Music: Dept. of extraordinary bargains

Here’s some stuff I found on iTunes.

On a long drive the other day, I just loaded all the CDs from this set of Beethoven symphonies into the CD changer of my rental car and listened straight through from 1 to 9. They’re quite inexpensive on CD (the format I have them in), and nutty cheap on iTunes: $9.99 for all nine. But these are not bargain-basement performances. David Zinman is a fine conductor, his Zurich charges ready for anything, and these performances compare favourably to any I’ve heard. The Seventh in particular is surprisingly fine-featured, almost delicate in the galloping finale. The rest are less idiosyncratic, but lovely and rousing. A great place to start if you’re just beginning to check Beethoven out, and worth a listen if you know him well.

Then there’s this digital version of a Miles Davis boxed set, also oddly inexpensive. It’s not quite the basic library necessity that a box of Beethoven symphonies would be, because it comes from a betwixt-and-between period in Miles’ life: between the departure of John Coltrane from the band in 1960 and the arrival of Wayne Shorter in 1964. Here he’s slowly putting together his second great quintet, trying various sidemen, alternating between his standard repertoire and some more adventurous new tunes, few of which lasted long in his set book. But as a trumpeter Miles was at the top of his game, extroverted and playful. The bands were game, the moment a bit hectic but fertile. And the price is right.

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