Good sounding Deutsche Grammophon recordings

We have a pretty big classical CD collection and many are Deutsche Grammophon. Many of these recordings don't sound that great and I have to say that some of the Deutsche Grammophon vinyl we have is average sounding. But the performances are usually top notch. After upgrading my cartridge to an Audio Note iQ3 I took a chance on some mid 60's Herbert Von Karajan/Berlin Philharmonic vinyl from Ebay. I thought I would share some of the outstanding finds I came across.

Brahms four symphonies-outstanding sound and amazing playing. These symphonies can sound thick and muddy. Not here.
Brahms Violin Concerto- Christian Ferras violin.
Beethoven Violin Concerto- Christian Ferras violin -Simply amazing sound.

Karl Bohm and the Berlin Philharmonic Schubert 5th Symphony. Elegant interpretation and excellent sound. I think from the 60's

A live performance of Beethoven's Piano Concerto no1. from 1979 Carlo Maria Giulini conducting the Vienna Philharmonic- Sonically amazing.

I found most of these less than $15 and mint minus ratings- not bad :)
do you reverse the phase on them?
My take on DG is that they always had some of the best artists and performances of any label, but the recording quality was inconsistent. I also own DG records from the 60s and 70s and many times have been disappointed by the recording quality.

IMO, these should have been excellent sounding LPs, as they were from the golden age of vinyl and made in Germany/Holland. I've often wondered if the many mergers and sale to Polygram in 1972 had anything to do with the engineering or quality control.

But Decca from that time period was always a sure thing.
Musically DG recordings are generally among the best. Sonically, a mixed bag. DG, unlike Decca, generally used a lot of microphones, some almost in the laps of musicians, ran the feeds through a mixing board and relied on the producer (tonmeister, I think they called the person) for the final mix, along, of course, with the featured conductor or artist. They still follow this practice, as I understand it. As a result, the end result depended on the musical sensibility of the producer, and DG had some good ones who did not care as much about how realistic a portrayal of the orchestra they could achieve but rather how the music recorded should sound. That's why in the middle of a quiet passage in a symphony you might hear a larger than life flute being spotlit, for example. DG actually acknowledges that their recordings are aimed at music lovers more than at audiophiles, though some of their recordings can satisfy both. I have found that many of their recordings from the late 60s on and especially their earlier digital recordings were on the bright side and lacking bass, though their recent offerings seem much better. I used to avoid DG recordings, but have now found that, as long as they don't chase me from the room with their tonal balance, the musical result overrides the occasional deviation from what I'd hear in the concert hall.

As an aside, with the exception of Mercury, earlier Telarc and a few purist labels, multi-miking is often used by labels, not just DG (though DG seems to use a lot more than, say, Decca or RCA). If RCA was recording Heifetz or Rubenstein, for example, they were going to spotlight their star artist, sometimes at the expense of a literal portrayal of a concert hall experience. In speaking with a former EMI recording engineer, I was told that using a lot of mikes was often a necessity for them, given the numerous places they were recording in which the acoustics of the hall were not so well-known and balances needed to be adjusted after the recording session to make recordings sound good. I was also talking this past weekend with the NJ Symphony's recording engineer, who records a great many orchestras and ensembles and uses not only the basic "Decca tree" with outriggers and a pair of spaced omnis in the hall, but also a large array of spot microphones over different sections when recording orchestras, in part because, to paraphrase, when a world-famous conductor listening to the playback tells you he wants more sound from the second violins in the final product, you don't ask him why he didn't have them play louder in the first place. In addition, he told me that today labels and artists generally want more impact in the recording, something you don't always get with a few spaced omnis in front of the orchestra (like Telarc used to do--while their recordings were certainly dynamic, they could sometimes sound a bit distant). I can tell you that this engineer's products are musically excellent and give a good facsimile of what you would hear in the concert hall, but they are certainly not purist recordings. The end result just depends on the skills of the recording engineers and producers, as well, of course, as the artists, not just the recording techniques.
Agree. Totally overrated. DG had ONE advantage (at their time) they paid the musicians immediately .They have a huge repertoire, but they did create "Digital Sound" (thin, flat, dead) into their pressings even when no one did know what that is. Compared to Mercury/Decca/London Standard light years below. Well, we have to go back to understand it. All companies used that stuff what was available at their time. And they had recording teams which made the best out of it. But none of them did know how good they really were (Except Robert Fine probably). We do that rating now, 40-50 years later. We can say now, they had equipment which was fantastic but no one did know that at that time. They went on with technical "progress" used more mikes, used mixing desks, used Dynagroove cutters and so on and on....
Deutsche Gramophone was simply too late. They started at their point with equipment which was at that time the "Standard". And again, now, 40 years later, we can rate that and based on that, they fail. That "Standard" is mediocre from sonics. That's it.
We have Karajan's digital recordings of Brahms 4 Symphonies on CD and they are poor sounding. Lacking any air/space and kind of muddy sounding. That is why I wanted to especially bring the 1965 version to folks attention as it is quite a surprise to hear such clarity. Inspiring listening. If you like the Brahms symphonies this is a must have. They are inexpensive :)

