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Was your first your best?

Discussion in 'classical' started by FrankF, Jan 24, 2019.

  1. FrankF

    FrankF pfm Member

    So was your first your best? Well, no, I don't care about anybody's love life LOL.

    While never giving this any though in the past, It dawned on me that I have many recordings of works where the first I've owned remains my favourite version. Sure there are obviously many exceptions but I'm surprised at the large number of firsts which could easily fall into a favourite version category. Not scientific by any means but started wondering if it's more than just coincidence. An attachment of some sort must be developed to some degree with a first version. Assuming of course it's not crap to begin with.

    Wondering if anyone else has had similar experiences?
     
  2. Tony L

    Tony L Administrator

    Happens far too often to me, and even if I later realise my initial exposure to a work was a bit of an outlier I still tend to prefer it to anything I hear later. Obvious examples being Karajan’s ‘63 Beethoven, Haitink’s Mahler, Böhm’s Wozzeck, Richter’s Rach and Tchaikovsky etc.
     
  3. windhoek

    windhoek The Phoolosopher

    Yeah, I think there just might be some sort of unconscious bias to like the first version of a piece of music if we make a positive emotional connection to it that makes it very difficult for others to even match let alone better. Not always, I'm sure, but probably often. For example, I've heard a few Brandenburg Concerto performances but I love this one - the first one I heard way back in 1998.

    [​IMG]
     
    marshanp and GML like this.
  4. Tantris

    Tantris pfm Member

    Interesting question. There are some recordings that were my first introduction to a piece, which are unlikely to be displaced, and which set the reference for any other performance. Szell’s Mahler (4 & 6), Barbirolli’s Mahler 5, Klemperer’s Bruckner 8 and a few others are probably good examples for me. However, I’ve frequently spent extended periods listening to little other than one composer’s work – Janacek, Bartok, Messiaen & Wagner in particular – often focussing on a few works, and listening to multiple recordings & performances. This tends to displace any initial favourites, with a focus more on a group of excellent recordings and why different interpretative choices have been made. Different choices are more often than not equally valid.

    More interesting for me is when I hear a performance and it ‘unlocks’ the work for me, after I’ve not found it particularly interesting in the past. Often it comes from listening to whatever is on the radio. Brahms’ string quartets were of little interest to me after a few attempts with the main DG & Philips recordings from the ‘70s, but a performance by the Gringolts Quartet a couple of years ago completely unlocked them – the second in particular. Similarly, I’d listened to Berwald’s symphonies a few times on an LP box-set I’d picked up secondhand, but it took a radio broadcast of the third symphony under Franz Welser-Möst for me to get some understanding of just how beautiful Berwald’s music is. I know that some music will always remain a closed book for me, but it is always a great feeling when a work is unlocked – maybe, one day, Schumann’s piano quintet will do it for me!
     
    marshanp likes this.
  5. alanbeeb

    alanbeeb pfm Member

    I used to think this was the case for me, but looking back after nearly 30 years of collecting classical recordings I generally find I have moved on from my first recordings of almost all the core repertoire. Probably the only exception is the single recording that actually kicked the whole thing off for me, when classical music hit me like a thunderbolt for the first time when I was but a callow youth - Tchaikovsky's 6th Symphony performed by the LSO and Igor Markevitch - nothing can displace that recording even though I have many alternatives on the shelf now.
     
  6. Todd A

    Todd A pfm Member

    When it comes to core rep, I can think of no case where I now think that the first version I heard was the best. In less famous repertoire it holds true in some cases. The Petersen Quartet's recording of Schulhoff's String Quartets is so good that all other versions I've heard sound almost amateurish. I exaggerate, but only slightly.
     
  7. Stunsworth

    Stunsworth pfm Member

    I bought those recordings on LP back in the 70s. I still have the LPs, and it’s one of my favourite versions too.
     
    windhoek likes this.
  8. George J

    George J Herefordshire member

    The risk of allowing a first recording that you hear of a great piece of music to become an all out favourite is that the recording and performance can become as important or even more so than the actual music.

    This is of course absolutely fine. There are no rules saying otherwise.

    But, I think there can come a problem with it all the same. If you listen to the same music in concert or on the radio [or even a different recording], it can be difficult to enjoy the music as presented so easily as it ought ... I discovered this with regard to the Brandenburg Concertos over thirty years ago when I had the Menuhin Bath Festival HMV set. I wore out two sets in about two years from playing and playing them. In those days Radio Three used to broadcast more evening concerts of this music than it seems to these days, and I noticed that I would be quite critical in my own mind of performances' deviations from Menuhin's performance. I realised that Menuhin's performance was assuming too much importance relative to the significance of the music itself.

