Printer Friendly - Which Les Miseraables recording for a novice?


Which Les Miseraables recording for a novice?
Posted by wewdie 2012-12-26 08:05:05


Hello all,

I have no experience with the score of Les Miserables save for the random listening of I Dreamed a Dream and On My Own. As I prepare to see the movie, I have a feeling I will want a proper cast recording of the score rather than the movie soundtrack. Which one do you recommend? The original London cast, the original Broadway cast, symphonic, or 10th anniversary?

There seem to be a lot of choices. I'm unsure which one will give me the best listening experience.

Thanks for any advice.
-Eddie

Which Les Miseraables recording for a novice?
Posted by alwaysrose 2012-12-26 09:58:42


Personally, I enjoy the 2010 cast recording, and it is more complete than some of the other recordings. However, I would suggest the Symphonic cast recording as it features the entire score. Both versions are pretty easy to find via Amazon or eBay.

Which Les Miseraables recording for a novice?
Posted by Jane2 2012-12-26 10:08:19


I'm not sure which is the best but the London OCR has Patti Lupone and Colm Wilkinson, if I'm not mistaken.

Which Les Miseraables recording for a novice?
Posted by Queen of the Night 2012-12-26 10:30:04


I like the 10th anniversary and original Broadway cast recordings best myself.

Which Les Miseraables recording for a novice?
Posted by alwaysrose 2012-12-26 10:54:38


If you have Spotify, you can listen to all of the above recordings and decide which you like best.

Which Les Miseraables recording for a novice?
Posted by wskrs4 2012-12-26 11:07:10


I personally like the "completeness" of the symphonic cast recording, but as a whole, I prefer the cast of the 10th Anniversary Concert (there is a lot of overlap). Either one of those two would be my recommendation.

Which Les Miseraables recording for a novice?
Posted by ashley77 2012-12-26 12:09:58


My go-to has always been the original London Cast. I prefer LuPone, Allam, and Caine to their Broadway counterparts.

The best cast overall is the 10th Anniversary concert version. No one can beat Phillip Quast as Javert (IMO)

Which Les Miseraables recording for a novice?
Posted by Rainbowhigh23 2012-12-26 12:30:21


There's so many recordings to choose from, why not start with the premiere recording, the original London cast, and go from there? A lot of great actors on it - Rebecca Caine, Colm Wilkinson, Patti LuPone, to name but a few.

Which Les Miseraables recording for a novice?
Posted by My Oh My 2012-12-26 13:09:11


I say the Complete Symphonic.

It is complete with the exception of the well scene added to the Broadway production for its 10th anniversary in 1997, then made an official part of every production.

All versions that follow the Complete Symphonic either cut stuff out, speed the tempos to ridiculous levels, or crap up the orchestrations.

The Complete Symphonic has a kick ass symphony playing the original John Cameron orchestrations. This is the man who also orchestrated the original French concept album. Anyone who has listened to the concept album knows just how much John Cameron contributed to the evocative sound of that version, and surely, the Complete Symphonic and all productions since.

The Complete Symphonic has casts from some of the then current productions playing around the world, as well as members of the original London cast: then-current London; Broadway; Australian; Japanese; and Los Angeles productions. The latter being awesome because a certain 11 year old first saw the show with them. =)

I also recommend the London 10th anniversary and Broadway cast recordings. I am hesitant in recommending the London cast recording as a first version to a novice because many songs no longer resemble those original versions. But I do highly recommend it to any fan or anyone wanting to be moved, as that recording has this very deep, rich FM-like sound that I just love and puts me in a distinct mood that separates it from all other Les Mis recordings.

And it has the Lupone and the Caine.

Which Les Miseraables recording for a novice?
Posted by tobiasragg 2012-12-26 13:26:41


I live for the complete symphonic recording but the 10th anniversary I think has a better cast. However, the CSR is the one I go to for the original orchestrations. Just listen to the prologue -- it's EPIC.

Which Les Miseraables recording for a novice?
Posted by My Oh My 2012-12-26 15:54:16


It really depends on each listener's needs.

Apart from the orchestra, I know I tend to want to sing along full-out sporadically while listening. I notice I tend to feel most inspired to do so when singers like Warlow, Morris, or Ball step up to the plate. I tend to feel less enthusiastic when Byrne and Shimada come in, even though I think they are both fantastic as Fantine and Eponine, respectively.

So when I want to belt the sh*t out of "I Dreamed a Dream" or "On My Own," I press eject and put in Randy Graff of the original Broadway cast recording and either Frances Ruffelle or Linzi Hately for Eponine's 2nd act shout-fest. Those ladies can scream beautifully, and Frances, with a Rock-tinged flavor. Gotta love her.

When I feel like slitting my wrists (figuratively!!!), I put on Nagy Aniko's rendition from the original Hungarian cast recording. She's the most beautiful sounding wounded animal I've ever heard.

And when I am not interested in "singing along." I chuck it all to one side and slave away, creating my own orchestral tracks, to which I allow myself to sing to only if I am satisfied by how it turns out. Anal, I know.

