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Hi everyone. I just started playing piano as an adult about 7 months ago and I'm hooked. I'd like to buy a few CD's of some of the best piano recordings to listen to and would love some recommendations. I know this may seem a bit vague but here's what I'm thinking... I'd like to get some great recordings of a variety of classical piano (baraoque, romatic, etc...0 by a variet of the best piano players. (Horowitz, Gould, etc.)

I just read an interesting book about Glenn Gould so the only "must have" recording on my list so far is Gould playing the Goldberg Variations in both 1955 and 1981.

If someone like me has no piano recordings at all, what would you recommend if I wanted to buy 4 or 5 CD's to start a nice music collection.

Thanks!

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I only listen to classical music in the car but the finest album I have heard is George Shearing's My Ship.


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I agree that Gould's Goldberg Variations are exceptionally good.

Just off the top of my head:
Bach - I'd go with any CD by Murray Perahia

For Chopin, Grieg, Saint Saens, Rachmaninoff's Variations on a Theme of Paganini, anything Latin, I'd go with Arthur Rubinstein

Prokofieff - Yefim Bronfmann

Brahms - Radu Lupu

Rachmaninoff - I like Ruth Laredo's preludes

Just about anything - early Horowitz

Those are my favorites but I'm sure you'll hear lots of other opinions and there are so many wonderful pianists.


Best regards,

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For Beethoven, anything by Wilhelm Kempff is a sure bet.

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In your situation, I would recommend going for a wide range of recordings, instead of fixating on building your collection of classic sets. For example, as glorious as Beethoven's 32 piano sonatas are, I don't think it should be one of the first volumes you add to your collection. Try to expose yourself to a broad range (in terms of period) of composers.

Off the top of my head, try Mitsuko Uchida's Perspectives disc. It contains Mozart's exquisite A minor piano sonata, his very famous D minor piano concerto, Schumann's cornerstone Carnaval, Beethoven's fascinating C minor Variations (a personal favorite,) and some popular Schubert Impromptus. The Debussy is a little advanced, but good exposure. And even seasoned listeners have trouble digesting Schoenberg, but again, I think it's worthwhile exposure.

Another varied disc is Joyce Yang's performance from the 2005 Cliburn Competition (where she won silver.) It contains competent performances of two of Liszt's infamous tour de forces - his 6th Hungarian Rhapsody, and the incredible Réminiscences de Don Juan. It also contains a wickedly awesome performance of Carl Vine's 1st piano sonata, a staple of modern/contemporary "classical" music. I highly recommend the disc for this performance alone.

As far as concertos go, I recommend Argerich's legendary performance of Rachmaninoff's 3rd piano concerto and her performance of Tchaikovsky's 1st piano concerto. Rachmaninoff's 2nd piano concerto is also a classic - too many recordings to choose from. Also, Artur Rubinstein (old) or Leif ove Andsnes (newer) performing Grieg's piano concerto.

You mention Horowitz... I much prefer Horowitz the poet, instead of Horowitz the virtuoso. Some of my favorite Horowitz performances:
Schubert/Liszt - Standchen
Chopin - Etude in Ab, Op 25 No 1

Happy listening!

-Daniel


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Andre Laplante's Ravel CD.



EVERYTHING on the CD is that good!! I highly encourage you to buy it.

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Assuming you're talking about solo recordings, get rid of the Gould Goldbergs, you don't need those. Get these instead:


  • Friedrich Gulda's 1967 Amadeo recording of the 32 Beethoven sonatas, bundled with the 5 concertos with Horst Stein and the VPO.
  • Jean-Frédéric Neuburger's CD of Czerny's Art of Finger Dexterity and Heller's Freischütz-Studien
  • The Complete Gulda Mozart Tapes
  • Simon Barere's Complete HMV Studio Recordings 1934-36
  • Michael Nanasakov's CD Ch. V. Alkan (in 1837)
  • Glenn Gould's CD of the Bach Toccatas BWV 910-916


Note that none of these are optional.


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Originally Posted by mr_roberts_z
Assuming you're talking about solo recordings, get rid of the Gould Goldbergs, you don't need those. Get these instead:


  • Friedrich Gulda's 1967 Amadeo recording of the 32 Beethoven sonatas, bundled with the 5 concertos with Horst Stein and the VPO.
  • Jean-Frédéric Neuburger's CD of Czerny's Art of Finger Dexterity and Heller's Freischütz-Studien
  • The Complete Gulda Mozart Tapes
  • Simon Barere's Complete HMV Studio Recordings 1934-36
  • Michael Nanasakov's CD Ch. V. Alkan (in 1837)
  • Glenn Gould's CD of the Bach Toccatas BWV 910-916


Note that none of these are optional.