He worked with Christian Ferras quite a bit in the 60's and I was shocked at how great the above mentioned recordings are. The violin is beautiful sounding.

I also picked up the 1962 Karajan Beethoven cycle on vinyl and it does not sound as good-more of the typical Deutsche Grammophon sound which was a surprise as I would have thought it was going to sound as good as the Brahms,
I can ditto the Bohm Schubert 5, most excellent.
Schubert, you reminded me of another DG Bohm recording from 1974 also on vinyl that is nicely recorded. Perhaps not as good as some mentioned above.
Bohm/Vienna Philharmonic - Mozart's clarinet concerto with Alfred Prinz on clarinet. Very elegant. Bohm was known for his Mozart interpretations. Side two has Mozart's bassoon concerto.
I concur with the general view: great artists but often mediocre sound- or worse.
Two examples that span the range of sound quality: Dvorak cello concerto with Rostropovich/Karajan- glorious sound, analogue at its best.
Beethoven's 7 th in a truly great performance by Carlos Kleiber-thin, dry shallow sound,really awful. I just can't listen to it . So sad.
I can think of several more examples of bad sound but would like to hear of some more good ones.
Rcprince- interesting insight. Do you happen to know when DG moved from recording with tube equipment to solid state?
I have many DG LP's which include the complete Beethoven set. These are all DG recordings and from the get-go I was disappointed in the sound quality. Several years ago, I upgraded my playback to a Basis turntable w/a Vector 3 tonearm and a Transfiguration Axia cartridge and I cannot believe how much better these records sound. All my previous disappointments have been eradicated. The sound is suddenly wonderful and fulfilling.

I now listen to this set much more than I previously did.
Always lots of complaints about Karajan on DG. Last night on Tidal heard Karajans recording of La Mer on EMI. What a glorius recording. Very big sounding and obviously multi miked but still a great recording and also one of the best La Mers I have ever heard
Jetrexpro--no, afraid I don't. Don't think it's a tube/solid state question as much as the recording philosophy, though perhaps it might be linked to the thinness/skewed tonal balance. I do notice a difference between the earlier DGs, like Karajan's first Beethoven cycle in the 60s, vs. later, worse-sounding, ones, like his second Beethoven cycle from the 70s.
Thanks for the tip. just picked up a near mint LP of the Dvorak cello concerto with Rostropovich/Karajan on amazon. Have it on CD and like it but the record should sound much better. Agree with you about the Carlos Kleiber/Beethoven - have it on CD - amazing performance but crappy sound. Also agree that every upgrade to ones vinyl rig makes some of these DG records sound better. But it is hard to ignore the bad sounding ones when you A/B them with the great sounding ones.
Rcprince - we also have Karajan's second Beethoven cycle from the 70s. Not much good I can say about it.
DG Lp's rarely show up on "best sounding" Lp lists!

That says it all!
So, what label has the best recordings ?
The early "tulip" Deutsche Gramophon label is the tip off for the really good sounding LPs. I agree when record companies went from tubes to solid state that marked the end of the golden era. It happened to RCA and many others, too. I also think things were just different back then, so many great orchestras and conductors, generally speaking.
You'll find that answer in the archives, the subject of many threads, with many answers.
Try BIS, ECM, Steeplechase, Wergo, Erato, EMI, Decca, Harmondi Mundi, Blue Note, Contemporary to name a few.
So, what label has the best recordings ?