    So I bought two other completely contrasting recordings from the vintage period and the latest digital HIP recording. Adolf Busch's set on EMI from 1935 and Trevor Pinnock's DG recording. These two could hardly be further apart stylistically, and also neither is very similar to the Menuhin recording ...

    After twelve months I had to replace the Busch transfer to LP [EMI France References] with new, and the Pinnock I got second time on CD.

    I found so much in the Busch set that it remains probably my favourite recorded performance of the concertos, and Pinnock eventually faded from my collection, given to a friend who adored them! In the mean time I had encountered a live Radio Three broadcast of HM Linde from the Queen Elisabeth Hall in London including two orchestral Suites, the D Minor Harpsichord Concerto, and First Brandenburg. This was a revelation in that it really showed that the balance of musical lines actually does work splendidly when using an appropriately small group of strings in Baroque set-up, ... and a Harpsichord ...

    That was in 1985, and I soon bought the Linde recording of the Brandenburg on EMI Virgin. Later I found the early '50s recording from Mogens Woldike in Copenhagen, and only this last Christmas obtained the 1946 recording in Paris under Klemperer. [I also have by chance the Klemperer Philharmonia set].

    The amazing thing to me is that I can listen with total pleasure to any of these recordings - contrasted as they are - without anything but concentration on the music. The Menuhin and Pinnock sets have faded from view, but I never miss a live broadcast that I have a chance of. In Herefordshire I bet there has never been a professional performance of the set!

    So I have two special favourites. Busch and Linde, and you might wonder what possible connection these two might have. Stylistically very few, Except for one fascinating glimpse. Though not on the recording for EMI August Wenzinger used to perform First Viola da Gamba in the Sixth Concerto for Busch who led from the First Viola. Wenzinger went on to record the set [now completely unobtainable], and HM Linde would perform in Wenzinger's Orchestra, the Scola Cantorum Basiliensis.

    So there is a cultural continuation there!

    I could tell fifty similar stories of rediscovery of music from different perspectives - different recordings, fresh ideas from live broadcasts - that only served to help in deeper understandings of the music in question.

    One exception is that from day one Klemperer's 1957 EMI recording of Beetrhoven's Choral Symphony has remained immovable as my favourite, over the likes of Kleiber, Bohm, Karajan, Cluytens, and many more, though I did hear a wonderful Royal Festival Hall relay with the Philharmonia under the very aged Lovro von Maticic in 1982 or 1983 that remains forever etched in my memory as being one of those white heat concerts where every went not just well, but at a sort of higher level. Of course there was no commercial recording of the conductor and orchestra [and chorus of course]. But I live in hope that the BBC will one day allow access to this performance by streaming or something.

    Sorry for the ramble. George
     
    Last edited: Jan 30, 2019
  9. davidjt

    davidjt pfm Member

    As others have written, yes and no. My wife and I used to have a mock argument about which was the best Tchaikovsky 4 recording, mainly because the tempi on hers and mine were so different. I can't even remember the details these days, but it was simply a case of an acquired preference for the one each of us knew best.

    On the other hand, I came across Alkan almost by accident when collecting the 'Great Pianists of the 20th Century' series. His concerto for solo piano is tremendous, imo, but I had no problem deleting John Ogden's version from the hard drive (running out of space) as soon as I heard the Marc-Andre Hamelin disc. Which prompts another couple of questions: why is it mainly French pianists who bring out the best in French music? After all, it doesn't seem to apply to the rest of the world.
    And is it just a measure of their greatness that it seems perfectly normal to have umpteen different recordings of the Beethoven and Schubert sonatas in particular, but far fewer of, say Schumann, Chopin, Mendelssohn and Listz. Are the former so much more subtle and/or do they engender a different kind of appreciation altogether?
     
  10. alanbeeb

    alanbeeb pfm Member

    For me that's pretty simple - Beethoven & Schubert are far superior composers to the others mentioned there. Chopin's music is in some ways amazing but the sentiment is all just too effete and self-pitying. Schumann's piano works similarly are just too insipid and weak for my taste, but don't seem to have the spark of genius that I can hear in Chopin despite not really liking it much.
    I'll make an exception for Liszt's Sonata though, I have about 5 or 6 recordings of it, it is an amazing work. But I'd actually struggle to tell any of his other piano works one from another.

