Man in need of new music

All audio enthusiasts (OK, audiophiles) recognize that recording quality makes as much difference as component quality. I have eclectic tastes in music, and I would like to explore classical. I know NOTHING about classical music. I would like to buy a SACD, CD or LP that is well recorded (i.e. SOUNDS TERRIFIC) as an intro to the genre. I would like something with a lot of dynamics; percussion, violin, piano... things that will make my coveted components shine! Recommendations welcome. Thanks.
My favorite is Rachmaninoff because his music is powerful, delicate and beautiful. I fell in love with "Symphonic Dances" put out by Reference Recording. It is HDCD and is very well recorded. Actually it won a grammy for the engineering- it's that good!
As a newbie to Classical as well, I have aquired the folling recordings on SACD that have appealed to my tatses and are recorded well. The music of Paul Dukas/Jesus Lopez-Cobos; Beethoven/Kurt Maser; I have also like the works of Hovannes although I have read his work may not be considered classical. But in my opinion it is. There are a few SACD's published of his work.

Erndog; any particular selection of Rachmaninoff's work you would suggest as a "sampling" of his work?
Two very accessible, powerful and beautifully recorded CD's are the MA recording of J. S. Bach / 6 Suites a Violoncello Solo Senza Basso Vol. 1 by Martin Zeller and Bach On A Steinway performed by Jeffrey Biegel.
First I agree with Erndog, although our preferences in recordings vary. I prefer Askenazy's performance on London. You might argue that the RR disc in HDCD is a 'better' recording, but I find the Ashkenazy recording more crisp which makes the music even more dynamic sounding. FWIW.

If you do choose the RR recording, be sure it's the one by Eiji Oue and the Minnesota Orchestra. (They have another by Keith Lockhart with different accompanying pieces which to my way of thinking are less attractive than Oue's.)

Now, for another RR recording that is outstanding, Copland Symphony # 3, Appalachian Spring suite, and it includes the Fanfare for the Common Man (think Olympic's theme). That 'Fanfare' will test your system, in spades! Turn up the volume!

Featuring piano, try Bavouzet playing in the piano concertos by Ravel, Debussy, and Massenet, on Chandos. Absolutely beautiful music if nothing else, but less extroverted than the other two recordings I mentioned. But, the recording quality is excellent.
Not sure if it is still in print and/or readily findable, but if you can find it I think you would be thrilled with Chesky CD31, Dvorak's Symphony No. 9 ("From The New World"), the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Jascha Horenstein. You also would not believe that it was recorded in 1962!

Also, see my post in this recent thread.

-- Al
Beethoven Symphonies NOS. 5 & 7
Wiener Philharmoniker - Carlos Kleiber
Is considered to be one of the best recordings and performances of these works and it is available in SACD.

Another Great recent purchase: Vivaldi The Four Seasons - Gil Shaham - Orpheus Chamber Orch
Al, Thanks much for providing your excellent label list. Great search shortcut. Very helpful!
To all newbies in classical I'd recommend visiting a live performance venue first. It'll kick larger interest in classical performances.
Erndog, I like the way you think. Newbie, middle-bie or oldbie, you just can’t go wrong with Rachmaninoff! I’m particularly fond of Piano Concerto No.3 performed by either Byron Janis on Mercury Living Presence and/or Van Cliburn on Living Stereo - both SACD.
Hi Klipschking - I would second the recommendation to go to some concerts live in your local area, especially if you happen to be in a major metropolitan area that has lots of offerings.

That said, I think Mozart is the best place to start, particularly if you want to try opera - Don Giovanni or the Marriage of Figaro, to name a tragedy and a comedy. Or try any of his last three symphonies, 39-41, or some of his piano concerti. Alfred Brendel has recorded most of them on the Philips label, and the ones printed in Holland have good sonics (LP here).

