Two performances I very much enjoy are:
~ Harnoncourt, with the Concentus musicus Wien on Telefunken
~ Gardiner with the English Baroque Soloists and Monteverdi Choir on Archiv
Both are historically informed performances, but beyond that they are very different from each other.
You may need to be more specific:
Cd or record?
period performance or modern instrument?
If you want "period" performance Rushton has good suggestion with Gardiner/Archiv or perhaps Parrott/Virgin.
There are more modern versions in catalog, but I think Bach Mass especially lends itself to the unique insights/sounds offered by period performance.
If you want a more "modern" instrument sound, then on LP or a CD reissue (Philips) is Eugen Jochum conducting the Bayerischen Rundfunks orchestra and chorus...
Great suggestions. I'm looking for a CD. Also, I'm after suggestions for CD's that are technically very well done. I'm new to audio, but not new to choral music, having been a conductor for many years. I would like to hear what a good version, recorded well sounds like regardless of the style. I will probably end up with all the recordings anyway.
Baileyje.......where were you conducting, inquiring minds have to know.
I think the best version Bach Mass B minor to start and branch out from is Gardiner/Archiv, the sound is very good but not exceptional. Unfortunately this is still full price version.
For exceptional sound check the Gardiner/Archiv version of Monterverdi "vespro della beata vergine" this is very impressive recording with massive soundstage.
My conducting was not very glamorous. I was a choral music director for 15 years at the high school level before I was demoted to principal. I directed many "Messiah's" and Bach Cantata's, but never my favourite, the Mass in B Minor. In fact, I've never performed it. I've always lived in a rural area and just never had the opportunity. I will get the Gardiner/Archiv Mass and also the Monterverdi. I'll let you know how I like it.
The Monteverdi "vespers" was recorded in St Marks cathederal in Venice Italy, there are sections featuring vocals from upper balcony of cathederal that literally sound like voices from the heavens......very impressive.
Please keep us posted on your findings. Also Gardiner/Archiv series has other major Bach liturgical works that generally are very good overall choices.
(1) Monteverdi Choir, English Baroque Soloists, Gardiner
(2) Bach Ensemble, Rifkin
I just got done listening to the Gardner/Archiv Monteverdi. The recording is great. I can hear the voices much better. Thank you for all your advice. I can't wait until the "Mass" comes. By the way, are there any suggestions for speakers that work well with choral music? In my short time with this hobby, I'm finding it difficult to find speakers that sound good with choral music, especially with orchestral accompaniment. I've auditioned PSB, B&W, Magnapan(sp), Paradigm, ProAc, and Thiel in the $1,500 to $2,500 range. Any suggestions?
Regarding your request for speaker suggestions, what might be helpful is some feedback on what you liked and disliked about the various speakers you've already auditioned. Also, should we assume your indicated price range is what you want to spend on speakers? Are you open to purchasing used?
Reason I ask (and disclaimer) - I have a pair of Magnepan 3.5r's - which are physically similar to their current $4,500 list model but fall into the sub-$2K range used. I also listened to Paradigm, B&W and Thiel and far preferred the Maggies. But that's just me.
The speakers you mention all have significant differences in strengths and weaknesses. Not to mention that planars (i.e., Maggie, Martin Logan, Quad ESL, etc.) and dynamics will present acoustic music with quite different results.
If you could elucidate on your audition experience, it might help us make some more informed suggestions for your continuing audition.
As a point of reference, I would note the larger Maggies are an order of magnitude better for large scale orchestral and choral than the smaller 1.6QR's you may have auditioned. As well as, IMHO, the other brand's models you probably heard.
Thanks for your post. What I'm listening for is detail and separation in the choral parts without being muddied up with bass. So far almost every speaker I've listened to has sounded muddy, especially when the choral parts are introduced. The PSB Platinum T8 were the only ones that I thought produced the sound I was looking for. They were $7,000 and out of my price range. The Maggies were indeed the 1.6. They were probably the next best, but the highs seem to scream at me. They only sounded detailed at high volume levels. Today I listened to B&W 604's with a Yamaha amp like mine. To date, they have the sound I like best. Not good enough to buy mind you. I'm still searching. Understand, I'm new to this and I suspect I don't know what to listen for, or there may be some quality in a cheaper speaker that fools a newbie. I have rambled here and I suspect this subject has become a thread for the Speaker Section. Anyway, I received the Gardiner Mass and it is awsome. The smaller choral group and orchestra sound much better on my small speakers. Thanks to all for the suggestions.
Baileyje, given the listening priorities you've mentioned, I recommend you consider a used pair of Celestion SL700 speakers. These are stand-mounted monitor speakers that should sell for about $700-800 on the current used market, with their dedicated stands. They originally sold for just under $3000 in the late 1980's. The reason for suggesting these speakers is that they are outstanding for voice and choral music, with beautiful and detailed reproduction of midrange and mid-bass (through the range of the cello). On mass choral, they have a wonderful ability to differentiate individual voices and vocal lines. I lived with a pair for over a decade, matched to a pair of 70-watt tube amplifiers.
