I don't know if Classical is your thing, (let alone opera!) but Furtwangler's Tristan und Isolde is my most cherished Mono set. I own the poor-man's pressing, last of the tube, or valve-cut: His Master's Voice black label on 5 Lp's. The six Lp sets--previous pressings-- went for big bucks, though I'm not sure this is still the case. The immediacy is amazing, some "hardening of the arteries" notwithstanding in the thicker writing. Later pressings are good, but lack the last dollop of warmth of the Black label pressings.
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Thanks. I have been interested in getting more into classical music. I have been enjoying KDFC, the classical station in the Bay Area. I have even thought about getting an old tube tuner. Although my classical collection is small, for Tristan & Isolde, I have a very nice LP boxed set with Brigit Nilsson / Georg Solti / London Stereo, which, I think, is also really good.
As far as *stunning* sounding mono goes, generally-speaking, Westminster Lp's of Chamber music can sound almost palpable. Surfaces can be noisy though. Orchestral music on Westminster or elsewhere...I can't say it's "about the sound." It's about performance: Currently, I'm a big fan of Scherchen's Beethoven. I'm also a big fan of Furtwangler.
So since I'm only familiar with Classical Mono, I could only say comfortably that most Chamber music on Westminster could be used for sound demonstrations, (but damn good performances too), and I'd only recommend going out of your way for large-scale Classical and/or Opera on mono when you've become tired of modern recordings of said performances, a lifetime's pursuit. I learned my Wagner through Nilsson, but only recently discovered Flagstad, who has Nilsson's clarion top but can also soften and feminize her voice as well. Now it's hard to go back to Nilsson, even though she's recorded better.
So you're probably asking a difficult question!
If you are jazz lover, the Music Matter mono Blue Note reissues are hard to beat.
I completely concur. The Gil Melle LP entitled "Jazz Patterns" is breathtaking in its ability to paint a realistic soundstage in a head-scratching way. Mono LPs like this make me wonder why stereo LPs were ever introduced!
Well, my favorite mono opera LP has to be the 1935 performance of the 1st act of Die Walkure on Angel's Great Recording series.
How's this for voices: Lotte Lehmann, Emanuel List, Lauritz Melchior, Alfred Jerger, Ella Flesch
Conductor: Bruno Walter
Orchestra/Ensemble: Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
Solo Piano: Dinu Lipatti - Chopin Waltzes
Orchestral: hard to choose but the Reiner performance of Bartok's Concerto for Orchestra is better than the famous stereo version.
Try pretty much any symphonic recording conducted by Arturo Toscanini. The performances are so captivating you won't pay any attention to the primitive sonics.
I particularly like his 1940 recording of the Brahms 1st. I have it on a set of Victor 78's, but you can find it transcribed to compressed digital form here.
Thanks Almarg, IMHO Toscanini's Saint Saens Organ Symphony is my favorite of them all, sonics notwithstanding. (Though sonics far from horrible!) The fleet Scherzo is for once captivating, (Paray gets the Scherzo right, too) and the finale has just the perfect blend of excitement and grandeur; others IMHO are either too grand (lumbering) or too exciting, (texture/polyphony gets "flattened").
I really appreciate all of the suggestions. This Shelter 501 Mono seems to be on back order, so I guess it will be a few weeks. Good thing I already have the Gil Melle Jazz Patterns from Music Matters. I had thought that the Mono cartridge would benefit mostly older recordings. I would have thought the Music Matters reissues would have optimal sound even on a stereo cartridge, as they are already very quiet pressings. I guess I'll have a chance to hear for myself in a few weeks. I just got a mint copy of Bob Dylan's debut in stereo. Sounds fantastic...like I had never heard him before. I would have thought that Bob Dylan's early stuff would sound better on MONO, as I think they were recorded in MONO...anyway, I really appreciate the suggestions and will look into these. THANKS!