New to Classical Music - Album to try first??

Hi all,
I have a very important question to ask..

I know good music with talented people and good recording when I hear it..and I have good ears..

When I listen to an artist that I haven't heard before, It is actually very easy to tell if you will like their music...If you hear a few cuts that you want to listen to AGAIN, that is the start of listen to the cuts again and you start having favorites.. on good albums you will have a couple of real favorites, on great albums you may have 5 or more you are really on to something...a nice music excursion.

That is exactly the way that most good music comes into my life, and I would think that it is much the same for most audiophiles..

I listen to classic rock, jazz & female jazz singers, some country and many kinds of other music..I am open to all music by talented people and especially love well recorded, dynamic examples on a good system..

Now here's the question.
I have NEVER listened to classical music, but I would like to try some now..
What one album would you suggest for me to try first?
- It has to start somewhere..

Please take your time to answer..and I will borrow or buy the one most suggested, and am looking forward to it..

A good first piece for classical would be Vivaldi's Four Seasons. I have always enjoyed Von Karajan's version with Sophie Mutter on violin, but there are many good ones. This is an easy first classical piece, light, airy, etc. Then buy a good Beethoven's 5th, 9th, maybe some of his piano concerto's. There is some great stuff to listen to. I am sure many others will have further recommendations.
Based on the minimum information you have about classical music, and assuming your primary interest is something that really sounds 'good' just buy a couple of Reference Recordings compilation records where they play some of the most assessible and commonly enjoyable orchestral music by many of the popular classical composers. If you are looking for something more intimate, like small groups, get a couple of the DG recordings of the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra playing compilations. If you think solo instruments, like a piano, are more interesting, you can pick up some Telarc compilation recordings by O'Conner which cover a lot of the popular piano music.

Your starting point is just a WAG for you or us. Just listen to something, and then come back an tell us what you liked and want more of, or what you didn't like and why if possible.

Once you have scratched the surface a little, you might consider buying a classical music guide "All Music Guide to Classical Music" published by Backbeat Books. There you can read about all of the composers and their music and get a better feel for what you might like, or not, for future purchases.

A caveat - getting immersed in classical music is a project, takes time and patience, but is ultimately its own reward. Enjoy the trip......
Start with Beethoven's Ninth Symphony and hold off on Mozart for a while IMO.

Also, if you have XM Radio, you can listen to their 2 Classical channels.
Try a Haydn symphony , perhaps #100 .
Try the Brandenburg Concertos by J.S. Bach. On CD my favourites are the Benjamin Britten version and the Naxos set. On vinyl, if you can find it, Karl Ristenpart conducting on the Nonesuch label. There are a lot of recordings of these pieces, as many as there are of the Vivaldi Four Seasons I bet, so there are other good ones too, but the ones I suggest are all very lively.
Go to this site. It gives a good and varied selection of the top 10 and top 20 classical recordings. You can also use it to explore by classical period or by specific composer.
anything by Beethovan or can't go wrong
Stokowski's Rhapsodies-A few friends have started with this piece.
I would vote for the complete Mozart Piano concerto's. I think you will find that by listening to them at your own leisure. They will satisfy in so many ways, that you might just yearn for more classical music in your life.Take it slow the first time and if you find yourself enjoying a particular passage or moment,then replay it again.
I can only offer how it is for me,or how I started. I guess the Lone Ranger theme was my start/as a kid. (That's Rossini) Then on to the Tchaikovsky's 1812,also as a kid.
Movies are loaded with great classical music> Amadeus/ Out Of Africa in the mid 80's and on to Immortal Beloved all got my juices flowing.
Then it was on to public radio. The price of admission?--Owning an FM tuner. To start with use it as background or while driving, till something peeks your attention. Our local station plays mostly the great pieces by the great orchestras. Referred to as "The Basic Repertoire"
For some reason the pieces mentioned in the equipment reviews are mostly all unknown to me and I own lots and lots of stuff.
Haydn's 100+ symphonies all put me to sleep /save #94 the "surprise" --the purpose for which it was written.
I guess he know there were lots like me--that needed to be woken up.
Back in the late 80's ;for all the big 3day holidays they would play the top hundred requests in countdown fashion. Beethoven's 9th almost always won.)--Second mostly always was Rachmaninoff's' Piano #2)
Then every Sat.AM they would take one major work and play 5/6 versions.picking apart each and telling you why--then move onto the next movement and so on till they picked the best version. Even if you didn't agree it was a good introduction to the piece. These were my introductions to the good stuff.
I think the place to start is J.S. Bach on traditional instruments, because this is the nexus of all classical music. So called 'early' music dates as pre-Bach, and after was everything else.

Plus it just so damn good.

I would try some solo instrument pieces to get a feel for the structures. My rec would be piano: Goldberg Variations by Glenn Gould, or the Cello Suites by Pablo Casals.
Not that either the piano or the cello are traditional instruments....hahahah
Maybe start not that far back in time and see how that works. Gershwin or Enescu are good recommendations from the l930's. For Enescu try his Rumanian Rhapsodies for Gershwin his Rhapsody in Blue or American in Paris and then maybe work your waqy back to Rachmaninoff, Brahms etc.
Just a thought but if you start with something more familiar you may find the influences on that composer to be a guide to where to look.
Try borrowing discs from your local library with some of the following (some of which have already been suggested), which are selected primarily for melodic appeal and familiarity):

