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Ten CDs to Introduce New Listeners to Classical Music

post #1 of 40
Thread Starter 
Here are ten CDs that I would recommend to anyone interested in exploring classical music for the first time. I am trying to focus on bargain CDs, because there is no reason to pay full price for this sort of core repetoire. Let me know if you find this useful, and I'll post introductions to other styles of music.

See ya

Beethoven Sym No 5 & 7 / Kleiber Vienna Philharmonic $10.99

Tchaikovsky Ballet Suites / Rostropovich Berlin Philharmonic $10.99

Mussorgsky: Pictures At An Exhibition / Reiner Chicago SO $10.99

Schubert Symphony No. 8 & Mendelssohn Symphony No 4 / Sinopoli Philharmonia $9.98

Mozart Piano Concerto 6, 17 & 21 / Anda CASM $11.98

Stravinsky Rite of Spring, Firebird, Jeu de Cartes, Petrouchka, Pulcinella Abbado London SO $17.98 (2 CDs)

Ravel Daphnis et Chloe / Dutoit Montreal SO $10.99

Gershwin Rhapsody in Blue, Concerto in F, American in Paris, I Got Rhythm variations / Fiedler Boston Pops & Earl Wild $10.99

Bach Goldberg Variations Tureck $14.99

Wagner Without Words / Szell Cleveland PO $9.98
post #2 of 40
Believe it or not, I popped into the music forum today looking for something exactly like this. Thanks for the list!

I noticed Amazon.ca has the "Living Stereo" SACD's on sale, perhaps some of the titles you listed are available in that series as well.
post #3 of 40
Thread Starter 
The Mussorgsky is a Living Stereo SACD. The Gershwin is available on SACD as well, but there isn't nearly as much program material on the SACD as on the standard CD that I recommend. All of the CDs I'm recommending here are discounted.

Glad to be a help!
post #4 of 40
Yes, this is very useful indeed. I've always kind of been intimidated by the vast expanse that is classical music and could never really find a good jumping off point. This'll give me a great place to start.
post #5 of 40
Let me add my 3 pennies. There's a DVD-Audio version of Beethoven's 5 &7 by Kleiber for only $15, or so. It also contains some photos, etc.

I would suggest to go to the Naxos catalog. They are the CHEAPEST and offer CDs for under $7.
They also have the "Best of" Series:
"Best of Beethoven", "Best of Bach", "Best of Chopin", etc.
If you are into piano music, I'd strongly suggest:
"Chopin Favourites" by Ida Biret ($7)
"Fuer Elise. Romantic Piano Music" $7),
"Allegri Miserere. Choral Music", and the list goes ON and ON,....

Those "Best of" are good because you have samples of music by
composers, say, by Beethoven, his symphonies, choral music, masses, piano music, instrumental music in general, and you can follow the one you like.
Speaking of Beethoven there's "Immortal Beethoven", "Beethoven Adagios" by Naxos as well.

Another approach is that you go by music type:
"Best of": piano, choral, symphonies, etc

or by periods:
"Best of": renaisance music, baroque music, romantic music, ...

and of course there are other ways to get interested in the classical music.

post #6 of 40
BigShot really laid out some nice things. I would like to add

Berlioz: Symphonie Fantastique
Mahler: Symphony No. 6
Rimsky-Korsakov: Scheherazade.

There are so many fine recordings of all that I would be hesitant to pick a favorite, especially for beginners for whom quibbling over subtle interpretive points is meaningless. In reality I can't think of any truly bad, wretched, or unacceptable recordings of most masterworks.
post #7 of 40
Thread Starter 
The problem with "Best of" boxes is that they inevitably have duds mixed in with the good stuff. When you're just starting out, this might make you think that you don't like the composer or type of music; when in actuality, you don't like that particular conductor or performance.

The recommendations I give above are all among the best of their field, and since they are mostly in the $10 range, you aren't really paying any more than you would for a "Best of" set. Also, each one of the recommendations represents a different part of classical repetoire. If you find that you really like Ravel's Daphnis et Chloe, that will lead you to Debussy's La Mer and Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun... and if you find that you really like Rhapsody in Blue, that will lead you to Porgy & Bess, Barber's Adagio for Strings and Copeland's Appalachian Spring. The CDs I chose are excellent barometers to determine which areas of classical music you should explore first.

That said, there are some real bargains on the Naxos label. I could do a list of just that...

See ya
post #8 of 40
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by mbhaub
BigShot really laid out some nice things. I would like to add

Berlioz: Symphonie Fantastique
Mahler: Symphony No. 6
Rimsky-Korsakov: Scheherazade
I have to admit that I've never connected with Berlioz. But I agree Rimsky's Scheherezade is a great starter. I almost listed it on my list, but I already had two Russian collections on there already. Here is a great Scheherezade...