Mercury Living Presence
Steve Hoffman Music Forum has many discussions focusing on sound quality of particular albums and the different versions of them, as reissues, etc.
Some of the older DG recordings are referred to as "Tulip Label" (blue tulips) and Covers with the word "Stereo" in red.
The Paganini Concerto collection, I can't recall the title of the album or the violinist, is a superb DG recording. I just don't have it. I believe the title is something like "Paganini Diabolique" or similar. Terrific performances and (IMO) the best recording job of any DG.
does any one have a recommendation for a great sounding vinyl recording of Alban Berg's Lulu Suite?
A GREAT sounding Lulu Suite on vinyl was the EMI recording by Simon Rattle with the City of Birmingham SO with Arleen Auger in great voice.
Someone "borrowed" my copy so can't give you the number.
Schubert, that recording is from 1989. I have it on CD and is a digital recording. It is very good sounding CD. It also contains as you might expect, some Webern and Schoenberg. Would be interesting to compare record to CD.
It may have not been released on LP in US, my copy was purchased in Germany.
Anyone heard the Mercury Living Presenc LP:
Yes, I have heard it. One of the great Mercurys.
Thanks very much, Jet. I immediately went online and purchased a few of the albums you mentioned
A really great sounding, classic DG recording is the Dvorak Cello Concerto with Pierre Fournier, George Szell and Berlin Philharmonic. The performance is superb and supplanted the Karajan / Rostropovich as my favorite recording of this piece. The tulip LP's are difficult to find in good condition, but the later reissue on DG's budget label is excellent-sounding too, and is easier to find in good condition.

Also in excellent sound with superb performance is the Beethoven Triple Concerto with Geza Anda, Wolfgang Schneiderhan, Pierre Fournier, Fricsay and Berlin Philharmonic. Same applies as above, don't be afraid of the budget LP reissue on DG Privilege. In fact, it sounds better than my tulip pressing. Go figure.

For admirers of the Berlin Philharmonic: NOT on DG, but a new recording of the Schumann symphonies with Simon Rattle and the Berlin Philharmonic - released on the Berlin Philharmonic's own label - is well worth downloading in high resolution. The sound is fantastic and the performances will make you re-think these symphonies. I bought the LP's also, but the digital beats them.
Fabsound, Glad you got a few of these better sounding DG recordings. No substitute for hearing the Berlin/Karajan from the mid 60's. That orchestra and conductor at the height of their powers.
Kmccarty- good info here. We are not subscribers to the Berlin Phil site but have listened/watched some of their streams briefly and they sound /look very good.
Another recommendation for a DG orchestral recording that sounds very good is the Stravinsky Violin Concerto, with Ozawa, Boston Symphony, and Perlman. 2531 110

DG seemed to use entirely different groups of engineers for their chamber music recordings and a much simpler miking philosophy. As a result, many of their chamber music recordings are very good, particularly the recordings with the Boston Symphony Players. Some examples:

Berg, Chamber Concerto for Pf & Vn with 13 winds instruments, 2531 007

Messiaen, Quatuor pour la Din du Temps (Qt for the End of Time), 2531 093

Stravinsky, Concertina for 12 Instruments / Ragtime for Eleven Instruments, 2530 551

Stravinsky, L'Histoire du Soldat, 2530 609

Carter, Sonata for Flute, Oboe, Cello & Harpsicord, 2530 104

Schoenberg, Suite Op. 29, 2531 277
We are amassing a large group of great sounding DG LP recordings. I for one am happy to know of these.

I was shopping for Berg's LULU suite on vinyl and ran across a Sony CD of James Levine and the Met orchestra from 1993 all digital recording. It arrived today. This is AMAZING recording quality. Depth and transparency for days. It includes Wozzeck fragments which I have not heard. I must say that I like Berg's music very much. Especially the Violin Concerto. His LULU suite sounds like Mozart on drugs.- Jet
DG must have done something right at a certain point in time with their chamber music. Manfred Eicher of the German ECM label worked as a producer of chamber music for DG before he started his own label. ECM has done many excellent recordings in terms of sound and creating new sonic landscapes, but I rarely listen to them now because it ended up being a bit too much of a sonic mediation. I listen much more to classical chamber music these days and to small group jazz of the 50s and 60s.
Agree pretty much word for word with Kmccarty on Fournier. He was a great cellist, possibly underrated.

Some other DGG recordings of his that I would recommend for sound and performance are :-

Strauss Don Quixote with Karajan and BPO

Bach Cello Suites - (just as good as Starker on Mercury IMHO)
"Galliano | Bach (2010)" is one of the best.
Mapman, I happen to have that CD and it sounds very good. Accordion transcriptions of Bach pieces. That band grooves pretty good!
Any DG analog recording converted to digital and output onto CD sounds mediocre. Abbado's recording of Simon Boccanegra comes to mind - the vinyl version is marvellous. Some of the DDD CDs are also poor - I found the highly-regarded Brahms 4 by Carlos Kleiber to be unlistenable on CD, but the LP version is superb.

