I prefer some of the live EMI with his Munich orchestra. Some are recorded in analog (ADD) even though the early 1990s. More natural sounding than DDD. A lot of DG CDs are mixed poorly IMHO.
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Emi are the only ones endorsed by the family. The conductor himself did not believe in recording- so he never did. After DG began realesing the albums his widow and son decided to have them released on EMI- and set up charities for the profits. The widow and son were upset at the quality of the DG, so they had the EMI discs carefully mastered. Ethically EMI is the way to go...
Recently, I've listened to most of both series. The EMI sound better. Try the Bruckner 4th the performance is superb. The first movement of the Eroica is also excellent. The Brahms series on DG are the only ones I would bother with, the fourth is particularly good. However, I don't see the mystique. Compare his Bruckner 8th to Furtwangler, Karajan or Giulini or his Beethoven the standard list of recommende performances and I think there is no contest
First of all, Bruckner himself revised a few orchestrations after the first released version that makes interpretation of Bruckner's music extremely complicated.
For me, music listening is the experience to appreciate the attitudes and principles that conductors intend to address through performances. As an amateur music lover, I don't think I have adequate knowledge to rank the performances. "Contest" never resides in my mind whenever I approach music appreciation. Also, with different recording qualities, the judgement seems unsubstantiated. How should we judge Nikisch's recording of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony with forced re-orchestration by recording limitation?
Among Furtwangler's performances of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, there is another recording during WWII period shows Furtwangler's unique reading.
Last month I decided to listen to a fair cross section of Celi's performances both on EMI and DG. I listened to the Brahms, Ravel, Debussy, Strauss, Respighi, Haydn, most of the Beethoven and Bruckner as well as the Russian set. Celi is obviously a conductor of genius, as the Bruckner and Brahms 4th recordings make clear. However, Celi uses the same interpretive exaggerations on Haydn or Beethoven as he does on Stravinsky, Strauss or Bruckner. These interpretive exaggerations begin to homoginize the composer’s works and unacceptable blur their compositional uniqueness.
The key for me is does an interpretive exaggeration (a noticeable and audible deviation from the clear markings in the composers published score) tell me something significant about the music, (as is frequently the case with Furtwangler, Klemperer or Bernstein), or is it just a willful exaggeration that tells us more about the conductor. After my listening sessions, often with a score, in my opinion, Celi is, for the most part, about the latter.
On a more affective note and listening without the score, only the Bruckner 4th performance totally engrossed me as a great performance of any of these works should. Here, it is certainly a matter of personal preference. That’s why Celi IS a cult conductor
If you can read music are interested in these issues I recommend the composer Gunther Schuller’s book called the Complete Conductor. He compares, bar by bar, several hundred recordings of such major works such as the Beethoven 5, Brahms 1 and 4, Tchaikovsky 6 and Strauss’s Till to the printed score. Celi’s Bruckner interpretations have little to do with the various editions. For an analysis of the 8th and its various editions, I recommend Korstvedt’s book on the 8th.
BTW the Nikisch recording of the Beethoven 5th is a powerful interpretation showing virtuoso control of the orchestra but the sound is extremely primitive
Adding my two cents, the EMI recordings are excellent, far better than the DGs I have heard. EMI may multi-mike a bit, but never as much or as badly, in my view, as DG. The live performances add greatly to the emotional involvement that comes through in the recordings. And with regard to Celi's Beethoven 9th, I have never heard a slower tempo for the Scherzo; certainly an interesting and different interpretation. While not totally to my taste, it is an interesting alternative to have in your library.
Pls1, in antithesis to Furt's last, Lucerne, recording of the 9th, I could point you to Fricsay's '57 version with the Berliner. Lyrical, smooth, less passionate, classical and serene. Judging from your stated prefs above, I wouldn't dare suggest you buy this. In defense of Fricsay, however, I dare say that I do have it even though my tastes are rather primitive (I go for passion and power, "blood, sweat & tears") when I listen. For example, "Forza del Destino" with Mitropoulos: I *feel* that force in the introduction.
Sorry,Eldragon, off topic.
I agree with Pls1 on Celi's Bruckner 4th and would go on to say that IMO the whole of Celi's Bruckner may be considered a good reference.