Over the weekend I came across a 1001 Classical Recordings You Must Hear Before You Die while venturing in my neighborhood library. Although the book suggests some interesting recordings that we should in fact listen to, my wife, also a musician, and I started discussing, why should the opinions of a select few choose one recording per piece per composer? If we think about the numerous recordings available for all the “classic” works by greats such as J.S. Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Mahler, and Stravinsky, I have to ask how can a select few decide that a single recording is the “best” for a specific piece? Granted, the book is a collaboration, but each selection is attributed to a single person. So why should I, as a music appreciator, trust these select few?
The fact remains that every individual is going to have a different appreciation for what they consider to be the best album for a particular work. No one is going to question that Stravinsky conducting his own work, Symphony in C, is significant. But, I happen to own a rendition of Georg Solti conducting the same work. Shouldn’t Solti’s interpretation be heard before I die also? There is value in listening to more than one recording of significant work. If that wasn’t the case, then why are willing to go and hear the same works in concert over and over again. I have heard Beethoven’s 5th symphony several times, each performed differently, which gave me a different experience with the same work.
These music listening guides should only be viewed as recommendations that supplement our preferences and perhaps teach us something new. We shouldn’t feel that each of our musical tastes are illegitamate because of a select few. Instead, allow the “music experts” to provide us with suggestions of what to listen to next. Of course, we also could learn about new works the old fashion way by going to a concert with a program that includes compositions from composers we are unfamiliar with.