250 greatest recordings of all time !!!
250 greatest recordings of all time: chosen by 35 of the world's leading musicians | Gramophone
This is a curious list. Gramophone has asked musicians to select the greatest records. My first surprise was how relatively few recent recordings there are. I wonder whether musicians are reluctant to nominate records by their peers for fear of upsetting those that they don't choose! And then, what an extraordinarily unbalanced list it is: Beethoven (quite rightly!) comes out top with about 20 choices closely followed by Bach and then Mozart and Schubert, but Handel and Haydn have just one each while Mahler has 11. A couple of Purcell recordings are included, but Monteverdi is not mentioned at all.
The introductory text by Rob Cowan is interesting.
Thinking of the thread about singers and national characteristics and preferences (and the earlier brief discussion in the Primephonic forum), I was glad to see a couple of Janet Baker's recordings with Barbirolli included (Dream of Gerontius and the record of Mahler songs).
That’s an interesting (and useful) list compiled by an impressive jury. But I wonder what the methodology was because, as you say, the list has curious imbalances. Richard Strauss gets half a dozen entries, but it’s bizarre that Haydn and Handel get only one each.
On the preponderance of older recordings, I’ve sometimes seen musicians state that they are reluctant to comment, either positively or negatively, on the recordings or concert performances of their colleagues. So I guess you’re right: it’s safer for all sorts of reasons to recommend the recordings of musicians that are no longer with us.
If that’s true, though, it creates an unfortunate bias in the list. My sense is that recordings are actually getting better and better (on average). Subject matter for a new topic?
Imbalances apart, are there entries on the list that surprise you?
are there entries on the list that surprise you?
I don't know many of the recordings; I didn't spot any surprises among those that I do know.
There are numerous multiple listings of the same work. Several of them may well be justified but do we need three recordings of the Trout Quintet?!
Back in 1995/6 Gramophone published a list of the "Top 100 best classical music recordings of all time" (or some such title) which was quite influential in my CD buying days. The list is shown in the bottom of this thread
Gramophone top 100 (google.com)
Another list from 2005 is discussed here
"The 100 Greatest Recordings" (GRAMOPHONE) (narkive.com)
It's interesting to read the comments from an American perspective and they made me realise how UK-biased some of the choices in the Gramophone lists were. By basing the new list on choices by an international panel of musicians hopefully some of that bias has been removed (although Americans might perhaps feel that there is still too much of a European bias ... I don't know.)
Obviously all such lists are to a degree personal, but that hasn't stopped me thinking about what "great" works have been omitted from the Top 250 list. So, forgetting Handel and Haydn for the time being, here goes:
- no Mozart chamber music
- no Fidelio or Missa Solemnis or Diabelli variations
- no Grande Messe des Morts
- none of the Karajan 1950s opera recordings: especially I treasure Falstaff and (parts of) Ariadne auf Naxos
- no Otello either
- perhaps one (or all?) of the Trout Quintets could have made way for piano quintets by Schumann, Franck, Dvorak or Shostakovich
- no Shostakovich 24 Preludes and Fugues
- no War Requiem (or is that too UK-centric?).
No Das Lied von der Erde either.
I find such lists interesting as spurs to discussion about what wasn't included "How could they have left out X!" as well as biases, both individual and systemic. (I myself would suggest that there may be a systemic bias towards older recordings on the grounds that, because they are older, there's been more opportunity for more people to hearthem than say, something recorded in the past five years.)
I also find such lists themselves absurdly arbitrary. I find the idea of a "Top 250" list particularly amusing, because, really, how significant can the difference between #250 ("congrats, you make the cut!") and #251 ("too bad, how sad!) possibly be aesthetically?
The list is about recordings that are outstanding as an interpretation and performance. Recordings that have become the “one” to aspire to its greatness. It is not really about favourite works. Sometimes, the “best” performances are of works that are not central to the cannon. Looking at who the judges are, I am leary of saying I could counter them. They hear many more recordings and live artists than I could dream to hear.