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Famous Classical Music and Jazz Recordings
  - High-Fidelity CDs for Testing Audio Equipment (6) | GEAR & BUSINESS #010
2022/02/21 #010

Famous Classical Music and Jazz Recordings
- High-Fidelity CDs for Testing Audio Equipment (6)

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Planner / Editor / Event Organizer



So far in our “Audio Recommendations" series, we’ve posted lists of compilation CDs we recommend for taking your baby steps into new music genres. There’s something about compilation CDs that feels alive in a way you don’t get with playlists on a music streaming service. It also helps that it’s easier than ever to get your hands on high-quality recordings at a reasonable price.
Compilation Albums for Beginners
Classical Music and Jazz Compilations for Training Your Ears
Pop and Rock Compilations for Japanese Listeners Interested in Western Music
Addictively Good World Music and EDM Compilations
What We Can Learn From Comparing J-pop and Grammy Nominee Compilations

This article will the first of several articles where we list off the original albums and best-of albums we recommend from the different genres we’ve covered so far. This time I’ll be going over classical music and jazz albums.

Albums that are considered all-time greats are often remastered with each improvement in audio technology; as a result there are many different versions of each recording out there, and it can be difficult to know which to purchase. For the purposes of this article, I’ve tried to find the highest-quality recordings possible, while also making an attempt to select the discs that can also be played in conventional CD players. At the end of this article, I will also go over a music streaming service I’ve gotten into recently.

2.Why so Many Classical Music and Jazz Recordings Have High Quality Sound

Jazz recordings, and especially classical music recordings, are known as the realm of audiophiles—music meant to be played on expensive audio equipment through high-end speakers in acoustically designed listening spaces.

Classical music is the music of upper class Europeans, to be properly appreciated by educated, cultured people. Jazz developed in the American South around the turn of the 20th century, and brings together the technical skill and theory of European music and the rhythms and tribal beats being cultivated in African-American communities. There is a lot of improvisation involved, and the music can sometimes get tedious for those without some knowledge of music.

Meanwhile, pop(ular) music and rock music were born and cultivated in American middle class and British working class communities. They emphasize catchiness and danceability over everything else, and are unsubtle, easy to consume, and enjoyable by almost anybody.

In terms of sound quality, classical music involves a wide range of sounds both big and small—from sweeping orchestral arrangements to whisper-tone piano solos. In order to properly enjoy that sound at home, you need equipment capable or reproducing a wide dynamic range. Also consider that the types of venues where classical music and jazz are performed are scientifically designed to provide the best possible acoustics; other than electric jazz, these two genres of music are largely played without amplification.

Pop and rock are for the masses, and as such are designed to sound largely the same on any audio equipment that it is played back on, whether it’s a smartphone or a stereo. Americans have long enjoyed it on the radio. Pop is often no so much a listening experience as it is vocal entertainment, or music to be played at a large volume at a nightclub. Rock is meant to be played at a large volume; it is the sound of rebellion, purposely designed to grate on the ears of older generations.

Today there are plenty of pop and rock music recordings that have superior sound, and high-res digital audio has its own appeal, distinct from the warmth and crackle of vinyl records. But for someone who wants to discover the richness of musical expression without breaking the bank, I recommend listening to classical music and jazz on CD or high-res digital audio.

3.Classical Music Recordings

Hi-Fi Classical Music

Beethoven: Symphonie No. 9
Conductor: Leonard Bernstein
Orchestra: Vienna Philharmonic
Performers: Gwyneth Jones, Hanna Schwarz, Rene Kollo, Kurt Moll

Richard Strauss: Ein Heldenleben Op. 40
Conductor: Herbert von Karajan
Orchestra: Berlin Philharmonic

Mozart: Symphonies Nos. 40 & 41 “Jupiter”
Conductor: Karl Bohm
Orchestra: Wiener Philharmoniker

Mozart: Requiem
Conductor: Karl Bohm
Orchestra: Wiener Philharmoniker

Beethoven: Symphonies Nos. 5 & 7
Conductor: Carlos Kleiber
Orchestra: Wiener Philharmoniker

Schubert: Symphonies Nos. 3 & 8 “Unfinished”
Conductor: Carlos Kleiber
Orchestra: Wiener Philharmoniker

Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 6 “Pathetique”
Conductor: Yevgeny Mravinsky
Orchestra: Leningrad Philharmonic Orchestra

Mahler: Symphony No. 1 in D “The Titan”
Conductor: Bruno Walter
Orchestra: Columbia Symphony Orchestra

Brahms: Piano Concerto No. 2
Conductor: Karl Böhm
Performer: Wilhelm Backhaus
Orchestra: Weiner Philharmoniker

Chopin & Liszt: Piano Concerto No. 1
Conductor: Claudio Abbado
Performer: Marta Argerich
Orchestra: London Symphony Orchestra

Gershwin: Rhapsody in Blue / An American in Paris / Grofe: Grand Canyon Suite
Conductor: Leonard Bernstein
Orchestra: The Philadelphia Orchestra

Gershwin: An American in Paris
Conductor: Ozawa Seiji
Orchestra: San Francisco Symphony Orchestra

