Try the WaterLily acoustic recordings
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Have you heard any composers or type of music that you have enjoyed? I assume you are interested in the highest quality recording, not necessarily so much the performance, but the possibilities are so vast it would be helpful to have at least a small clue...If you can't do that much try some recordings by Reference Recordings, RCA Livings Stereo, or even Telarc.
Many of the Mercury CD reissues are very good. And, take a look at this thread about the Naxos recordings (which are very modestly priced) and pay particular attention to the recommendations from Texasdave. The Naxos catalog has some great recordings, but also has some not-so-good recordings.
If you're looking for recommendations of MUSIC for getting started listening to classical, there are several threads in the archives that will help with this. Let us know and we can point you to some as starting points.
Never buy just for the quality of the recording (okay maybe just once to use as a demo). The performance means everything in any form of music and classical is no exception.
If you're just starting out then try the Carlos Klieber conducted Beethoven 5th and 7th symphonies. They are well recorded and very good performances. Try also the George Szell conducted Brahms Symphony #3 with Variations on a Theme by Haydn. These are all pieces that haven't grown old in 35 years of listening.
Tall order as there are thousands. I'd suggest buying the DGG set celebrating James Levine's 60th B'day. The 3 CD's contains spectacular performances of Brahms, Stravinsky, Bartok, Sibelius, Beethoven... Uniformly stunning. Next I would get John Eliot Gardiner's recording of Bach's St. Matthew Passion (or Suzuki's recording of the Matthew Passion on the BIS label), Beethoven's MISSA SOLEMNIS (Gardiner) and the Beethoven Nine Symphonies with Abbado conducting the Berlin Philharmonic. After that some random suggestions: CHRONOCHROMIE of Messiaen (Boulez conducting on DGG), Boulez's DGG recordings of DEBUSSY with the Cleveland Orchestra, Schoenberg's GURRELIEDER (either the Chailly recording on Decca or Abbado's recording on DGG)....
Maxim Vengerov's entire output for Teldec includes many of the important sonata pieces for violin and piano, as well as him playing war horses like Tchaikovsky' violin concerto and Brahm's Violin Concerto. Most are recorded with the CSO, BSO or NYPhil, and he is otherwise backed by first-rate accompaniests. He is now on EMI and all of his releases are events.
As for one-off titles, I would list:
- Krystian Zimerman performing Beethoven's 3rd and 4th Syphonies for Piano (Bernstein conducting the Berlin Philharmonic): 429 749-2 GH
- The resissue of the incredibly successful soundtrack from Tous les Matins du Monde. It was one of highest selling classical CD's in history: ALIA VOX AV 9821
All of the above titles sound supurd on a high-end system and, most importantly, are very good to great performances.