You have this “struggle” in popular music, too. A Rolling Stones song can be listened on vinyl, CD, in some remastered version, on many “live recordings”, some bootlegs. It’s… interesting to compare, right?
In classical music, it’s bigger. It’s like exploring a whole continent, especially with well known composers. Try to compare versions of the Bolero, or the Rite of Spring!
In classical music, the “Best Version” is often the first one, the one you KNOW. You get used to it, and you find the other ones too slow, to different, etc… That is a problem. But sometimes you want to compare. This is an exercise. Give me your hand…
You don’t have to explore the “whole” work. Here, we’ll be comparing the 7th Symphony of Beethoven for a single short one minute moment – the quiet nocturnal break in the 2nd movement – 6:00 here. Listen from 5 to 6 to 7:00, OK?
This passage is tricky for conductors, because it’s a brutal shut off in a middle of a pleasant pulsating peace. This is why it’s fun to explore and compare. After five minutes of splendid pulsating music, it goes “suddenly in the quiet” (at 4:58), then “suddenly in the dark” (at 6:00). For me, it’s the most beautiful music ever written by Beethoven, this “less than a minute”, reorganizing from the night…
OK, let’s work. Google can help you. I decided to pick my two bibles, the Gramophone Classical Music Guide and the Penguin Guide to Recorded Classical Music, plus the huge 1001 œuvres classiques. Find yours !
Everybody says Kleiber, Vienna, DG is the best. Try to Google “best recordings beethoven symphony 7”. I added a few YouTube links at the end.
What is the lesson here? What do we like in these comparisons? How could we use it in another territory? What for?
Next time, try Mahler’s 2nd. It’s fabulous!
17:15 feline, speed changing, trusting the team, delicate, and these subtleties…
21:17 detailed, precise, shy, colored
5:19 drawned, acid, slow, deep emphatic
19:02 Slower, Architectural, nocturnal, uninhabitated
6:01 gorgeous, flexible, pulsating
16:41 look at him, sculpting the sound, alive…