As to Karajan's recordings, those done in the Berlin Philharmonie from around 1978 onwards are compromised. Earlier ones are much better, on both DG and EMI. Simon Rattle's output with the Berlin Philharmonic suffers likewise and I refuse to buy any of it. Having recently heard them live I believe that the BPO are still playing as if Karajan were on the rostrum anyway.

On the other hand there are some stunning DG LPs from Barenboim when he was in charge in Paris. Abbado and Giulini in Chicago, and just about anyone in Vienna.
The Decca playback curve.
Does anyone have recommendations for excellent recordings of the following works on vinyl:

Beethoven and Mozart string quartets (possibly complete box sets)

Bach cantatas (looking specifically for BWV 69 but also otherst-- they're all great)

Mozart oboe quartet 370

Bach cello suites
Am listening to my mint minus LP of Dvorak Cello Concerto with Karajan
/Berlin/ Rostropovich I got the ebay. Wow this sounds great! So much more
dynamic and alive than the CD.
Will be great to sometime compare it to the Pierre Fournier, George Szell/Berlin
Philharmonic LP which must also sound fantastic.

Fabsound no I do not have any vinyl recommendations for your above requests.
Got good recordings some of those on CD.
One thing to keep in mind about older Bach recordings is there will be a
different performance practice than recordings after around 1980. Many newer
recordings will use instruments from the time of Bach so will have a more
authentic sound-Jet
Fabsound, some suggestions in response to you request for
vinyl recommendations:

Beethoven String Qts - opinions will be all over the
place. And different performing ensembles bring differing
strengths in the various period quartets (early, middle,
late). I recommend the following LPs for their excellent
sound quality coupled with very good overall performances:

Vegh Quartet on the French Valois label, reissued on
Telefunken. The Valois pressings sound a bit better but
the Telefunken pressings are good and very reliable.

Talich Quartet on Calliope 1631, 1634, 1637, 1638, 1639

Julliard String Quartet on RCA (sound quality will vary
with pressing)

Mozart String Quartets
The Amadeus Quartet on Deutsche Grammophon are very good
across the board.

The Salomon String Quartet on Hyperion are nice for a more
historically informed performance quality.

Bach Cantatas
I continue to enjoy the Telefunken complete Cantatas
series with Harnoncourt and Leonhardt conducting. It is
one of the earliest efforts to bring some greater
historically informed performance practices to record.
While the choices made sound a bit dated in comparison to
where the HIP efforts evolved, the singing is quite
marvelous and all are nicely captured in the recordings.

Mozart Oboe Quarter K370
The Boston Chamber Players makes a fine effort on this
piece in RCA LSC 6167

Bach Cello Suites
Janos Starker, Mercury SR3-9016 - reissued in great sound
by Speakers Corner and still currently available new

Frans Helmerson on BIS LP 5, LP 25, LP 65

Good luck in your search!

Thanks very much, Jet and Rushton! You are right about the evolution in performance styles. Rushton, your list is greatly appreciated.
I have around 1300 classical vinyl lp that I bought along the years, but my main reference for good sound is:
the three first lists divinity, demi gods and basic list have never deceived me.
On DG, I very much enjoy the sound and performance of the Nathan Milstein, J.S. Bach, Sonaten & Partiten box set
As to Karajan's recordings, those done in the Berlin Philharmonie from around 1978 onwards are compromised. Earlier ones are much better, on both DG and EMI.

Agree with your Karajan DG findings, which makes little sense since late analogue recording was SOTA. Must be the DG multi-miking techniques (and Karajan's insistence to have control over recording).
Thanks guys. IMHO, this is the best thread on audiogon for a while.
"As to Karajan's recordings, those done in the Berlin Philharmonie from around 1978 onwards are compromised. Earlier ones are much better, on both DG and EMI."

The earlier recordings were for the most part not done in the Philharmonic Hall, They were done in a church in Berlin.
As I remember from reading a Herbert Von Karajan biography, the Philharmonic hall under went some renovations in the early to mid 70's and that is when they started to record there.
Jetrexpro, that explains a lot.
But don't get me started on DG's entrance into digital. They ruined some great recordings.
Lowrider, The Karajan/Berlin/Brahms Symphonies from the 1980s sound just plain bad. Imagine my surprise after many years of suffering with the several Karajan/Brahms cycles on CD and then finally hearing the wonderful mid 1960's cycle on LP for the first time just a few weeks ago. I listened to all four symphonies non stop one evening. Brahms played by an amazing orchestra with clarity precision and passion. I needed to share my excitement with my music loving friends on this site.