Falla: The Three Cornered Hat
Conductor: Ansermet
Orchestra: L’Orchestre de la Suisse Romande

Japanese Conductor

Beethoven: Symphonies Nos. 1 & 6
Conductor: Asahina Takashi
Orchestra: New Japan Philharmonic

Buckner: Symphony No. 3
Conductor: Asahina Takashi
Orchestra: New Japan Philharmonic

Tchaikovsky: Ballet Suites “The Nutcracker” / “The Sleeping Beauty”
Conductor: Ozawa Seiji
Orchestra: Orchestre de Paris

Toru Takemitsu Masterworks Selection 1957-1995
Composer: Takemitsu Toru
Conductor: Ozawa Seiji
Orchestra: Saito Kinen Orchestra, Boston Symphony Orchestra

Tchaikovsky: Symphonies No. 4 / No. 5 / No. 6 “Pathetique”
Conductor: Iwaki Hiroyuki
Orchestra: NHK Symphony Orchestra

Mahler: Symphony No. 2 Resurrection
Conductor: Ono Kazushi
Orchestra: Orchestre Symphonique et Choeurs de la Monnaie
Performers: Susan Chilcott, Violeta Urmana, Thanos Adamopoulos

Sado/Siena Best
Conductor: Sado Yutaka
Orchestra: Siena Wind Orchestra

Mahler: Symphony No. 5 Tokyo Live 2009
Conductor: Nishimoto Tomomi
Orchestra: Royal Philharmonic Orchestra

Brahms: Complete Symphonies
Conductor: Kobayashi Kenichiro
Orchestra: Hungary State Symphony Orchestra

Japanese Pianists

Mozart: Piano Concertos No. 20 / No. 24
Conductor: Jeffrey Tate
Performer: Uchida Mitsuko
Orchestra: English Chamber Orchestra

Erik Satie: Piano Works
Performer: Takahashi Yuji

Beethoven: Complete Piano Sonatas Vol. 9
Performer: Nakamichi Ikuyo

Chopin Favorites
Performer: Nakamura Hiroko

La Campanella - The Best Of Ingrid Fuzjko Hemming
Performer: Fuzjko Hemming

Memories: The Alice Sara Ott Compilation
Performer: Alice Sara Ott

Chopin: 12 Etudes & 4 Ballades
Performer: Tsujii Nobuyuki

Japanese Violinists

Sibelius & Walton: Violin Concertos
Performer: Suwanai Akiko
Conductor: Sakari Oramo
Orchestra: City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

The Art of Midori
Performer: Goto Midori
Conductor: Zubin Mehta, Claudio Abbado, Christoph Eschenbach, Mariss Jansons

Tchaikovsky & Mendelssohn: Violin Concertos
Performer: Shoji Sayaka
Conductor: Myung-whun Chung
Orchestra: Orchestre philharmonique de Radio France

Performer: Emiri Miyamoto

All Time Best
Performer: Hakase Taro

Other Japanese Performers

Guitar: Muraji Kaori

Hirano Ichiro: The Seasons Tetralogy
Soprano: Yoshikawa Masumi

George Frideric Handel: Sonatas for a Wind Instrument
Flauto traverso: Arita Masahiro
Recorder: Hanaoka Kazuo
Oboe: Honma Masashi
Cembalo, organ: Arita Chiyoko
Violoncello: Suzuki Hidemi
Bassoon: Dohsaka Kiyotaka

Mozart: Oboe Concertos
Oboe: Miyamoto Fumiaki

60th Anniversary Disc: Encore
Cello: Tsutsumi Tsuyoshi
Piano: Nodaira Ichiro

4.Jazz Recordings

Acoustic jazz vs electric jazz. Up until the 1960s, jazz was mostly played using acoustic instruments (electric guitar was an exception). In the late 60s, Miles Davis began incorporating more electric instruments into jazz. Later, Herbie Hancock would introduce the synthesizer and turntable scratching to jazz.


Now’s the Time
Charlie Parker, Hank Jones, Al Haig, Teddy Kotick, Percy Heath, Max Roach

A Love Supreme: The Complete Masters
John Coltrane, Elvin Jones, Jimmy Garrison, McCoy Tyner

Bill Evans Best
Bill Evans, Scott Lafaro, Paul Motian, Jim Hall, Freddie Hubbard, Percy Heath, Philly Joe Jones, Jeremy Steig

The Scene Changes: The Amazing Bud Powell
Bud Powell, Paul Chambers, Art Taylor

Standards Live
Keith Jarrett, Gary Peacock, Jack Dejohnette

Word of Mouth
Jaco Pastorius, Michael Brecker, Wayne Shorter, Hubert Laws, Herbie Hancock, Jack DeJohnette, Peter Erskine, Don Alias

Miles Davis

’Round About Midnight
Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Red Garland, Paul Chambers, Philly Joe Jones

My Funny Valentine
Miles Davis, George Coleman, Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter, Tony Williams

Kind of Blue
Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Bill Evans (Piano), Cannonball Adderley, Wynton Kelly, Paul Chambers, Jimmy Cobb

