kanchana CDs, don't know if they're still around.
I agree with you Tobias, many nice things on ASV and Bis.
He belongs to the very small group of composers, who devoted his music to the tragedies of his own time.

I agree - but he often couched his tragic themes in military music that was acceptable. If you listen to the Lorn Maazel version if his Fifth you will know what I mean about fun - it has a furious tempo....and the finale, wow!!
Hi,yes, you are right to a certain extent. He had to disguise his real intention, and the Fifth symphony is one of the prime example.But still...but I am not familiar with the version of Maazel. I think this is a kind of music, which one really should listen a Russian performance (conductor and orchestra both), or at least an Eastern European one. ... Not only because of Maazel or anyone else not coming from the same musical background is not idiomatic (yeah, I have just heard how Boulez conducts Bartok...funny ... and he obvisously has not have the slightest idea about Hungarian folk music), but one has to be familiar with that feeling of being of mercy of a cruel and wayward omnipotent dictatorship. Sorry of hijacking the theme. But to certain extent -to go back to the main question of the thread - my suggestion is not to look for labels, but for conductors and orchestras, and try to find the best performance which really able to transmit the music. For that, if someone would like to go beyond the "nice" or "audiophile" sound, one has to put effort to read about composers and interpretations and to discover the soul of the music - which is not always about entertainment and being nice.
This has got to be one of the best recordings I've heard of this piece of music.

One of the best performances or best recorded sound?

Are there specific recording labels to stay away from and which in your opinion are the better ones to look at?

Not really; most labels produce average, as well as excellent recordings (performance and sound). Maybe the best thing to do is read reviews; then decide (if you can't hear it first). A good online place is I think that's what it's called.

Actually, one of the most tragic, soul-gripping music in the world of classical music is that of Shostakovich

We're going to hear his 10th in Cincinnati in March. It's my favorite symphony of his by far. Have never heard it live. Can't wait.

Steve O.

Thanks for all the input so far.

In response to Steveott. Best recorded version would be what I am saying. There seems to be an enormous amount of dynamic swings throughout that I haven't heard on some of my other orchestral cds. I do understand that different conductors and orchestras can play a major role in the interpretation of the composers work.

Just a side note as well.

Do any of you feel that the first performance of a piece of music, recorded or live, becomes the benchmark for other versions you may hear of the same piece. For example I heard Rhapsody In Blue for the first time about 15 years ago and loved it. I don't remember the conductor or orchestra used to perform it. Then a few years later I got a hold of another version and didn't like it very much. (The tempo was much faster for one and it didn't seem as grand as I had once remembered it to be.) Do any of you have any input on this.

Back to the subject.

Where do you all get your classical cd's from anyways. Where I live (Kansas City) there is Best Buy, Circuit City and for the most part thats about it. What are some other avenues I can pursue.

hi tobias:

i do not own any vocal music on that label. none of my instrumental recordings are bright. i like harmonia mundi very much.

it is difficult to generalize about the two labels.

i will now add other labels:

pierre verany

admittedly music is generally from the baroque period.
it is worth listening to anything on these labels.

however, it is worth listening to some of these labels
By the way, these are really wonderful recordings:
Mrtennis, I have to agree with you that Pierre Verany is a very good bet. Always really good recordings and IMHO the performances are often first-class as well. Nothing wrong with the other labels you also mention but I have been consistently pleased with PV.

Foehn, there is a recording on Bis of the Sibelius Violin Concerto, Leonidas Kavakos as soloist, that is worth searching out.
Generally speaking, I have not found the label alone to be a criterion for classical collecting. I typically research the artist/conductor/orchestra first, then filter selections further by recording quality. The fun thing about classical is that some of the greatest recordings are on mid-priced, even budget labels (i.e., Sony Essential Classics, DG Originals, RCA Living Stereo). Further, many great recordings have been issued several times, the most recent release almost always having improved sound. I've found the Hyperion and Chesky labels to be very good, but there are excellent recordings on just about every label. Also, SACD is a huge factor in classical, and hybrid discs are typically only a few more dollars (the same price in the case of RCA LS). Hope this helps.
Thought I'd add that I recently got the Sony, single SACD layer release of Bernstein's Gershwin, and it has spectacular sound. Sadly, it is out of print, but I found a copy from a specialty site. IMO, nobody played Gershwin or Copland like Bernstein. I've been through several Planets, and the one I liked most was by Steinberg/BSO, on the mid-priced DG Originals release. There is a great Ravel disc by Boulez/VPO on DG, and I've just ordered the SACD release of it.
In response to your last question, I now shop exclusively on the web. Here are the ones I frequent: Marketplace - sellers like Caiman and Moviemars often have very low prices for new discs, and I've been using them for years. - great for Europe-only releases, but the dollar has taken a beating. - great for Japan-only releases. They have many excellent remasterings of great American recordings. Unfortunately, they only ship by express mail, and it's expensive. Americans don't buy enough to keep them in the catalog here.

Also, someome mentioned for reviews. It's an excellent resource.