Stokowski Uraipuru on Everest.
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Prokofiev's "Romeo and Juliet" excerpts, conducted by Erich Leinsdorf, on cd on Sheffield Lab's "The Sheffield-Leinsdorf Sessions, Volume I." Or on the original 1978 direct-to-disk LP, if you can find it. Both are available at Acoustic Sounds (the LP in pre-owned form).
You will probably never hear a classical recording with greater dynamics. The sound is close-mic'd in the sense of having a first-row tonal balance, with a very bright (but still natural) string sound. It is NOT "close-mic'd" in the sense of excessive multi-mic'ing resulting in artificial-sounding over-emphasis of individual instruments.
This recording will NEVER be accused of sounding "dull and lifeless," and if you don't mind the bright strings it is one of the ultimate classical demo disks.
Of orchestral recordings that still maintain a perspective of listening from the audience, the Mercury label recordings consistently offered a more front row, up-front, presentation than many other classical labels.
Decca, EMI, Chandos, BIS and many others leaned more to a mid-hall perspective. I have heard one or two more recent digital recordings that are done in surround sound where the perspective is that of a performer seated in the orchestra, but I can't give any suggestions because this is not something I'm inclined to listen to. But, there are some out there and perhaps others can offer specific suggestions.
The Sheffield recording Al mentions above is an excellent LP, but it may still have very much of a mid-hall perspective to your tastes, I suspect.
Try something like the Mercury recording of the Stravinsky "Firebird Ballet," Dorati/LSO, Mercury SR 90226, or the Prokofiev "Scythian Suite" on Mercury SR 90531, and see if that front of hall perspective gives you more satisfaction.
If you're still looking for greater immediacy, then you are probably headed for some recordings that toss out natural soundstaging, which Al and I value, but go for close multi-miking of the individual instruments and sections. For that, some of the later Deutsche Grammophon recordings may be what you need to try.
Thank you all for the suggestions. I'm going to try and track some of these down. (BTW, listening to the clips of Webern's trios and quartets on Amazon -- sounds like the kind of recording I'm looking for, but pretty challenging musically!)
BTW, I've heard that Telarc tends to mic their recordings more "up front", but I haven't bought anything on Telarc for quite some time. Does anyone out there concur?
Warrensomebody: If you want some Webern in close-miked bliss, get the Robert Craft Columbia recording of the complete Webern. It has exactly the sound you are looking for. However, for the trios and quartets it is not my favorite. That would be the Arditti quartet recording, out of print, CD only. It also has a close-miked sound, but not a severe as the Craft. If you can find a '6-eye' pressing (original) on Columbia as a box set GRAB IT!
As a couple of people have mentioned, close-miking an orchestra does not result in the best sounding recording - it all has to be mixed later, which always ends up sounding totally different than it does in the hall. This is not even to mention the problem of instruments bleeding over into the wrong mikes, which will always happen, even using directional mikes. The very best sounding orchestral recordings that the previous posters have mentioned were without exception miked from farther out in the hall, or far above the orchestra, using far fewer microphones than are used in today's digital world.
I guess I'm not so much interested in multi-miked / mixed recordings as simply ones that are recorded close up, with minimal hall ambiance. I think that just tends to dull the impact of the transients, string resonances, etc. I'd also like the drums to have a little more impact. I mean a kettle drum is all about drama, so why is it so often recorded in such a polite and aloof manner?
So maybe I should ask what you guys look for to ensure the best recordings sonically? Is there a reliable reference guide, some particular recording technique mentioned in the liner notes (natural soundstaging -- is that formally defined, or simply a casual term?), a particular recording company you look for? BTW, I just picked up Julia Fischer / Kreizberg "Russian Violin Concertos" on PentaTone SACD, recorded by Polyhymnia (former Philips Classics Recording Center people), and it meets my criteria.
My 2 cents: screw the sound quality and go for the best performances. Then get the best equipment you can to maximize what you love. It would be a real shame to select performances based on audiophile criteria. In general, audiophiles do NOT know diddley about music, with rare exceptions. Don't listen to the engineer's work, listen to the performers! My 2 cents.
I absolutely favor what Chashmal says about selecting the best performances, although I am sure he would concur that it's not always possible, the best equipment notwithstanding, to "bring" those interpretations to a level of sound reproduction that our ears or tonal tastes would be willing live with. In more than a few instances, I have sold classical collectors' items that have excelled soundwise but not given me the kind of interpretive fulfillment I have longed for. Fortunately, I've encountered relatively fewer instances when I could not live with the sound of a recording(bright,sharp,peaky or muddy)despite its possessing the kind of performance I truly liked.
The better ones speakers are etc the more one can (as been said)concentrate on the quality of the performers' rather than the alleged high quality of a cd.
Good loudspeakers should make good sounds out of ALL mediocre recordings and orgasmic soundings out of true high quality
recordings.I got to admit I pick a chosen performer/s first rather than the cd.
If you are talking CD, try the Nimbus English String/William Boughton CDs. The Benjamin Britten one is particularly excellent.The Ralph Vaughn Williams is also excellent.
These recordings where all done in a long narrow and somewhat reverberant room. The micing is fairly close, but because of the room the sound has great ambiance and decay.They are also great pieces played well.