Get Up With It
Miles Davis, Dave Liebman, Pete Cosey, Reggie Lucas, Dominique Gaumont, Michael Henderson, Al Foster, Mtume

Miles Davis, Marcus Miller, Omar Hakim, Jason Miles, James Walker (Jazz), Earl Klugh, John Scofield

We Want Miles
Miles Davis, Marcus Miller, Bill Evans (Piano) , Mike Stern, Al Foster, Mino Cinelu

Vocal Jazz

Sarah Vaughan with Clifford Brown

Unforgettable with Love
Natalie Cole

Tony Bennett Celebrates 90
Tony Bennett

The Look Of Love
Diana Krall

Blame it on my Youth
Holly Cole

Worrisome Heart
Melody Gardot

Helen Merrill with Clifford Brown

The Very Best Of The Manhattan Transfer

Jazz Fusion

Jazz fusion is a genre characterized by “fusing" jazz music—which originated in African-American communities in New Orleans—with a variety of musical elements from other ethnic and folk music. The borderless feel and mix of genres resonated with Japanese audiences, perhaps because Japanese culture itself is an amalgamation of different elements. In the U.S. it was sometimes called “smooth jazz".

Time Again
David Sanborn, Gil Goldstein 、 Ricky Peterson 、 Mike Mainieri 、 Russell Malone 、 Christian McBride 、 Steve Gadd 、 Don Alias

Bob James and David Sanborn: Double Fusion
Eric Gale, Marcus Miller, Steve Gadd, Paulinho Da Costa, Al Jarreau, Paul Jackson Jr.

The Rippingtons: Kilimanjaro
Russ Freeman, David Koz, David Garfield, Jimmy Haslip, Jimmy Johnson (Bass) , Tony Morales, Vinnie Colaiuta, Brandon Fields

The Best of Yellowjackets

The Best of Shakatak

Fusion Guitar

As Falls Wichita, So Falls Wichita Falls
Pat Metheny, Lyle Mays, Nana Vasconcelos

The George Benson Collection

Mike Stern

Past Present
John Scofield

Finger Paintings
Earl Klugh

The Best of Allan Holdsworth

The Very Best of Lee Ritenour

5.Epilogue: Hi-Res Digital Music Streaming Services

We’re currently in the midst of a vinyl record revival, both in Japan and overseas. The biggest draw of vinyl is the natural warmth of the sound. Audiophiles like to make that sound even warmer using a vacuum tube amplifier.

These days you can easily get your hands on record players selling for around 10,000 yen at CD shops and consumer electronics stores. What most people aren’t aware of is that if you want to draw out the full potential of a record, you need to know quite a bit about audio equipment, as well as have the wherewithal to buy the necessary equipment. Proper record players can cost between 40,000 and 50,000 yen, amps and speakers around 10,000 to 20,000 yen, not to mention that special attention must be paid to cables. Even more important is what record needle you use. Expect to pay at least 10,000 yen a needle, and upwards of 30,000 or 40,000 yen in order to truly experience vinyl at its best.

Back in the 20th century, CD recordings were considered inferior in terms of sound quality when compared to quality vinyl recordings. But these days, many digitally remastered CDs equal and even surpass vinyl. Sure, putting on a CD lacks the manual ritual of putting on a vinyl record, but judging solely by sound quality, CDs are now superior.

One note about sound quality. The one setup I wholeheartedly recommend against is listening to Mp3-quality music on your smartphone through the earbuds that came packaged with it. You would be missing out on an essential part of the music.

If you want to enjoy high sound quality music without the hassle of CDs or vinyl, I recommend getting a subscription for a music streaming service. At my office, we’ve been using Amazon Music HD, which has a selection of over 65 million songs at what they call “HD" (16 bit/44.1 kHz, the equivalent of a CD) quality. They also have several million songs available in “Ultra HD" (24 bit/44.1 kHz and up) quality. Compared to other monthly subscription services like Spotify and Apple Music, Amazon Music HD offers high-resolution audio at an incredibly low price.

Individual plans cost 1,980 yen a month, while the family plan costs 2,480 yen. (The family plan gives up to six people access over multiple devices.)

24 bit/96 kHz audio is clearly better than 16 bit/44.1 kHz CD quality audio, but any higher than that (i.e. 24 bit/192kHz) and it becomes difficult to discern the difference. My guess would be that 24 bit/96 kHz will become the standard bitrate for high-res audio.

Compared to 16 bit/44.1 kHz, 24 bit/96 kHz gives you sound with a wider stereo image and more depth, and it gives personality to even the moments of silence.

Basically, it is as if you were right there in the studio with the musicians.

As long as you have a computer, this service makes it possible to put together a high-res audio system for between 30,000 to 40,000 yen.

Just connect your computer to a DAC (digital-to-analog converter) using USB, and connect the DAC to a pair of powered monitor speakers. As for what cable to use, I recommend using professional-grade cables from the Japanese brand Canare.

If you want to give some warmth to that cool digital sound, buy a vacuum tube preamp to put between your DAC and speakers.


Famous Classical Music and Jazz Recordings - High-Fidelity CDs for Testing Audio Equipment (6)

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