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Labels to trust, labels to avoid

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Showing 26-50 of 62 posts in this discussion
Posted on 7 Apr 2010, 13:27:52 BST
As regards DG and their re-releases I wish they'd get around to bringing back Karajan's Bruckner 5. As far as I know the last time it materialised outside of a boxed set was about 20 years ago when it was put on a two-fer with symphony no. 1. I'd also like DG to do the same with Giulini's recordings of 7 & 8.

Oh, and maybe Hyperion could consider re-releasing ALL of Simpson's chamber music (or at the very least his string quartets) as a boxed set? Why not, as they did it for his symphonies?

Posted on 7 Apr 2010, 13:31:04 BST
Raymond: I don't think EMI own Testament, they just license a lot of EMI material. In the Keilberth 'Ring' booklet they finger EMI as the culprits in blocking its release for so many years ( many people assumed it was Decca).

I can understand what you mean about the Barbirolli performances but they have been issued over a number of years, presumably as they have become available. The live New Philharmonia Mahler 6 is justified as it is better than the studio version and the Berlin version. The live Mahler 2 and 3 have been criticised for faulty or unidiomatic playing from the Stuttgart and Berlin orchestras. This doesn't worry me as much as it does other people (not least the po-faced Beckmesser who reviewed Mahler 2 in International Record Review). I am not aware of any other Barbirolli performance of Mahler 2; he couldn't make a studio version because EMI already had one by Klemperer (their excuse). The Berlin Mahler 3 isn't particularly remarkable except for the Finale which I think is the best I have ever heard. I haven't heard the live Barbirolli/Du Pre Elgar Cello Concerto; some reviews thought it better than the studio performance, others said it was not much different.

I already have studio recordings of Klemperer in Bruckner 6 and Beethoven 9 and agree that there doesn't seem much justification for some of the live issues.

I've never had a problem with Testament, in fact Decca is the only company whose CDs have ever caused problems. Non-functioning DVDs is another matter.

Posted on 7 Apr 2010, 20:50:34 BST
Last edited by the author on 7 Apr 2010, 20:50:59 BST
S. C. Harrison - Hyperion didn't finish recording Simpson's chamber music. They almost issued his complete output but somehow the project ran out of steam when only about 2CD worth of material remained to be recorded. Ironically, they recorded his useless 'arrangement' of Bach's 'Art of Fugue' which was a waste of effort as all Simpson had done was to transpose and allocate the four parts to the four instruments of a string quartet, something which any student could have done.

The Sonata for two pianos (one of Simpson's best works) was never recorded, and neither were a few other minor pieces. In 1997 Ted Perry at Hyperion asked me to record Simpson's Piano Concerto (with Raphael Wallfisch playing the Cello Concerto and Susan Milan playing the Flute Concerto on the same CD) but it never happened, and I don't think it ever will now.

As for labels to avoid, I'm a bit tired of home-made analogue cassette tapings of Tennstedt taken from the radio being passed off as 'BBC Recordings' by the LPO label. Yes, they are worth having, but surely the LPO should be honest about the source instead of pretending that the recordings derive from official BBC sources? (The recent Mahler 2 is genuine, a proper BBC recording in good sound.)

In reply to an earlier post on 7 Apr 2010, 21:06:59 BST
Many thanks for your interesting post, Raymond. A pity if Hyperion can't (or won't) bring the curtain down on Simpson's unrecorded output - as a label they appeared to be carrying a torch for him almost single-handedly up until then. I would have thought/hoped that RS's stock had gone up considerably in recent years since the Hyperion releases were widely praised. It would still be nice to see all the String Quartets boxed up, though...

Posted on 4 May 2010, 16:51:50 BST
Roger Smith says:
As Geoffrey Cryer says,go try Naxos,I have well over one hundred of their CDs,and even though you may not get the "LSO" or any other "posh" Orchestra's you will get very good recording's of the Classics at about £5 a throw.I for instance have Beethovens nine symphonies played by the Zagreb Philharmonic,on five disc's total cost £25,and all well played.

