(If you love music and/or love America you must own the Anthology of American Folk Music. It is available from Smithsonian Folkways. 80 bucks, but worth it.
I assume that the same must hold true for many early classical music performances, although I am aware of only one which meets Harry Smith’s standards for delicious spontaneity.
For my 17th or 18th birthday, my father invited a small bunch of my friends to dinner at Howard Johnson’s. My birthday present from Victor Grauer was a record, Madeleine Grey singing Canteloube’s Chants d’Auvergne. It remains the most remarkable recorded classical music performance I’ve heard.
Canteloube wrote over 40 of these songs. The first set of three songs was premiered by Grey in 1926; in 1930 she recorded eight of them. The anonymous orchestra, a pick-up group, I assume, was conducted by Elie Cohen. (Cohen conducted l’Opéra-Comique between the wars.) Listen. (The songs are sung in langue d’oc.)
Many other sopranos have recorded the Canteloube songs but, with one exception, they miss entirely their elementary pastoral nature. Grey manages to sound like a woman of Provence, robust and passionate, singing into the mistral.
Here is one of the better ones: Victoria de los Angeles, whose recordings of Spanish songs (Falla, Granados, Turina) is another treasured disk of mine.
The Davrath recording, a 2-CD set, is still in print (as is the de los Angeles). The Madeleine Grey is no longer available, so I have no qualms about adding the other seven tracks to this post.