Brahms Symphony 1 & 2. Berlin Philharmonic, von Karajan conducting. I know some people feel the Berlin Phil doesn’t have the same technical precision as some North American orchestras, and von Karajan doesn’t always do exactly what’s in the score, but the combination with Brahms is really delicious.
Beethoven Symphony 9. No particular preference in performers. Just a fantastic piece of music.
Scheherezade. Chicago Symphony, Fritz Reiner conducting, Sydney Harth, concertmaster. This particular performance is absolutely riveting. The excellence of the orchestra is incredible, and Sydney Harth was one of the greatest concertmasters ever. I had the opportunity to be in a number of his master classes at the Banff Centre and heard him perform there on a number of occasions. He was a real master, in the top tier of world violinists. (And his down-bow staccato could rival almost anybody’s up-bow!).
Till Eulenspiegel (R. Strauss). Chicago Symphony, George Solti. You have to learn the story behind the music to really appreciate the piece. Whenever I’m feeling gloomy, this is my short-cut to feeling pumped. And whenever it comes to stuff involving a big horn solo, I always turn to Dale Clevenger, the principal horn of the CSO for decades. IMHO, the greatest horn player ever. Couple big horn solos in this piece, and you can actually see and hear a video clip of both of them on youtube (with the great Richard Oldberg playing 3rd).