Rimsky-Korsakov: Scheherezade, Borodin: Polovtsian Dances / Beecham Royal PO $11.99

Mahler is great, but I suspect that the broad architecture of his symphonies might fly over the head of a newbie. The same goes for Bruckner. But once they've got Beethoven and Wagner under their belt, a good place to start with Mahler in general is Bernstein's live performances.

See ya
post #9 of 40
That is a very nice list, thanks a lot. How is Tureck's Goldberg compared to Gould?

Personally, I often recommend Dvorak 8,9 (Kubelik, DG classics, budget price) since it's pretty accessible yet also rewarding in the long run.
post #10 of 40
Oooh, this will be useful in the near future.

I am another one who has had an interest in diversifying her music collection and has been rather overwhelmed by the choices. I've always been skeptical of box sets, but have wanted to get a starter collection. Thanks!
post #11 of 40
Originally Posted by saint.panda
That is a very nice list, thanks a lot. How is Tureck's Goldberg compared to Gould?

Personally, I often recommend Dvorak 8,9 (Kubelik, DG classics, budget price) since it's pretty accessible yet also rewarding in the long run.
Tureck's is magnificent, one of the best. And the DG release I have also comes on CD-pluscore disks which you can use in your computer cd-rom drive to see pictures, scores, etc. At the price of a single disk, too.

Gould is certainly different -- very individual, odd, and not at all in the normal traditions of playing Bach. In his own way, it works, and some people swear by his Bach. I don't. I like Bach's Bach. Both performers use piano rather than harpsichord or other, and bless them for doing so. Get the Tureck.
post #12 of 40
Thread Starter 
The Tureck CD that I recommended is part of a four part series of CDs that are among the greatest recordings of Bach ever made. (VAI 1041, 1051, 1029 & 1040). They are live performances recorded at the home of William F. Buckley, and they have equal amounts of spontaneous life *and* virtuosity... a rare thing in something as complex and deep as Bach.

As for the difference between Gould and Tureck... They are both great in their own way, but Gould said that he never understood Bach until he heard Tureck's recording of the Goldbergs. That's pretty high praise!

See ya
post #13 of 40
No chamber music?

Maybe string quartets by Mendelssohn (No. 1 & 2), Dvorak ("American" Op. 96), Schubert's "Trout" Quintet, Beethoven's Piano Trios...?

Do you all think chamber music is less "accessible" to people new to classical? Or do you think that there's simply more "famous" orchestral music that is easier for new listeners to appreciate? Although everyone's heard "Eine Kleine Nachtmusik"... Perhaps chamber music is more associated with stuffy parties/wedding receptions?
post #14 of 40
Good thread.

I have often found that people starting out in this genre are very intimidated by the sheer volume of recordings - not to mention the price of some of them as well. For budget minded beginners I would suggest the following:

The Sure Thing:
Buy the RCA Living Stereo SACD/Hybrids. These are wonderful recordings by top notch artists. The sound quality is also wonderful. At an average price of $11.99 a pop, you really can't go wrong with any of these recordings.

The Adventurous Budgeteer:
One word: NAXOS. These recordings are almost always set aside from the rest of the classical recordings. The prices are usually between the $3.99 to $8.99 range. I would suggest buying these and starting out with the big B's of classical - Bach, Beethoven & Brahms. Move on to Chopin, Mozart, Satie and other such big names. Once you feel you know what you like, be adventurous and try out the new names you've never heard of like D'Astorga, Myslivecek and others.

For The Lazy:
If you feel intimidated by the sheer volume of recordings - fear not my able minded classical listener! Many companies have released "intro" box sets. I own a few of these and they are usually very good at introducing people to the "Pop" classical. Sets by EMI and BMG are usually the best IMHO but they can be pricey.
Check this out - a great intro at a good price:


For The TRUE BEGINNERS (Padawans of Classical Music)
This is where I fit in when I got into classical music. Find someone who LOVES & ADORES classical music and hang out with them. Listen to thier collection, discuss the works, the eras, the sub-genres and then, at least once a week, go to your local record store and buy at least 2 CD's- 1 you like and another experimental one. The experimental one can be one by the same composer or of the same genre so at least you can take a stab at something you may like. You will definately be surprised at the hidden jewels of classical music which nobody seems to know about. Relish in these hidden jewels and share the good ones when you do find them. This is where I suggest a True Beginner begin - not for experts but very adequate for a beginner:


Good luck and enjoy your journey into classical music!
post #15 of 40
while i started with the traditional Bs, it wasn't until i found Bartok that i began to "get" "classical" music. the folk tune basis (and not Western, really, much less American folk) and "modern" scoring gives his music a tangibility (if that's a word) that isn't widely seen.


Music for Strings, Percussion and Celeste
Concerto for Orchestra

both just happen to be available as a RCA Living Stereo (one of the first stereo recordings ever made), Chicago/Reiner. for performance and sound, rarely bettered.
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