Seriously, some of these recommendations aren't at all pertinent to the OP's request. If a person naive about piano music wanted 5 discs to introduce them to what's out there, do you REALLY think that a computer/piano interface recording of some of the lesser works (though nonetheless very impressive in their own way) of a rather obscure romantic, or finger exercises of two pedagogically-driven late classical/early romantic composers is the best introduction? Or even some of late Gould's more sprawling, anti-virtuosic interpretations of Bach? I personally am interested in these sorts of things (hadn't heard of the Czerny/Heller - perhaps I should check it out), but really, those two recommendations are for the connoisseur, looking for something new and different.

I agree with the general sort of recommendation Ridicolosamente gave. I don't have specific suggestions, but get a disc of named Beethoven sonatas by a big name performer. Get a disc of some selected pieces of Chopin by someone famous. Get several more discs that are mixed recital programs of several composers including especially Liszt, Bach, Brahms, Mozart, Schumann or Schubert.

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Slightly more off-beat, there are two famous CDs which contain a range of exciting music:

Pollini's disc of twentieth century classics, which includes:
Stravinsky's 'Three movements from "Petruschka"
Prokofiev's Piano Sonata No 7
Webern Piano Variations (don't worry, they only last 6 minutes)
Boulez Piano Sonata No 2
This is a fabulous disc (even though I'm look warm about the Boulez)
Pollini - 20C classics

Martha Argerich's Debut album, which includes:
Chopin: Scherzos No.3 in C sharp minor op.39
Brahms: Rhapsodies op.79
Prokofiev: Toccata in D minor - piano op.11
Ravel: Jeux d'eau
Chopin: Barcarolle in F sharp op.60
Liszt: Hungarian Rhapsodies S244 No.6 in D flat
Liszt: Sonata for Piano in B minor S178

Argerich Debut Recital

It might not be her at her mature peak but I have always been very fond of this disc - there is almost a visceral quality about the recording.

Someone recommended Radu Lupu for Brahms. He is a wonderful pianist and his Schubert is also superb.

There is a CD I came across the other day which might not be applicable but which I thought I'd mention. There aren't many recordings of pieces from the repertoire that people go through when learning the piano but this CD is by Livia Rev - a very, very fine Bulgarian pianist (now living in Paris I think) who many people won't know of. (She recorded an acclaimed set Debussy Preludes for Saga some decades ago.)

Livia Rev - "For Children"
(Please don't let the title put you off!)

The whole album or individual tracks can be downloaded (in mp3 or FLAC) from the Hyperion website:

Hyperion download


Last edited by John_B; 11/23/10 07:42 AM.
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My top favourite Chopin albums:

Chopin: 4 Ballades, Barcarolle & Fantasy - Krystian Zimerman (Deutsche Grammophon 1987 1CD)
Chopin: Four Scherzi - Ivo Pogorelich (Deutsche Grammophon 1999 1CD)
Chopin Nocturnes - Ivan Moravec (Nonesuch 1991 2CD)
Piano Concertos 1 & 2 - Krystian Zimerman (Deutsche Grammophon 1999 2CD)
Chopin Recital - Yundi Li (Deutsche Grammophon 2002 1CD) (I like the Grande Polonaise Brilliante)
Martha Argerich Plays Chopin: The Legendary 1965 Recording (EMI Classics 1999 1CD)
Chopin: Mazurkas - William Kapell (RCA 2000 1CD Remastered Rec 1951/1952)



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Originally Posted by MarkH
If a person naive about piano music wanted 5 discs to introduce them to what's out there, do you REALLY think that a computer/piano interface recording of some of the lesser works (though nonetheless very impressive in their own way) of a rather obscure romantic, or finger exercises of two pedagogically-driven late classical/early romantic composers is the best introduction? Or even some of late Gould's more sprawling, anti-virtuosic interpretations of Bach?


You're absolutely correct here. However, OP (in my eyes) was asking two different things: (1) your top 5 piano albums (right from the thread title), and (2) recommendations for the first 5 albums in a collection, and I was basically answering the former. Yes, for the latter I'd probably drop the Alkan, but the Czerny/Heller is so pleasing to listen to that I'd keep it. No need to go for either something "modern" and hard to launch into (say Prokofiev sonatas) or something exceedingly popular (maybe Horowitz in Moscow), even though I'd fully recommend both of those albums in genereal.

Quote
I personally am interested in these sorts of things (hadn't heard of the Czerny/Heller - perhaps I should check it out)


It's about as obscure an album as in-print albums go, but oddly enough iTunes has it. Neuburger was a teenager when he recorded it (as the album cover reveals... I believe he's in his 20s now), but you'd thing the playing is by a mature, refined pianist 30 years older.

