I've thought about asking this too but, imagined that I'd have to narrow it down based on my tastes since, like Jazz, the types are too extreme: Modern vs. Baroque, Symphonic vs. Chamber, Opera? etc.
5 responses Add your response
There are plenty of "sonically outstanding classical recordings". But it would be a shame to plunk down real money on one and come to find you don't care for the music. Best thing to do, if you can, is borrow some or check some out of the local public library, and get to know and like some of the pieces. Then look for good (sonically and performance-wise) recordings of these favorites.
You say that most of the ones you've heard are harsh, thin, etc. Many of the classical CD's recorded in the early 80's sound like this, as do many of the older analogue ones transfered to CD (thought there are lots of exceptions). Or it could be your system is on the bright side?
I'll go out on a limb and recommend some:
1. Rachmaninov's 2nd Symphony by Cincinnati (Telarc)
a) Lopez-Cobos, CD
b) Paavo Jarvi, SACD
a) may be a better performance b) sounds better, according to reputable reviews I've read. I have and love a). This piece is a long sucker, but very romantic and beautiful.
2. Bach Transcriptions (various composers) by Leonard Slatkin and BBC Phil. (Chandos)
He's done two CD's. I think the first is redbook, the other SACD hybrid. Glorious sound and music!
My go-to classical recordings are:
1)Mahler - Symphony No.5 conducted by Riccardo Chailly with Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra(London cd).
I actually heard this performance live at Carnegie Hall last night...Leiptzig orchestra conducted by Chailly.
2) Shostakovich - Symphony No.5 conducted by Rastropovich
3) Tchaikovsky - Romeo and Juliet(Telarc cd)
4) Beethoven - Symphony No.5
5) Mendelssohn Violin Concerto performed by Jascha Heifetz with Boston Symphony Orchestra conducted by Reiner. This was on XRCD if you can still find it, this is a real good recording and excellent perfomance.