April 24, 2002
> I am trying to build my classical CDs collection.
> So which guide is better to follow?????
I don't think it's that important. Whichever reviewers you choose, you'll get to know their tastes and can judge their opinions from there.
I also wouldn't be that concerned about getting the "best" recordings. Most of the pieces you'll be exploring as a 'newbie' can withstand a wide range of performances and still have an impact.
And even if you end up with a dog of a performance, that too can have its benefit. Back in the '70s, when I was first getting to know the Beethoven late quartets, the LaSalle recordings on DG were praised by a reviewer, so I bought that set to use to learn them. Man, I played those records over and over and over, finally in exasperation telling a musician friend that I didn't think the Late Quartets were all that they were cracked up to be (yeah, I know, so I was young). He suggested I try some other performances, so I grabbed the cheap Seraphim set by the Hungarians (the stereo recordings). I'll never forget the experience of hearing that recording of Op. 132—chills surging up my spine and tears coming to my eyes. The great thing was, I already had a certain basic familiarity with the notes via LaSalle, and the Hungarians just bored into my soul immediately with their performance and I finally heard the music. In a way, it was a great way to get to know the late quartets.
I've gone back to the LaSalle set once in a while since then, just to see if my feelings might be different, and they're not--they do nothing for me, and remain my least favorite performances. But in their own way, they served me very well.