Desert Island NOT … recordings that you’d never take to a desert island (and why)

Me? Klemperer’s Petrushka (far too cumbersome). Toscanini’s Eugene Onegin waltz (bullied out of all recognition). Glenn Gould’s early Mozart Sonatas (classical Keystone Cops). Karajan’s stereo Philharmonia Sibelius 5 (far too smooth). How about you?

30 thoughts on “Desert Island NOT … recordings that you’d never take to a desert island (and why)

  1. Longinus

    Karajan’s Madama Butterfly. Without checking, I recall a critic speaking of an enormous multicoloured slug dragging itself across the stage. I swapped it for the Barbirolli (as you could in those days – thanks, Blackwells Music Shop).


  2. Spinach

    I would NOT take Die Schone Galatea performed by the Detroit Symphony under Paul Paray. The reason would be that I have heard it so many times I don’t need to listen to it ever again. Although I suppose one more time wouldn’t be so bad.


  3. RichardStreet

    Spiffing idea, Rob. You may or not believe this but I was recently creating a mental list of pieces I really disliked, almost to the point of shuddering. The list would have to be made up, not of rubbish,but performances which are revered and even loved by the majority.

    I won’t include more than my number one nausea-inducing track, but here it is: At the top of the list: Kathleen Ferrier singing Blow the Wind Southerly (unaccompanied).

    Why this choice? I have a memory of being dragged along to church, standing next to my mother. She had a hooting alto register, which was so far removed from her speaking voice that this 7-year-old found it rather scary. Put me off the (Methodist) church to boot.

    Listening now to the great KF I acknowledge her huge talent and can see why she should remain popular. Incidentally when I first heard Alfred Deller at about the same age I recognised something in common but was not affronted.

    • All individuals are long dead. I am working on the list and find myself drawn towards the genre of German lieder. For this I shall probably be shot.



    1. The more ‘revered’ recordings the better Richard, not for want of respect but because it’s always fascinating to learn why someone dislikes them (interesting, too, your comments re Deller and Ferrier). Learning early about Ferrier’s tragic fate definitely effected the way I listened to her … there was something deeply unsettling, along with the beauty and pathos.


  4. Robert Roy

    Easy. That cd with the male choir and the saxophone! I’ve tried to like it but it’s a bit like a beetroot topping a lemon cheesecake. Just an odd mish mash of styles.

    Oh, and Glen Gould playing Mozart. Once walked out of HMV in Edinburgh when it came on the loop. IMHO, appallingly unmusical. And yet, his Bach was wonderful.


    1. Robert Roy, I think you refer to the Hilliard Ensemble with Norwegian saxophonist Jan Garbarek. You will be pleased to know that this male vocal quartet will give its final concert next month (in the Wigmore Hall) after forty years of delighting the (mainly early music) punters. Legendary countertenor David James is the sole survivor of the original four in 1974. It’s been a sublime hoot.


  5. Ian on Skye.

    1 through to 8: absolutely any version of Ravel’s “Bolero” because it is the most abominal ear worm ever devised in the serious music canon. Even mentioning it brings me out in hives. I’ now off for a scratch…..urgh


  6. Geoff Burke

    I bought a record of Stokowski conducting the Brahms 4 in the Seventies – tempo of the first movement much to quick and clumsy, I never played it again!


      1. Geoff Burke

        I had a recording many years ago (too many!) of the Tchaikovsky 5 with Malcolm Sargent conducting the LSO – v good and performed with gusto and clarity..


  7. Giancarlo Gemin

    I am a Harnoncourt fan, but his Cosi Fan Tutte is a strange affair. “Soave Sia il Vento” is taken way too fast – it feels more like a gale. He slows some of the arias to breaking point “Donne mie, le fate a tanti” and “Per Pieta” (the irony) in particular.


  8. Ian Julier

    What a provocative notion, Rob. It set me thinking of a favourite work and much-lauded versions by three different singers, all of which I’ve grown to have a strong aversion to – Strauss 4 Last Songs with Schwarzkopf/Szell (too much art revealing too little of same), Janowitz/Karajan (tremulous and dare I say anodyne singing that perfectly matches the accompaniment) and Norman/Masur (marmoreally slow and terminal in all the wrong ways). Bettie was much better with Ackermann, HvK got nearer to the real thing later on with a vulnerable, yet far more engaged Tomowa- Sintow, while Norman’s self-regard vies with my No.1 on the ‘not’ hit-list. I suspect there will be refusals for me to have any sort of luxury or book, but there it is – I’ve said it! Oh, and while I’m at it, in this rep Flagstad/Furtwangler turns out to be something of a mis-match too. Heading for the boat now…

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Steven Swalbe

    Anything with Norrington.The reason is blasphemy. That goes for most original instrument interpreters. (I am outspoken Rob). Glen Gould “Appassionata” (insult) and too many more to mention now.


  10. Evelyn Gottlieb

    1 Arpeggiata murdering Henry Purcell, yet to hear anything worse on R3
    2 Alexandre Tharaud in Haydn’s piano concerto in D
    3 Weill’s 3 Penny Opera
    4 Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstances ie all of them
    5 Anything featuring shrieking divas !!


    1. Steven Swalbe.

      Here’s my 8:
      1. Anything with Roger Norrington
      2. Carlos Kleiber: Schubert 3 Went crazy with slow mvt.
      3. Toscanini: Haydn 94 prestissimo 3rd movt.
      4. Gould: Appassionata He hated it and played it that way
      5. Knappertsbusch: Fidelio Never knew this opera takes 3 hrs.
      6. Toscanini: 9th Criminal 3rd movt.
      7. Most things with Gardiner
      8. Most original instrument ensembles

      I actually adore Toscanini with most things.


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