Posted on 4 May 2010, 17:05:06 BST
Since my last posting in this thread I have bought more Naxos recordings - Tveitt Piano Concerto No 4 and Hundred Hardanger Tunes Suites 1 & 4 - all superbly played by the Royal Scottish National Orchestra. Also a disc of Peter Warlock Songs including The Curlew Warlock: The Curlew; Lillygay: Peterisms, Sets 1 & 2; Saudades - highly recommended.

Posted on 6 May 2010, 16:03:38 BST
I'd like to praise Naxos for the Rawsthorne, Arnold, Britten and Walton releases that I bought. There are many others from Naxos that deserve praise (American series, Shostakovich film scores etc.) - I can't think of any other label that has come on in such leaps and bounds over a relatively short timespan.

Posted on 3 Jul 2010, 00:38:22 BST
zargb5 says:
Naxos are very reliable label. Some of their original issues were licensed and by fairly obscure performers with often poor sound production. Over the years the performances, sound engineering and repertoire has expanded greatly and improved. A lot of sound people work for naxos who found themselves out of a job when the major labels cut back their classical departments (should one say devastated them?) several yeas ago. Naxos have a huge catalog full of regular as well as obscure repertoire. The performances are mostly good and often excellent. The bad recordings are definitely in a small minority now. At £5.99 its a cheap way to explore repertoire without wasting money and now a dependable quality too.

Posted on 3 Jul 2010, 14:38:12 BST
Lez Lee says:
Naxos often have excellent bargains as well - at the moment there are several pages of CDs @ £2.99!

Posted on 24 May 2011, 21:53:33 BST
zargb5 says:
Albany records is a very varied - good label with lots of works by recent american composers such as Mennin, Babbitt, Diamond etc

In reply to an earlier post on 28 Sep 2011, 23:53:59 BST
If you're refering to the English song series many of these were originally released by the now defunct Collins label and excellent recordings they are too. The Arnold symphonies on Naxos were an eye opener for me. I think easily as good as the dearer Chandos set.

In reply to an earlier post on 1 Nov 2011, 19:58:34 GMT
Edgar Self says:
Some Collins CD titles have been reissued by other labels, worth a search if your need is keen.

In reply to an earlier post on 24 Nov 2011, 16:15:14 GMT
D. M. Ohara says:
The trouble with Naxos is that they were once a budget label, and now with single discs retailing at about £6 [multiples are a bit cheaper], it still costs £25 [you say] to acquire their set of the Beethoven symphonies. That is no longer a bargain. There are several sets of Beethoven symphonies for much less from the major companies: the 1957-60 Cluytens/Berlin Philharmonic stereo set is now available from French EMI for about £6; and there are other more recent versions for £10-£12. Naxos is still very good for rare repertoire: but for standard fare, the big companies now offer better value.

In reply to an earlier post on 25 Nov 2011, 11:58:03 GMT
I guess many people associate with Naxos the fact that in the UK their single discs sold at an unwavering £4-99 for many years (and at a time when the RRP of a lot of CDs was c. £15) and that this would always be the case. It is true that the majors have put much emphasis on re-releasing a lot of their repertoire at budget price - in the case of multiple-disc sets Naxos have often been eclipsed here - but looking at the cost of buying music overall I suspect we've never had it so good (have we?).

Posted on 25 Nov 2011, 12:39:14 GMT
Amazon's pricing policy for Naxos is unfathomable; a single disc can vary from £2.99 to £6+. Fortunately, many of their affiliates sell the discs much more cheaply as do other suppliers. I have mainly used Naxos for its offbeat repertoire and always found it excellent value.

There seems to be a hint of desperation in many of the big boxes appearing from the so-called majors, almost like a closing-down sale. This was evident with EMI even before they were put up for sale. They represent excellent value for money if you can find something that hasn't already been released half-a-dozen times in various guises.

Posted on 15 Jul 2012, 19:32:12 BST
One label I buy a lot of is Classic FM exclusively available from HMV shops. They retail for £6 each now but are usually available at 3 for a fiver. They don't offer a lot of choice having only one recording of each work usually but I have never been disappointed with any of their releases. I am currently collecting the Beethoven cycle with Sir Colin Davis and the Dresden Staatkapella Orch. Terrific weighty and sonorous recordings which are a few years old now but sound wonderful.
I recently bought a number of Ashkenazy's Chopin discs on the same label. Clear, articulate and refined recordings all. I highly recommend them.
I see Naxos prices are creeping up and up. It seems they are re-positioning themselves as a mid-price label now. I have bought all the Petrenko/RLPO Shostakovich cycle as they are released, only No.7 to go now to complete the set. No doubt the cycle will be made available cheaply as a box set at some time in the future and I will regret being so quick off the mark buying the separate discs. Never mind, they are still good value and cracking interpretations/recordings.

