"Have you also heard Norrington's or Brüggen's or Goodman's
contributions, or whoever else is out there, too?"
No. Having "converted" to HIP only fairly recently I just copied
Gardiner's recordings from a friend. I rarely listen to them, because
the sound just as you said.
Therefore, I only listen to my COE/Harnoncourt set these days, but it's
not on period instruments (whose richer sound I prefer by a vast
margin) and, even worse, it's not in the traditional orchestra setup
with the violins facing each others and the celli in the middle. Of
course, my Klemperer stereo cycle provides for this, to my ears
superior, setup, but I happened to find the playing of his Philharmonia
Orchestra more and more of a liability the more often I listened to it.
Rattle's cycle with the VP also was a big disappointment - it sounded
interesting in the first run, but I soon cooled down on it
considerably. And well, it has some problems that also ruined many of
Karajan's recordings for me (his basic, evened-out, polished and "lush"
approach is a fully valid way for me, BTW): the violins have this nasty
"spread" in intonation (some kind of permanet microtonal cluster),
which may give them a lovely silvery sheen and increase their
voluminosity in concert, but which on my Stax headphones just sounds
rusty and out of tune. I am VERY sensitive to this phenomenon, and it
ruined most older recordings for me. Not only those, of course: there
is also much the "austere" HIP faction produces which sounds quite sour
for me just for this reason - Manze's Handel concerti grossi being such
a case. That's what I like so much about the COE violins: their
intonation is spot-on, no "spread" and this makes them produce some
ravishing overtones next to enabling them to play with unheard levels
I liked Goodman's Schubert quite a bit, even though the orchestra is a
big mess sometimes (take the finale of the 3rd symphony, one of my
favourites) and intonation can be highly questionable (the celli in the
9th!). Immerseel's Schubert, on the other side, boasts a faultless
orchestra, but I find his lean, "classical" approach best suites the
earlier symphonies. For nos 8 and 9 I'd like to have fuller sonorities.
But Immerseel opened my ears for nos 5 and 6 which I had neglected
until now. But number 3 remains unexplainably close to my heart: maybe
because it's second movement just sounds like I would like to feel most
of the time: happy in a very serene, apollinian (or is it apollinic???)
Therefore, what I would like most is to have a cycle which resembles
Harnoncourt in interpretation but uses period instruments in the
traditional placement of the instruments.
And I do not necessarily prefer a "thin" string sound, quite to the
contrary. I like it full-bodied, warm and sensual. As I already have
said elsewhere, just like the strings play on Herreweghe's Bruckner IV.
Well, I'm young and hope to have time to wait for such a recording...