Especially in classical music, the best performances are not always on the best sounding LP's. Take Angel, a label many audiophiles avoid because of it's varying quality. They had so many great artists on their roster that those folks are really missing out on some incredible performances. I will always take a great performance on a not as good sounding LP over a great sounding LP with a mediocre performance.

Anyway, I mention opera because full scale opera will stretch your system's capabilities like nothing else. Another good opera to start with would be Bizet's Carmen. There is a recording of this with Marilyn Horne in the title role with Bernstein conducting, on the Deutsche Grammophone label. This LP box set has incredible sonics, and the performance matches them as well.

I would also warn you that once you start listening to some full scale classical music, you may find that you have some weaknesses in your system you didn't know were there before....
Another good opera to start with would be Bizet's Carmen.

If you have to go Opera, Carmen is hot! I like Leonard Slatkin and the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra on SACD.
If you try Opera, make sure you get the 'highlights' version. So much of opera requires you to actually SEE it to appreciate it. The highlights will give you the 'good parts' without all the stomping around on stage.
Following up on my earlier post, it looks like the Chesky CD I had suggested is out of print, but it is offered by a number of sellers at Amazon. IMO it is well worth the high prices being asked, especially for those that are offered in "used/like new" condition. It is an amazing recording.

Isochronism, thanks very much for your comment.

Best regards,
-- Al
It can be tough to find TRULY well-engineered recordings, but I have found that anything recorded by Tony Faulkner, a British engineer, is a cut above the rest. His recordings just sound better IMO. I agree that Dvorjak is very accessible (his 7th is brooding and intense, 8th is joyful, and 9th is beautiful). Also, Wagner's overtures make great introductions, as do any of the Brahms 4 symphonies. Dvorjak's cello concerto is sublime and powerful, Bartok's Concerto for Orchestra is quirky and intense (but may sound dissonant to new ears), and of course, Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition is standard for any new listener. Tchaikovsky's 4th is loud and bombastic (except for the plucked strings 3rd movement), and his Romeo and Juliet and 6th Symphony are softer and less abrasive. So many to choose from, but these will get you started.
Oh, yeah...I second the live performance advice. You'll immediately understand what true tonal balance sounds like, and you'll hear how the strings sounds "as one." A good recording will mimic this effect without "spotlighting" the violins or any other frequency band.
Can anyone recommend a label that consistently puts out great sounding sacds? How are the Living Stereo reissues soundwise?
Pentatone seems to be comitted to the SACD format. I think the label was founded by unhappy engineers from a major european label. I have several. The discs are good , but their artist roster is limited, and maybe not the top people. The living stereo is a mixed bag. I have several, some are very good and some not. I guess it depends on the quality of the original recording. I would advise reading the reviews on Amazon, for the living stereo and Pentatone. My experience has been that the difference between SACD and redbook version of the same CD, is rarely night and day.
Try to get LP records whatever you want to listen to. Digital is no good for any kind of music and even worse for classical to the point of becoming ridiculous for big orchestra.
Carmen was an excellent suggestion for opera though it matters who performs. Carmina Burana by Orff is great too. Then of course the usual names - Bach, Beethoven, Musorgsky, Mahler, Paganini etc. With classical it is very important who performs and conducts. I am not big fan of this kind of music so others will guide you more specifically including advising you to get particular performances and LP editions.
The power of orchestra can be incredible.
Seek out music recorded in the DXD format (it is released in SACD's and CD form) as this is an amazing converter technology that yields some nice results in dynamics and noise floor.
Please check out the following website for SACD releases.
Inna: "Try to get LP records whatever you want to listen to. Digital is no good for any kind of music and even worse for classical to the point of becoming ridiculous for big orchestra."


You CAN'T be serious.
Klipschking: if you want my RR HDCDs of Copeland, Rachmaninoff, Bolero, you can have them for the shipping to your house. Email me with your address.
'You CAN'T be serious'

He wasn't. Just a provocation or an attempt at one.