Posted on 8 Oct 2012, 17:17:52 BST
pruellus says:
One label on which I have pretty ambivalent views is Membran and its various derivatives. The label seems to specialise in transfers of recordings out of fifty year copyright. Some years ago I acquired some of its conductor sets and the recordings were pretty ropey. A great way of hearing how great musicians of the past interpreted but certainly not recordings to listen to for pleasure. Indeed some of the Toscanini recordings, particularly a 1946 Gazza Ladra was actively unpleasant

However there does seem to have been considerable improvement over the last couple of years and some of the recent sets at about £10 for ten discs are pretty good values and very enjoyable. My favourites have been Klemperer, the nine beethoven Symphonies in various live recordings and the EMI mono 5th and 7th as well as three Bruckner Symphonies (4,7,8) and a couple of Brahms, I and 3 although the latter goes back to the old days and is virtually unlistenable to due to a constant burbling effect!

Also sets by Clara haskil and ferenc fricsay seem to go back to the early days of LP but are certainly pleasurable to llisten to and do not seem that much inferior to the DG equivalent.

And membran also seem to have acquired some live recordings including arguably the finest Chopin recital recorded by Arthur Rubinstein and some over the top Liszt and Chopin by Cziffra.

I wonder what views others have on their transfers and whether the improvement I have noticed is generally found. Certainly as a way of renewing acquaintance with great recordings of the past at a giveaway price this label has much to offer.

And seeing previous reference to Joyce Hatto and Barrington Coupe, and remembering that I once bought an LP in her name of Mozart on the Summit Label which I believe was genuine, certainly it was so bad that there would have been no need to hide the identity of a more famous pianinst unless he had wished to forget a youthful indiscretion, and the poor quality of the interpretation should have suggested her later miraculous improvement was not genuine, I remember some of his Fidelio LPs. from the sixties. Certainly the Tchaikovsky symphonies under Heiss were as good as anything on the market - did anyone ever find out who he was - and the Copin waltzes under one Auguste Du Maurier had an inoccent charm.

Posted on 12 Oct 2012, 01:35:05 BST
Last edited by the author on 12 Oct 2012, 01:46:37 BST
mancheeros says:
Reliable labels in no particular order: Harmonia Mundi, Hyperion, ECM New Series, Opus 111, Glossa (though some of their reissues do not include English translations of song lyrics, only Italian), Wergo, Chandos (especially for orchestral film music - good collections of Georges Auric and Brian Easdale), Marco Polo (a more expensive subsidiary of Naxos, I think, but good for 'minor' composers; I have pleasant discs of Holbrooke and Berners, and a good series of Auric's film music also available).

Not so reliable: Naxos, Virgin Veritas (their 2CD reissues give you lots of music, but skimp on sleevenotes and sometimes don't include song lyrics).

Posted on 12 Oct 2012, 23:58:53 BST
Androcleas says:
Some Marco Polo recordings are rather dubious due to inadequate rehearsal time in unfamiliar repertoire....

Recent Naxos recordings do, however, tend to be quite reliable.

Posted on 13 Oct 2012, 01:33:38 BST
mancheeros says:
Androcleas: Some Marco Polo recordings are rather dubious due to inadequate rehearsal time in unfamiliar repertoire....

fancy sharing your 'insider' info on this?

