If you ask me "who is my favorite composer , my favorite conductor , pianist , violinist , opera singer , orchestra " , sorry , I just can't choose
from so many great ones , living and dead . But this is a characteristic of mine ; I'm hard pressed to tell you my favorite book , magazine ,
newspaper , film , television program , food, drink , website , or what have you .
I've been listening to , reading about , studying and performing classical music for nearly 5o years now, since I was only about 13 years old . .
I've experienced so many great composers , works , musicians , recordings and live performances it's virtually immpossible to name my
favorites . Of course , I like some composers , some works and some musicians more than others , and dislike some , but it's like choosing
the favorite among your children .
Of course , I love the great established masterpieces of the repertoire by Bach ,Mozart, Beethoven , Wagner, and other famous composers ,
but there's so much wonderful music which is off the beaten path by composers who are not household names . Ever heard of such
composers as Karol Szymanowski , Carl Nielsen , Hans Pfitzner, Arnold Bax , Albert Roussel , Sergei Taneyev , Alberic Magnard ,
Jon Leifs , Wilhelm Stenhammar , Nikolai Myaskovsky , Charles Koechlin , George Whitefield Chadwick , Havergal Brian ,
Roberto Gerhard , Rued Langgaard , etc ? Probably not unless you're a real lover of classical music with a lot of listening experience ,
but all of these wrote some terrific music that is well worth hearing . And this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to obscure
but interesting composers . They come from countries as diverse as Denmark , America , England , Russia , Poland , Sweden and even
Iceland in the case of Jon Leifs . And it's so easy to get recordings of their music now , even though your chances of hearing their music live
are not very great .
It's similar with recordings . You can get the music of Beethoven , Bach, Mozart, Wagner, Tchaikovsky ,Debussy , Ravel et performed
by a galaxy of different conductors , orchestras , solists and singers ranging from the early 20 th century to musicians of the present day .
Take the nine symphonies of Beethoven alone ; among the most important cornerstones of the classical canon .
The first complete recording of Beethoven's iconic fifth symphony was made by the Berlin Philharmonic conducted by the once
world famous Hungarian conductor Artur Nickisch around 1914 , under the most primitive recording conditions . An acoustical
recording made before electronic recordings . It's a fascinating document . Nickisch , one of the first superstar conductors , iived from
1855 to 1922 . He was born less than 30 years after the death of Beethoven in 1827 ! Since then , who knows how many
conductors , famous and not so famous , have recorded the Beethoven symphonies, many in integral sets of all nine .
Such legendary names as Toscanini , Bernstein , Stokowski , Karajan , Bruno Walter, Solti , Mengelberg , Klemperer , Carlos Kleiber ,
to name only a handful . The young Venuzuelan conductor Gustavo Dudamel , born in 1981 , is one of the more recent ones .
How do you choose a favorite when you've heard so many recordings of just one famous symphony ? It's not easy .
You will like some more than others , but for me it's virtually impossible . Many conductors have recorded these symphonies
on two or more occaisions . The legendary Austrian maestro Herbert von Karajan left no fewer than FOUR sets of all nine Beethoven
symphonies , beginning in the 1950s with London's Philharmonia orchestra , not to be confused with the London Philharmonic , and then
with the Berlin Philharmonic , which he led for over 30 years . The last set was in Digital sound in the 1980s . He lived from 1908 to 1989 .
If you're looking for recordings of the Beethoven symphonies , it's a daunting task if you're a beginner .
As there is no one right way to perform a musical work, especially an immortal masterpiece , there are different approaches , and fans and
critics debate the virtues of different recordings endlessly . Which is the best ? Who has made THE definitive recordign of any of the nine
Beethoven symphonies . Well, there is no such thign as a "definitive " performance of any masterpiece . Different conductors have
changed their approach to interpretation over the years .
Do you want a classic recording by such greats as Toscanini and Furtwangler made between the 1930s and 50s in dated ,
less than high fidelity sound , or a more recent digital one recorded with amazing clarity and presence by eminent living maestros
such as Daniel Barenboim, Riccardo Chailly , Bernard haitink and others . You can also hear recordings on period instruments , with gut
strings, simpler woodwind instruments , valveless horns and trumpets and old fashioned tympany made with leather rather than plastic .
One thing is certain ; comparisons between different conductors and orchestras are fascinating . On one extreme, you have the
fast and furious recordings of the legendary Arturo Toscanini , so full of nervous energy , and on the other extreme , the slow, majestic,
weighty and deliberate recordings of the legendary German conductor Otto Klemperer . Which is right ? You decide , but no one
has a monopoly on the right way to conduct the Beethoven symphonies . As Beethoven has been dead for narly 200 years , we will
bever know which ones he woudl or would not have liked . But the arguments will never cease among different listeners .
But we should be greatful for the existence of so many different interpretations .
Possibly you will have your favorites . But I just can't decide . I'd rather just enjoy the music than worry about my favorites .