Classical music - starting points

Various posts in a number of threads, most recently "Audiophiles who refuse to listen to classical" suggest there are a number of people who are looking to find a way to get into classical music. I thought it might be worthwhile if some of us who have found a way, even stumbled into one perhaps, could give some advice. If possible we might try to recall what first hooked us on classical music, identify the piece and, if relevant the performance, and describe what grabbed our attention.

I hope that others will use this as a guide to pick an approach which fits their musical tastes.

I'll start with three critical pieces for me.

Beethoven's 7th Symphony, Second Movement, Bruno Walter conductor. This was 11th grade, and quite simply the first time I was ever moved by a piece of classical music. I was caught up in the force, the drama, the inevitability of the music.

Mozart Symphony 35, George Szell conductor. I think this was as a sophomore in college. The sheer energy, the exuberance and speed of the piece had me putting it on repeat in a manner previously reserved for the Beatles.

Mussorgsky/Ravel Pictures at an Exhibition, Fritz Reiner conductor (my current favorite version). The color and shattering power of the orchestra. I bought into CDs early and for a while my favorite track was The Great Gate at Kiev, the last portion of Pictures, from a demo disk that came with my player. I'm surprised I wasn't thrown out of my apartment.

While my tastes have broadened since then, each of these three works still remains a favorite.
Newbee's list is excellent. I might add 'The Planets' by Holst (wanna know where Star Wars comes from?), the Bach cello suites, Beethoven 6, and Appalachian Srping by Copland. Not all from the Romantic, but all good stuff and I think quite accessible and inviting.
An opera with the booklet in your hand. Like, Simone Boccanegra-Verdi, Carmen-Bizet, Norma-Bellini, Orfeo-Monterverdi, Figaro-Mozart, etc. How the story is underpinned with music, emotions expressed and drama played is helps you to understand and internalise the music. My first classical music cd, which is converted me to a classical music lover - after years of misspent youth around led zeppelin and alike - was the Simone Boccanegra opera. The drama, the love and emotions coming through perfectly, and gives so much deeper insight into humanity and music than any rock music.
although i have listenned to classical for many years i still get a lot of helpful info from "The Penguin Guide to Compact Discs" which lists practically all the best performances in print.
I guess I started out with the Willam Tell and the 1812.Most all Rossini overtures esp.the Theiving Magpie are all pretty good places to start. The Emperor is my fav Beethoven piano concherto.--The slow movement is sublime.Just about all the Mozart piano conchertos #17 and on up. The Rackmaninoff #2 piano is also up there with the very best.And leave us not forget Beethoven 9th.Then if you want to test,just how "full-range" your speakers are plop any of these in your player. (vinyl is better,if possible)Bach's Toccata and fugue along with Franck,Widor and Gigout organ pieces. Rent the movie Amadus---If that don't get it for you;well you need more time.
Disney's Fantasia, on a good HT system. Variety, and the images may help arrest newbie's attention. Also, Allegro non tropo. This isn't what hooked me, though. I was lucky enough to land in a dorm full of classical music grad students when I was 17. First peces that got me were Beethoven Moonlight Sonata and Emporer Concerto (Serkin; Serkin/Bernstein on Columbia) and Tchaikowski 5th Symphony, can't remember the recording -- it was my tuba playing roommate's.

Also, go to hear some live!