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Originally Posted by mr_roberts_z
You're absolutely correct here. However, OP (in my eyes) was asking two different things: (1) your top 5 piano albums (right from the thread title), and (2) recommendations for the first 5 albums in a collection, and I was basically answering the former. Yes, for the latter I'd probably drop the Alkan, but the Czerny/Heller is so pleasing to listen to that I'd keep it. No need to go for either something "modern" and hard to launch into (say Prokofiev sonatas) or something exceedingly popular (maybe Horowitz in Moscow), even though I'd fully recommend both of those albums in genereal.

It's about as obscure an album as in-print albums go, but oddly enough iTunes has it. Neuburger was a teenager when he recorded it (as the album cover reveals... I believe he's in his 20s now), but you'd thing the playing is by a mature, refined pianist 30 years older.


OK, fair enough. I had Alkan in 1837 on my Amazon wishlist for a while, but I never sprang for it. I've since listened to Le Preux on Youtube, and been very impressed. I may spring for it someday soon. The Neuburger is also quite impressive, but on Itunes, there are only four tracks available. Thanks for telling us about them.

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Originally Posted by mr_roberts_z

Michael Nanasakov's CD [i]Ch. V. Alkan (in 1837)


WHAT? Laurent Martin does a better job with Op. 12 Etudes, the Op. 13 are about to be released on a CD by Lloyd Buck (that is a CD of almost entirely first recordings of some of Alkan's music), M.A. Hamelin does a better job with the Trois Morceaux Op. 15, Ronald Smith does a better job with the Scherzi Op. 16, and although the Le Preux Op. 17 is very exciting, this recording gives me the same example of listening to like Hamelin's Circus Galop... I'm fully confident that someone will make a recording of Le Preux that is up to tempo and still really secure.

If you're just trolling, and I fell for it, then shame on me... ha But I just wanted to emphasize that there are much better Alkan CD's to invest your money in, if that even sparks your interest (I'll reserve any more opinions on that).

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Originally Posted by Orange Soda King
Originally Posted by mr_roberts_z

Michael Nanasakov's CD Ch. V. Alkan (in 1837)


WHAT? Laurent Martin does a better job with Op. 12 Etudes, the Op. 13 are about to be released on a CD by Lloyd Buck (that is a CD of almost entirely first recordings of some of Alkan's music), M.A. Hamelin does a better job with the Trois Morceaux Op. 15, Ronald Smith does a better job with the Scherzi Op. 16, and although the Le Preux Op. 17 is very exciting, this recording gives me the same example of listening to like Hamelin's Circus Galop... I'm fully confident that someone will make a recording of Le Preux that is up to tempo and still really secure.


Yes, but... that's four CDs. In 1837 is one. Since OP was asking for 5 total, I've made my recommendations economical. It's all my favourite Alkan (although yes, I do also love the Symphony, the Concerto, and the other etudes) packed onto one CD, even if the playing is a bit.....low on subtleties.

Not trolling, but also, I refuse to believe that any human can play Le Preux at Nanasakov's tempo. I just can't see the leaps being physically possible at that speed.

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These suggestions are great. Thanks. To clarify my original post... I'm looking to listen to a lot of piano and discover what I like so I'm looking for a good cross-section of repertoire. I also want to hear the greats play so I can appreciate what the piano is supposed to sound like. I'd also be interested to hear if there are a few CD's that "everyone has" and enjoys because they are so good.

Thanks for the advice.

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I haven't yet heard anyone recommend Richter in Sofia 1958. It's got a mind-blowing Pictures at an Exhibition, lots of great Liszt, and a ravishing Chopin Etude Op. 10/3.

Horowitz's comeback recital at Carnegie Hall is also an obvious one that I think everyone knows.

Pogorelich's CD with Gaspard de la Nuit and Prokofiev 6th Sonata is unmissable.

I'm a huge fan of Edwin Fischer's Brahms 2nd concerto with Furtwangler. Golden performance in every way.

I feel compelled to recommend a Rubinstein recording, too. Rather than the super-clean and antiseptic studio releases, I'd recommend the Moscow recital, which shows a 77-year-old master still playing with youthful daring and spontaneity.

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I've enjoyed the selections in the CDs in this collection of the Great pianists of the 20th century, however, some of the new prices of these CDs seem extreme.


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Ivo Pogorelich's Tchaikovsky Concerto 1

Vladimir Ashkenazy's Rachmaninoff Concerto 3

Yundi Li's Chopin Concerto 1

Ivo Pogorelich's 24 Chopin Preludes

Martha Argerich's Prokofiev Concerto 3

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Originally Posted by dcb

If someone like me has no piano recordings at all, what would you recommend if I wanted to buy 4 or 5 CD's to start a nice music collection.

For your Romantic collection, I would recommend:

Horowitz, Favorite Chopin, vol. 1 especially but volume 2 is not bad.
Rubinstein, Rubinstein Collection, Vol. 31: Liszt
Katchen, Box set of Brahms, the only Brahms recording you'll ever need.


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