Recommendations for a few high SQ classical CDs

I have a modest collection of classical music CDs, most of it symphonic works, maybe 20-30 CDs at most. Most of my musical interest is with rock, roots rock and blues but I do enjoy classical music but have limited knowledge and experience.

I am also a new audiophile with my first hifi system for about a month now.

I would like some specific recommendations on just a few symphonies (for now). What I am looking for at this point is good CD recordings rather than the nature of the performance/conductor/orchestra. In other words, I'm looking for SQ first and performance quality second. I know that might sound backwards but I don't have enough knowledge to have a major preference between performances but I can hear SQ. Certainly a great recording of a great performance is ideal.

To keep things limited I am specifically interested in these works:

Beethoven's 9th
Mahler's 4th
Dvorak's 4th
Brahm's 4th

Certainly open to other symphonies by these composers. I have the works listed above and other symphonies by them as well.

Thanks for any recommendations,


For Mahler: Ivan Fischer, Budapest Festival Orchestra from Channel Classics or Ricardo Chailly, Royal Concertgebouw Amsterdam, Decca.
For Beethoven: Osmo Vanska, Minnesota Orchestra, BIS Records.
For Dvorak: Nicholas Harnoncourt, RCO, Teldec or Leonard Bernstein, NYPO from Sony Classical. 
There are also reference interpretations!
thanks guys for all the great suggestions.  i have a reasonably large (500 or so) of classical cds and there are many above that i need to look into.  my suggestion for an outstanding recording both performance wise and SQ wise is this cd:
Decca issued a big box with a nicely varied selection of music from their catalog, The Decca Sound:

IMO only one real clunker here: I cannot abide Ute Lemper's mannerisms in her Kurt Weill disc.  YMMV.  But that's a really good batting average for a box like this.
@ ronkent: For the Rite of Spring I'm gonna say Ivan Fischer, Budapest Festival Orchestra, Channel Classics once more! :)

You got the part about 1987 New Year's Concert right. It is far from the best sound quality that ever was. I, don't ask why, happened to have had a plain any-store copy Made in West Germany, one more like that Made in U.S.A. and now I have this Japanese K2. I bought K2 simply because it existed and those regular copies were getting on my nerves. Not that I listened to them more than once a year, or every two years. K2 is definitely better than ordinary CD, surely not four times better like the price might suggest but I think it is decent. Still, I suggested it as a decent-sounding material for some easy-classical listening. Kind of when we get tired of Mahler's attacks and need a break.

As far as actual Deutsche Gramophone recordings go, would it make a difference that this particular CD/concert was recorded live with whatever constraints the venue might have brought? I have no idea, but I do have some of the Deutsche Gramophone recordings you are implying and I think you are spot on about the imperfections of sound. It may be my ears, but I think that this particular New Year's Concert is a bit better to start with. To repeat, not great.