And if that's the case, the neighborhood will strike contorted expressions for the next hour, or so, as I SING the crappola out of those songs, complete with machine-gun vibrato and scooping notes a-la-Lupone, leaving the barrio stunned, paralyzed, and trauuuuuuumatized.


Calm down. I kid.

Which Les Miseraables recording for a novice?
Posted by JP2 2012-12-26 16:15:47


My go to is always the Complete Symphonic, just because it's exactly what it says it is. Heck, after seeing the movie that's what I felt compelled to listen to.

People always mention how the cast isn't perfect, but it's never bothered me.

If you have Spotify, I'd just listen to all 500 recordings and pick the one you like best.

Which Les Miseraables recording for a novice?
Posted by OperaBwayLover 2012-12-26 20:38:31


For an enjoyable experience overall, I'd recommend the 10th Anniversary Concert recording. However, if you want to hear the full score, go with the Complete Symphonic.

I'd stay away from the Original Broadway Cast; if you're a Marius fan, you will HATE David Bryant's version (I do. :-p). Also, the Thenardiers just sound weird (Madame T's kinda weak, and T sounds like Tigger, IMO), and I find Randy Graff's Fantine unbearable. The OBC does have a special place in my heart/collection because of Terrence Mann's Javert and Michael Maguire's Enjolras, though.

Also, the Original London Cast is fun to listen to because of the differences in the score that we're used to. It has the Cosette solo "I Saw Him Once" that was later cut, as well as the full version of "Little People."

Which Les Miseraables recording for a novice?
Posted by CarlosAlberto 2012-12-26 20:53:24


Get ALL OF THEM and listen to them BACK TO BACK and then over again....that's the only way to appreciate LES MIZ.

Which Les Miseraables recording for a novice?
Posted by WestEndAndy 2012-12-27 02:40:08


I still like the OLC best.It has a fantastic set of principals, some like Michael Ball virtually unknown at the time, and the sound is full and grand with lots of nice fat reverb. Too many studio recordings are dry and too close-miked for my taste. The OLC sounds like it did in the theatre.

Oddly, as a longtime Les Mis fanatic (now reading the novel in preparation for seeing the picture) the music didn't impress me much on first hearing. I was awed by the staging at the Barbican in London, but found the songs overloud and simplistic - after all, Master of the House is virtually based on three chords. It wasn't until I bought the album (yes, it was in the days of the LP) that I was knocked out by the power of the music.And nobody will ever sing Bring Him Home more movingly than Colm Wilkinson. For me, he will always be Valjean.

The style of the music and singing has changed since the 80s. It is less poppy and more classic Broadway. Strings replace synths. Where are the drums? There used to be a rawness to the score which the film version appears to have softened - but I await the full movie experience.



Which Les Miseraables recording for a novice?
Posted by broadwayfever 2012-12-27 03:05:23


Hey Eddie,

For now, I would skip all of those that have been mentioned and simply watch the 25th Anniversary Concert.

Then after you watch the film, you can go back and start with all the other suggestions.

Which Les Miseraables recording for a novice?
Posted by My Oh My 2012-12-27 03:26:25


I change my mind. Forget the Complete Symphonic.

Get one of the near-complete foreign cast recordings, like one of the 6, live Japanese cast recordings. Well, unless you can understand Japanese, of course.

That way, you will place more focus on the music! Like WestEndAndy mentioned, the basic music is not very complex. Beautiful, but very accessible. But the orchs, now that's something else! Make sure it's John Cameron's originals. The variety of colors and textures and harmony, the way they blend and create whole new sounds, the way those DIRTY keyboards come in and jar the senses at first but then you find they've created this aural urgency that always seems to be ready to boil over. The way it all works together to support what is being sung, what's going down. It has attitude, it's unsophisticated while being often complex. It doesn't tell you what to feel, it steps aside and lets you discover it for yourself. It's opera but it's not. It's pop, but it's not. It never completely slips into melodrama or pretentiousness, even if it flirts with it whorishly!!! I LOVE it!

The 25th anniversary train wreck may appeal to you if you're feeling masochistic.

Which Les Miseraables recording for a novice?
Posted by ClapYo'Hands 2012-12-27 04:25:32


The plus side to the 25th anniversary cast recording is John Owen-Jones' Jean Valjean.

Also, the Complete Symphonic Recording doesn't include the scene change music before ABC Café.

Which Les Miseraables recording for a novice?
Posted by WestEndAndy 2012-12-27 05:13:27


On the subject of the score and the various different versions, can somebody enlighten me about one moment?

In the original staging the building of the barricade was breathtaking. The two halves of the Paris tenements trundled together and then tilted vertically 90 degrees before slotting together. This was set to the grand chords that are used for the Overture, before Look Down. Then in the London production there was a burst of Red and Black before the revolutionaries rushed on to the newly 'built' barricade.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l7RXWDIZfLY

In every version since, this has been cut and the excitement is lost, to my mind.
When something works so magnificently, why muck about with it?