In reply to an earlier post on 14 Oct 2012, 00:42:34 BST
Roasted Swan says:
Mancheeros - Marco Polo was self-titled "label of discovery" and as such was originally the full-price arm of the Klaus Heyman Empire. The ubiquitous success of Naxos has made Marco Polo effectively redundant and as such I don't think there have been any new releases in some considerable time. Androcleas needs no "insider" knowledge. Your ears can tell you all you need to know. Their discs were mainly recorded using cheap Eastern European/Far Eastern Orchestras using the read-record method. Basically there are no pre-recording rehearsal sessions, everything is taped as the recording progresses. This is fine up to a point where musical complexity increases and the technical expertise of the orchestra is less than 1st rate. The trade off you nearly always made with Marco Polo (and early Naxos) was rare music often adequately played at best. Some discs were truly dire. There were very honourable exceptions - the Braga-Santos symphonies a good example but on the whole I would have said Marco Polo was definitely a label to treat with care and caution and not a blanket "reliable" status. The Holbrooke orchestral works discs sound painfully laboured if you compare to the CPO/Dutton releases. "New" Naxos are still in the main read-record (the chamber music tends to be self-funded by the artists so standards are higher) but generally they are using better orchestras now so the results are in turn better. Also, orchestras recognise the value of a presence in the Naxos catalogue since it gives their "brand" a global exposure no other label can offer. Likewise they will approach Naxos with projects which they have funding (ie paid rehearsal time) for which ensures a far better finished product - the new Villa-Lobos Symphony cycle is one such I'm all but certain.

Strange to dismiss Virgin Veritas - it tends to be bargain repackaging of previously well received full-price recordings - OK the notes/lyrics may be missing but you kinda know that at the price-point - caveat emptor so they are not unreliable are they?

In reply to an earlier post on 14 Oct 2012, 02:46:25 BST
Last edited by the author on 14 Oct 2012, 03:17:15 BST
mancheeros says:
Nick, thanks for your reply. So I assume you would not give house room to Adriano/Moscow Symphony Orchestra's version of Auric's 'La Belle et la Bete'? And the other Auric/Cocteau soundtracks in this Marco Polo series?

No, I did not dismiss Virgin Veritas out of hand as well you know. Their reissues are good value, but as I said they don't like to advertise that notes/lyrics are missing. Well, I guess they wouldn't, would they. But some labels you grow to trust and when they let you down - it hurts. Call me a fragile old fool but I was forlorn when Glossa (a label I normally love) produced such cheapskate reissues of their madrigal repertoire. In the jazz world more care tends to be taken with reissues. For instance, Blue Note (a label that has rightly come under fire for sitting on certains parts of its legacy) has reissued a bunch of classic albums under the RVG tag (and previously unreleased stuff too) - no skimping on sleevenotes, gorgeous remastered sound, and budget price. It can be done properly, believe me.

Posted on 14 Oct 2012, 08:53:54 BST
Roasted Swan says:
Mancheeros; I have the Auric/Easdale Chandos discs you mention but I have to say the former didn't grab me enough to start hoovering up other Auric. I take it you feel this is worth a listen. Also I have to say I've found the Moscow SO's discs to be ones that often typify the issues I outlined with Marco Polo - sometimes very fine but often a couple of sessions short of acceptable to my ears. The Garofalo Symphony was a case in point as were the Malipiero Symphonies I heard. But then the other film music they recorded with William Stromberg; Korngold, Steiner Herrmann etc was pretty good. As I said - approach with caution.

In reply to an earlier post on 18 Oct 2012, 13:58:41 BST
The missing notes it seems to me is becoming standard with super budget releases - like the new Sabine Meyer on EMI and the Sony Classical Masters series.

In reply to an earlier post on 20 Oct 2012, 16:16:37 BST
Last edited by the author on 20 Oct 2012, 16:18:40 BST
mancheeros says:
Nick, I think there's not much dispute that the Auric scores for Cocteau are his best, most poetic - 'La Belle et La Bete' being the finest, closely followed by 'Orphee' (the Ealing comedy stuff is charming), which is why I bought Parts 1 & 2 in the Marco Polo Auric series. I bought the Cocteau-less Part 3 because I thought it would be 'nice to have', and it's basically romantic film music of a higher standard than most Hollywood romantic scores but not especially gripping. I haven't bought Part 4 of the series because of my reaction to Part 3. The standard of the Adriano/Moscow SO performances is pretty reasonable to my ears, but of course there is nothing else to compare it with. That's the trouble with obscure film music - hardly anybody wants to play/record it. More of a choice when it comes to Miklos Rozsa and Bernard Herrmann.
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