How to go about collecting Classical Music

At age 68 I’ve started to like Classical Music. It’s been mostly Jazz, Rock n Roll, and R&B up to now. I’m familiar with those genres, know their history, artists, and how to best and most economically acquire their recordings. Not so the Classical repertoire which covers a much longer time period and encompasses so many styles and forms.

What genres and/or periods of Classical music should I be exploring? I’m not looking for recommendations on particular composers or artists, only genres or periods. In Classical music there is orchestral music, chamber music, opera, church music and who knows what else to try out. Maybe you could advise me, if you wouldn’t mind, of some types to try? Or maybe you could recommend a book on the subject that would help a rookie get a start understanding what’s out there.

In buying classical music, for any one work, there may be innumerable recordings by various artists, orchestras and ensembles. How do you sort out which recordings you want in that respect. For example, I looked up Stravinsky’s Rites of Spring on Ebay last night to get some idea of pricing and what classical music available there. There were so many recordings of that work, I would have no idea how to sort out which would have been a good choice. Are there web sites where there are recommendations on which recordings are most exceptional? Or alternately, are there classical record labels you can rely on routinely to provide superior quality recordings? I’ve heard Deutsche Gramophone may be a reliable label for one, but that’s about it. Could you recommend any other labels to look for?

There seems to be a lot of Classical music in SACD format relative to Jazz or Rock n ’Roll. Is there some reason for that? Should SACD be the format of choice for purchasing Classical music, or is there good classical material in Redbook format to be found? I prefer to stay away from used vinyl due to condition issues, or new vinyl due to cost. I’m guessing the better dynamic range of CD’s lends itself to orchestral music. Is there any market for used classical SACD’s? Are there any sites you prefer to purchase your Classical CD’s, either new or used?

I grew up on Long Island. On one trip to midtown Manhattan I walked into an old church not too far from St. Patrick’s to view its’ magnificent stained glass window. Once inside I heard some equally magnificent classical organ being played. I discovered the church’s incredible organ was being played by some of New York City’s finest classical organists who would book time to practice on it. That large church was always deserted, and I went back many times for what amounted to free private concerts. I’d like to know what kind of music that was to try and replicate that experience to some degree at home, From what I’ve read here and elsewhere there surely is a plethora of other wonderful Classical music to explore and enjoy. Thanks in advance for any advice,


I would definitely recommend the classical CD box set route.  It wasn't that long ago that purchasing the entire Fritz Reiner or Charles Munch RCA Living Stereo catalog in one box you could hold in your hand would have been beyond fantasy.  Both sets are awesome.  You can also get nearly the entire Mercury Living Presence catalog in three sets and sound quality is great.   The Decca Sound sets are also great, especially the first set and the "Analog Years" set.  I even bought the Decca Sound Mono set and loved it.  They're cheap enough it is easy to take a chance on.
+1 Another resource is the on-line classical CD seller Arkivmusic. They have an enormous listing of available CDs searchable by artist, composer, label, etc. They also offer recommendations on particular recordings that can be helpful.

+1 please consider supporting and attending local classical performances once this blasted covid issue gets put to bed. Actual practicing musicians are not having the best of times. Not to mention as good as sound reproduction can be, hard to beat a live performance.

A great pursuit, Mike! Enjoy the journey!!

Brubin and rvpiano, thank you for your suggestions.

Telefunkin, Iwill add those sets you mention to my list of music to explore purchasing. and will research what they contain if I can find some information on them online.

Rbschauman, Archivmusic sounds like a good resource, especially if it’s CD oriented and offers recommendation. I will get to it.

Here in the Roanoke, Virginia area there are, or used to be before the pandemic, occasional classical music performances. There may be a Roanoke Symphony even. On the local PBS they used to regularly run a commercial showing the conductor. They commercial unfortunately had him come across just like "The Maestro", if you remember him from the old Seinfeld show. Poor guy., But where’s there a conductor an orchestra has to be lurking somewhere. I remember at least once hearing about some chamber music locally. It’s probably more likely to find live classical music here rather than jazz in any event.

Thanks for your encouraging words and suggestions.

Anyone, I realized why its taken to age 68, almost 69, to start appreciating classical music. My girlfriend throughout college was learning to play classical violin from one of her professors as part of her classwork. She, the professor, was a talented violinist in the Mid-Hudson Symphony Orchestra.

I’d usually come home from classes and my work-study job, do some homework and then be treated to my girlfriend practicing classical music on the violin. There was no escaping. That daily practice was not dissimilar to a chorus of agitated cats on a hot roof. I haven’t thought about that for a long time, but it’s doubtless taken near fifty years to get over it, and is a testament to the resilience of the human spirit that I have at long last.. I should have been nicer to her about it at the time, thinking back. Oh well.


I really would consider subscribing to a service like Primephonic.  If you truly have no idea what to get, it would be a great way of exploring music of various composers, styles, and historical eras.  Once you Identify something you like, you can then hunt down the CDs, music files, or LPs if you prefer, at online sources.  But just buying physical media blindly or on other people's suggestions can be frustratingly hit-or-miss.  You'll end up with a hell of a lot of stuff that just doesn't grab your interest.  Classical radio stations are nice, but you're once again at the mercy of other people's musical tastes and interests, which may be ridiculously skewed in one direction or another.  Your music collection is for you....not other people.  I've long ago stopped recommending stuff to other people because I find that much more often than not, they just don't hear what I hear, and I don't hear what they are hearing.
Primephonic+1. Not long ago they were running a half-price sale. One problem with Primephonic though, is that you are constrained to their app or a web interface. Can’t use my Innuos Zenith. One is similarly constrained with Idagio.

Larryi, +1 on the Schubert quintet and Winterreise. I have only 5 recordings.

Between lps and cds I have around 1000 disks. This is a small collection compared to those of many in this thread. A big problem with even 1000 is to get around to listening to everything. There is a big temptation to settle in to 30 or 50 disks that you just love, and visit with them again and again. I finally decided I needed a listening strategy. Mine is to take a week or so every month and binge by category -- an opera binge, the next time a chamber music binge, etc. I’ve found that not only do the binges force me to listen to stuff I might not have gotten around to in a less structured way, but my set of favorites slowly evolves. However you do it, this is something to think about. With 150+ Bach cd’s, it’s just going to be hard to manage, and if you listen to them all at once you will learn to hate Bach.