1991 Records To Die For

This is a somewhat different twist on other "Recommended Recordings" lists you may have read. Rather than a selection of all-time (or year's) best recorded performances---which are common enough---or a list of audiophile reference recordings---common enough in the audiophile press, at any rate, and a good thing, too---this is a list of stereo recordings that are both musically and sonically impeccable---in other words, the best, the tops, to die for---each item briefly described in a hundred or so words (except for JA, LA, and JGH, whose couplets runneth over).

Needless to say, such strictures considerably narrowed the field. But it also set Stereophile's staff a stiff challenge. Kicking and screaming all the way to the deadline (and past it), they complained that: five choices were not nearly enough; they couldn't come up with a single recording that fit all criteria; this list was a dumb idea anyway.

Such a list also makes for some strange procrustean bedfellows---obscure recordings that would never make the proverbial "desert island" list snuggling up next to towering classics of the concert hall and control room. My own choice of Yoel Levi's Telarc recording of Copland's Symphony 3 is a case in point; as much as I respect and enjoy Copland's music, no one would think of comparing his symphonies with those of Beethoven, Mahler, or Brahms. Still, that recording fit, as did few others, the criteria JA and I had laid down: remarkably good stereo recordings of remarkably good performances.

But all the hair-tearing and category-fudging turned out to be worth it, as you'll soon discover---there are lots of surprises here. Equipment and music reviewers are lumped together here and listed alphabetically; composers/performers are listed alphabetically under each writer. Those recordings that have been reviewed in Stereophile since the birth of the monthly music section in Vol.10 No.7 (October 1987) are so noted; ie, a listing ending in "(XI-5)" was reviewed in Vol.11 No.5.

Have fun---we did.

Richard Lehnert