Which Les Miseraables recording for a novice?
Posted by WestEndAndy 2012-12-27 05:14:16


Double post

Which Les Miseraables recording for a novice?
Posted by PopAria 2012-12-27 12:00:33


watch the 25th anniversary.... Watch the film in theaters... then go back and listen to the Original London Cast... I liked the performances in the movie but didn't like the singing...

Which Les Miseraables recording for a novice?
Posted by CarlosAlberto 2012-12-27 12:11:57


watch the 10th anniversary...watch the 25th anniversary...watch the film in theaters...listen to the OBC, then the OLC, then the Symphonic Recording, then the audio CD's of the 10th anniversary concert and the 25th anniversary cast, then the Original French Concept Album, then blow your brains out...

Which Les Miseraables recording for a novice?
Posted by My Oh My 2012-12-28 06:56:57


^ Wow. You're so passionate!

Which Les Miseraables recording for a novice?
Posted by CarlosAlberto 2012-12-28 07:33:37


I'm Latino....the passion is built-in..

Which Les Miseraables recording for a novice?
Posted by jacobsnchz14 2012-12-29 17:25:32


Which recordings contain the libretto in the booklet?

Which Les Miseraables recording for a novice?
Posted by canmark 2012-12-29 18:32:53


I'd recommend the Original Broadway Cast. It retains Colm Wilkinson (Valjean) and Frances Ruffelle (Eponine) from the London cast and adds the likes of Randi Graff (Fantine) and Terrence Mann (Javert).

Tony Awards performance of One Day More: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gGdsnb6rahI

Randi Graff performs I Dreamed a Dream (on Donahue): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1pOwOCZrqVo

Which Les Miseraables recording for a novice?
Posted by michellek45 2012-12-29 22:52:33


I'd watch the 25th anniversary DVD to get a feel for the story- it's not the best cast, but I find it more engaging, complete, and easy to follow than the 10th. After that, my two favorite recordings are both not in English: the 1991 French Revival and the Japanese Red Cast. The 1991 French has one of the best casts ever assembled, in my opinion, and this is coming from someone who does not like listening to French. I love the Japanese Red Cast because the way the levels are, you can really hear the low instruments and the percussion much better than in other recordings. It's not as keyboard-heavy as the early shows, which I appreciate, but it hasn't become the "modern" version they use for the 25th anniversary yet. It is also very complete.

Which Les Miseraables recording for a novice?
Posted by My Oh My 2012-12-30 01:24:02


For those of you orchestration appreciating nuts out there, I'm sure you've asked yourself which recording contains the best representation of John Cameron's definitive, original 1987 orchestration?

Well, look no further than the 1991 Paris Cast Recording, also known as the French Revival Cast. Other recordings vary, most featuring a fair balance of Cameron's instrumentation; however, good mixing does make all the difference, and the Paris Cast Recording's mixing is simply magical.

Yes, it features the iconic (and in my opinion, beautifully gritty) keyboards that the show is so known for. Unfortunately people will always be ignorant about music, and like one very naive person over at IMDB, who calls the use of synths "pathetic" and wrongly assumes they were meant to replace orchestral elements with synthetic ones, those of us more enlightened well know John's original orchs had a wonderful variety of sounds that included a dominant and very large orchestral component made up of 10 string; 5 brass; 4 woodwind; drums; a percussionist; a guitarist; a bassist; and 2 keyboard players. To say the original orchs placed no focus whatsoever on the orchestra and was basically ALL synthetic sounds, is not only ignorance, it's willful stupidity and selective hearing.

Sorry. That person's post infuriated me beyond belief. As a huge fan since 1986, I've read too many ignorant assertions made about John's brilliantly atmospheric keyboard component, but that was just blatantly misinformed and incredibly naive.

At any rate!

The Paris Cast Recording stands out among the many albums that feature his original orchestration for how tight the mixing is. Those of you who know and appreciate John's original work know just how complex it is, often revealing whole counter melodies and sides that aren't immediately easy to isolate and identify. This recording manages to do what I never thought possible due to the sheer number of different voices that blend and create the musical language of Les Miserables: you are able to hear every single instrument clearly. That's amazing. And this is the only recording so far to achieve it.

The result is a work that represents John's work at its absolute peak. Every instrument is properly balanced, positioned within the stereo image, its dynamics fine-tuned, and the texture at its rawest, the recording is a joy.

It's also the best representation of John's keyboard sounds, which are usually either mixed in too heavily and are dominant over the orchestral component (OBC & OLC recordings) or their dynamics and textures suffer and come across like alien entities that aren't cohesive with the orchestral (the horrid new patches used for the 25th ann. thing). In the Paris Cast Recording, those patches do exactly what they were meant to do; set mood, color the moment; strategically fill-out and support the orchestra; infuse with character and texture; and to create atmosphere. Never during the course of listening to that album does one's senses jar at the sound of those keyboards. It all blends beautifully, as it should.

Do yourselves a favor and pick up a copy. Mp3 downloads put you at risk of receiving badly compressed versions of a recording that demands the highest quality, if one wishes to appreciate the stunning work of John Cameron, which to me, is the true voice of Les Miserables.