For those looking to begin—or expand--a classical collection, audiophile Matthew Philion compiles this short list of Minnesota Orchestra recordings that should be in your music library.
Antal Dorati Conducts Music of Respighi, Mercury Records Olympian Series
A 1954 recording with the Minneapolis Symphony and Dorati, playing the Italian composer’s Church Windows and Roman Festivals. Though recorded in mono, the release has been praised for its performance and outstanding sonics. Now available in a high-definition digital download, this historic account sounds better than ever.
Antal Dorati Conducts Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture and Capriccio Italien, Mercury Living Presence
Actually the second time Dorati and the Orchestra recorded the audience-favorite 1812 Overture, and the first time in stereo. This 1958 account offers thrilling playing, with sonics that have not been equaled in the past sixty years.
Stanislaw Skrowaczewski conducts Music of Ravel, Vox Records VoxBox Set
This set of Ravel’s orchestral works has been celebrated since its release over 40 years ago. Taped in Orchestra Hall in fall 1975, they were the first recordings in the then-new venue, and with a new label. The performances are idiomatic and engaging, with just the right amount of French lightness and Spanish precision. The sonics perfectly capture a world-class orchestra in a world-class concert hall.
Edo de Waart Conducts Richard Strauss’ Sinfonia Domestica and Suite for Winds, Virgin Classics
Maestro de Waart recorded three albums of Strauss’ music in the early 1990s. Along with the famous tone poems were several early chamber works for winds, including the Suite for 13 Instruments. The playing is delicate, tuneful, and light—a nice counter-balance to the composer’s large-scale works for orchestra.
Eiji Oue Conducts Music of Copland, Reference Recordings
Recorded by the audiophile label Reference Recordings in 2000, the centennial of Copland’s birth, this album gives detailed and driving accounts of Appalachian Spring, Fanfare for the Common Man, and the Third Symphony. It’s also available on vinyl, for a true audiophile experience.
Osmo Vänskä Conducts Sibelius’s First and Fourth Symphonies, BIS Records
This album, which won the 2014 Grammy Award for Best Orchestral Performance, offers listeners lesser-known Sibelius works. Maestro Vänskä balances the late-romanticism of the First Symphony with the austere sonic landscape of the Fourth, bringing out terrific playing from the ensemble. Listeners will likely never hear better performances of these works, both recorded in glorious surround sound in Orchestra Hall.
Matthew Philion is an attorney, writer, teacher, former classical music DJ, and amateur trombone and euphonium player. He has been a fan of the Minnesota Orchestra since attending his first concert in 1978—a laser light show at the St. Paul Auditorium featuring music from Star Wars and The Planets.