    The other reason could be about cycles: Both Beethoven and Schubert produced substantial cycles of sonatas - and performers, record companies and the listening public just seem to love cycles! and the opportunity to present a composers entire career and direction in one continuum. Chopin has 3 sonatas so that's barely a cycle - and 1 & 3 hardly get played or recorded anyway. Schumann only has one, as does Liszt. Not sure Mendelssohn has any! So that's another reason why they are also-rans.
     
    Last edited: Jan 31, 2019
  11. davidjt

    davidjt pfm Member

    I have several versions of the Schubert sonatas, and either I'm not in the mood or someone is making a complete pig's breakfast of D958 on R3 right now.

    Edit: There's a surprise! It was Claudio Arrau, several of whose concerto recordings I enjoy.
    Still, to me the sonata sounded mannered, more about the performance than the music. (A bit like all of Henry James' novels.) But since the rest of the world can't be wrong I suppose it proves the op's point.
     
    Last edited: Apr 21, 2019
  12. cjyosemite

    cjyosemite pfm Member

    I think it is natural to consider the first recording the best because you get used to that sound. However over the years I have got used to different versions when I watch an opera on blu-ray rather than listening to a CD version. One clear exception on CD's is Christopher Hogwood's Handel Messiah superceding a Colin Davis version (which had some extra bits in it).
     
  13. Jonathan

    Jonathan pfm Member

    well early pressings are usually the best ones so there's that. but there's also the 'familiarity' aspect ... so there's a natural bias there too
     
  14. foxwelljsly

    foxwelljsly Keep Music Vile

    I've yet to hear a version of The Brandenburg concertos I enjoy more than Neville Marriner & St Martins in The Field on original instruments. That was probably the first piece of classical music I really, really enjoyed. Same goes for Truls Mork's cello suites.

    Edit: I do also have the Menuhin/Bath set on HMV, and concur with George that it allows too much primacy to the lead soloist - I suspect this was a production decision, rather than the choice of Menuhin himself.
     
  15. cjarchez

    cjarchez pfm Member

    Taking a couple of incredibly famous works as examples;
    Holst's The Planet Suite performed by the LSO with Sir Adrian Bolt, forget the year of my recording, still remains my favourite.

    However, Vivaldi's Four Seasons, I can't even remember the version I had originally as I much prefer the Acadamy Of Ancient Music with Christopher Hogwood, most other versions sound sterile or soulless to these ears.
     
  16. TheDecameron

    TheDecameron Unicorns fart glitter.

    Not for me, or rarely so. When I first started buying classical albums at the start of the 80s, the market was dominated by the marketing departments and A&R depts of DG, Decca, EMI and they put out some awful stuff. The multimic’d era was still in full swing at DG and they compounded it with hellish digital transfers. Having said that, my two recordings of these two operas are still my go to recordings,
    This I picked up in Brick Lane, on vinyl, back in the day as they say..
    Puccini: Madama Butterfly https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B0000041S8/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_tai_1e98CbT7A0A1M

    This one of my first CDs,
    Puccini: Tosca https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B000001G5K/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_tai_zg98Cb4KRH1GE
     
  17. blossomchris

    blossomchris I feel better than James Brown

    I thought I preferred Karajan on Beethoven's 9th and others until I discovered Norrington

    Bloss
     
  18. marshanp

    marshanp ellipsis addict

    What an interesting thread.

    I have had what I thought were definitive-for-me first-heard recordings, gone back to them after trying others and been slightly disappointed that they no longer seem as right-on-the-mark as they once did. Which is probably no bad thing in the long run.

    If I'm returning to a work after a long gap, I often play the R3 Building a Library for it (I have loads of them recorded). Hearing samples of many interpretative approaches is an interesting exercise which usually results in a firm decision on which version to play all the way through. Generally not the one identified as "best" by the reviewer! Much snorting, much shouting at the radio!

    Oh, how we laugh... :rolleyes:
     
  19. Barrymagrec

    Barrymagrec pfm Member

    Me too - except that when I heard Norrington I became sure I preferred Karajan,

    It`s a good job we`re all different.
     
  20. marshanp

    marshanp ellipsis addict

    Have you heard this one?

    [​IMG]

    It works wonderfully; to my surprise, it has become my favourite version - and no, I'm not an organ nut. Righetti is just a fantastic player who never puts a foot or finger wrong, and who manages tension superbly. There's an excerpt on Youtube... love the socks!

    Benediction de Dieu dans la Solitude? A masterpiece, surely?
     

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