In my limited experience, obtaining choral music reproduction that is anywhere near the sound of a live performance- in a venue with good acoustics - is very difficult to achieve (though I've experienced some live performances in lousy venues that came close to emulating mid-fi). Obtaining the natural reverb, decay, dynamics, and clarity of a live choral production doesn't seem to come easy on any system that I've heard. Granted,this can be said of most music, but the scale (number of voices) seems to make choral music tough to capture on a recording.
That said, planar speakers seem to do relatively well with this genre. I must admit, I've never owned planars, nor have I heard all of the speakers listed above; so again my opinion is based on limited experience, and may be way off.
Something else to look at though: I don't see any mention of the source you're using. Low resolution players seem to really muddy this area up.
Baileyje, When you say "What I'm listening for is detail and separation in the choral parts without being muddied up with bass," I think that almost reads like a prescription for Quad electrostatics. They have detail, separation, speed and snap, clarity in spades, and there definitely will not be any muddying of the bass with them. The older Quads (bought used) are often employed in stacked pairs by audiophiles who are Quad buffs. When properly set up these can be extremely accurate and impressive. (I don't own Quads but have often listened to various Quad setups and have always been impressed with their excellences.)
I would suggest you avoid anythng with a metal dome tweeter; to my ears these always wind up sounding hard and, well, metallic. For example, I recently bought a new closeout pair of Paradigm's top-of-the-line speaker, the Studio 100 (v.2), MSRP $2,400 the pair. These are big (120 pounds each), good looking, well designed, and built like battleships. Excellent midrange and bass (good down to 32 Hz in the room where I had them), but I just couldn't live with the metal dome tweeters. I should have known better than to buy them, since I've never heard a metal dome tweeter I could live with. (I'm not anti-Paradigm, and I think their top-of-the-line Servo-15 subwoofer is absolutely marvelous, a first-choice recommendation.)
I would also like to support the other post that suggests you look to your other equipment. Those new to high-end audio too often make the mistake of attributing everything they hear to the speaker, and this is an easy mistake to make since after all that's where all the sound emanates. But if you are putting together a first-class system, you have to start with a first-class CD player and first-class amplification. Then you also need high-quality (but not necessarily expensive) speaker cables and interconnects.
It can be very helpful if you have a high-end audio retailer in your area who will actually let you try out various components in your home before you buy them; this is a great way to avoid costly mistakes (like mine in buying the big metal-dome-tweetered Paradigms). However, finding such dealers is increasingly difficult, and as you mention living in a rural area, this may not be an option for you.
I'm been fooling around with high-end audio gear for 40 years (I have at least eight pairs of speakers around here, including several that are big, heavy, and expensive, and three different subwoofers, plus an embarrassing number of amps, tuners, and CD players). I have learned a lot by trial and error (making some expensive mistakes along the way), and now buy gear almost exclusively USED on Audiogon and eBay. You can simply get a whole lot more for your money this way. I hesitate to recommend this process to a relative newcomer, however, because you need to know what you are doing before taking this plunge. Do you have any knowledgeable audiophile friend who could give you a hand?
Do a lot of listening, take your favorite reference CDs with you when you listen, and try to filter out distractions and listen carefully, critically, and objectively, without a salesman jawing in your ear. Even with the best efforts in this regard, however, the moment of truth usually comes when you get the gear home. Many audiophiles have found it works well to start with selecting speakers they really like, and then work backwards, choosing amplification that works well with those speakers. (There is no such thing as "the best amplifier" in a vacuum.) I recommend this approach. Don't let anyone else choose your speakers for you; it's fine to listen to advice, but let your own ears make the choice.
By the way, I have the Gardiner Archiv B Minor Mass, which I regard highly, and thanks to this thread I'm going to acquire the Monteverdi. So I learned something here.
Hope this helps a little, and good luck to you.
Baileyje, I have a good many music reference books on hand, including several recommending classical CDs, and I thought I'd give you the benefit of what they say about the Bach B Minor Mass.
The Record Shelf Guide to Classical CDs, fifth revised edition, 1996, Jim Svejda. Recommends the Gardiner/Monteverdi Choir/Archiv recording and the Rifkin/Bach Ensemble/Nonesuch recording.
Classical Music on CD: The Rough Guide, 1994, ed. J. Buckley. Recommends the Hickox/Collegium Musicum 90/Chandos recording.
Gramophone Classical Good CD Guide, 1999 (12th edition), ed. M. Taylor. Top recommendation is Hickox/Collegium Musicum 90/Chandos recording. Next two recommendations are the Gardiner/Monteverdi Choir/Archiv recording and the Leonhardt/Netherlands Bach Society Collegium Musicum/German Harmonia Mundi recording.
Penguin Guide to Compact Discs, revised ed. 1996, ed. I. March, E. Greenfield, and R. Layton. Top recommendations are the Gardiner/Monteverdi Choir/Archiv recording, the Parrott/Taverner Consort/EMI recording, and the Jochum/Bavarian Radio Choir and Orchestra/EMI recording.
This list of recommended recordings ought to give you a wealth and diversity of interpretations of your favorite work. (I have only the Gardiner one.) Happy listening.