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 have that Mozart box too, and it is certainly a good way to become familiar with his works.  He is one of those composers whose every known works is topnotch.  After finding favorites, you can then search for alternative performances.  That is a big part of the fun--hearing different interpretations of the same work.

Every collector of classical music collects different performances of the same works.  It helps to know learn how a conductor or performer interprets a work and how that interpretation is translated into specific ways of playing the piece.  There are recordings that include extra material where the performer discusses the performance.  For example, Benjamin Zander has issued some CDs that include an extra CD with such explanation with samples from the performance.  I have performances of Mahler's Fifth and Ninth Symphonies with such extras from Mr. Zander and I recommend them highly.
Larry, I’m glad to hear you like the Brilliant label Mozart box set. The bidding on the 200 CD Deutsche Grammophon Mozart set went well over the $600 mark today and I really couldn’t justify bidding more on an artist I am honestly unfamiliar with other than by reputation and the movie about him a few years back. But you might as well start out with the best.

I did email Deutsche Grammophon last night and asked them if they were going to put out any more of their "Beethoven 2020" complete works set issued last year. That’s already unavailable too. I suggested they reissue the Mozart set as well as there’s apparently a market for it.. You can still get one on Amazon if you’ve $1900 to part with. No chance the suggestion to DG will go anywhere, but I did try to appeal to any avarice they might have. They already today did send back a longish reply written in German, so who knows.

I’ll keep my eyes open for the Zander CD’s you mention, and eventually try to find alternate versions of any especially enjoyable works of Mozart, as you suggest. Complete works sets are valuable, if for nothing else, for including the less well known works of an artist you’d most likely never find anywhere else. How much of your set have you listened to so far? Must take years to make your way through the entire box..


I don't know how much of the box I've listened to because I don't make it a point to listen to everything in such a large box; I tend more to pick out favorite works to hear the particular performances contained in the box.  It is only when a box contains works I am not familiar with that I make it a point to listen to all of the box (like the amazingly good box of 6 cds of Villa-Lobos string quartets on Brilliant).

For Mozart, I would suggest starting out with the following:

Piano Concerti: (No. 17, 20, 21, 23, 24, 27)
Violin Concerti: (all of them, many complete versions available)
Clarinet Concerto (one of my all time favorite works)
Requiem Mass (another all time favorite)
Jupiter Symphony (#41)
Magic Flute (opera)
Marriage of Figaro (opera)
Don Giovanni (opera)
Serenade #10 ("Gran Partita") for woodwind orchestra.
Eine Kleine Nachtmusik
Horn Concerti (particularly #4)
Thanks Larry for your recommendations. So far I’ve listened to one of the Bach CD’s after the set arrived yesterday. Only 141 more to go.