1812 Overture -- Tschaikovsky
Night on Bald Mountain and/or Pictures at an Exhibition -- Mussorgsky
Brandenburg Concertos -- Bach
Bach Organ Music, Toccata and Fugue in D Minor and/or Passaglia in C
Eine Kleine Nachtmusik -- Mozart
William Tell Overture (Lone Ranger Theme) -- Rossini
Light Cavalry Overture -- Suppe
Beethoven -- Symphony No. 5 (Then nos. 6, 7 and 9)
Themes on a Variation by Paganini -- Brahms
Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 -- Liszt
Waltzes by Strauss (Johann)
Rodeo and/or Appalachian Spring -- Copland
Canon in D -- Pachelbel

Have fun and good luck!
Wow, the Lone Ranger theme--that was one of my firsts too. Thanks for bringing it back, Avguygeorge.
There is a Reference Recording sampler called Tutti.
Your statement that you NEVER heard classical music is a bit rash. If you ever watched movies, TV, or even hear commercials, you have heard SOME classical music. The very fact that you are interested in it shows that there must be a reason, likely some subliminal attraction. You can always start that way. In a different generation, people discovered Mozart piano because they watched Elvira Madigan. More recently others discovered Bach cello suites after watching Master and Commander or some such nonsense...
Some of the Western classical music is constructed so that it's naturally appealing to our brains (I presumed you live in a Western culture, sorry if I am mistaken). Mozart's easier pieces are indeed prominent among these. I personally started very young with very commonly heard things like Beethoven's 9th and 5th, initially the well known easy to follow themes and then getting deeper and deeper into them. Paganini violin concertos are easy to digest, reminds one of rock guitar virtuoso stars... Ditto for Vivaldi's Seasons, which someone else mentioned. If you like vocal elements, Carmina Burana is nice - you are also extremely likely to have heard O Fortuna around somewhere.
Uncouth as it may be regarded in pretentious classical music circles, actually starting with a book, ideally with sampler CD, on the basics of classical music, can be very powerful. More people have done it than admit it...
Some excellent suggestions above, particularly the list provided by Jim Crane.

I don't think that you should try to base your initial selections on "the one most suggested"; there are far too many composers, works, styles, periods, combinations of instruments, etc., etc., to make that practical.

If you are looking for immediately engaging, melodic, large-scale (orchestral) works by well-known composers from the 19th century, I would add the following suggestions:

-- Chesky CD31, Dvorak's Symphony No. 9 ("From The New World"), the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Jascha Horenstein. Wonderful performance, absolutely wonderful sound (even though it was recorded in 1962!), and an immediately likable work.

-- Chesky CD76, Rachmaninov's Piano Concerto No. 3, also the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Horenstein; Earl Wild as the piano soloist. Recorded in 1965.

There are also, of course, many other excellent and more recent recordings of these works.

-- Al
Correcting a slight inaccuracy in my previous post, the Rachmaninov 3rd Concerto was composed in 1909, so my reference to "19th century" was not quite correct even though he was born in that century.

-- Al
Try some Albinoni oboe concertos on the Chandos Chaconne label.
PS: I love the tone of those baroque oboes.
A few suggestions: First choice: Mendelssohn - Bruch Violin concertos - Kyun Wha Chung on Decca Legends. Sonically nice: Vanska's Eroica (Beethoven's 3rd) with the Minnesota S.O.; Handel's Messiah by Dunedin Consort and Players (on Linn). Biondi and/or Carmignola for Vivaldi (any); Mozart's Violin Sonatas by Manze and Egarr. Telarc and Linn are labels with impressive sonic appeal - I find a lot of the recordings a bit hyped but they do sound impressive. For great performance - Furtwangler's 1951 Beethoven's 9th or the 1961 Beethoven box set from Karajan.
Jim Crane's list is great; add Firebird Suite or Firebird Ballet by Stravinsky. Cheers,

Hit your local library.
Yes, I second Gawdbless's suggestion. One thing I might mention is that there is a lot of different "classical" music and you'll have to check out different eras, styles, composers etc. to find out which you prefer.

For instance, I don't care that much for the big romantic era stuff (Mahler, Bruckner, Brahms, casts of thousands) although I like some later romantic music like Ralph Vaughan Williams (sometimes referred to as the English cow pat school). I prefer smaller romantic repertoire such as piano trios, quartets, chamber music, etc.
I find baroque stuff with basso continuo appealing as well. Earlier opera (17th & 18th century) especially French and English also appeals to me (Rameau, Lully, Purcell).
Then I skip to more contemporary stuff like Valentin Silvestrov.

Obviously, there's a whole lot to explore. Be forewarned; Can turn into a lifelong pursuit!
Even worse when mixed with interests in Rock'n'Roll and Jazz and audio.
I third that suggestion - the library is an excellent source of music. As for what to listen to, well...that's a huge can of are some recordings/performances that I really think you should check out though:
1) Tutti (reference recordings sampler) - i think this was already mentioned, and I second that one
2) Die Rohr (The Tube) - Baroque music recorded through tube equipment on period instruments - really nice!
3) Beethoven 7th (Solti) - I love that 2nd movement!
4) If you think you might like beethoven, check out "Beethoven lives upstairs" - it's a kids CD that is truly wonderful and the music is excellent. I listen to it often.
5) I would also suggest using an online music service like - a great way to discover music (ANY music really)
As if there was any further need for this, I will put in my agreement with the suggestion about the local library. This is an unbelievable opportunity that people just don't take advantage of enough. Whenever I go, the classical CD's are very rarely checked out, just sitting there waiting for me to play with... Take home, listen, then look for and buy for yourself what you like.
The library is the most cost effective way to sample all this fare without spending thousands of dollars. Free is always nice!
Shostakovich Symphony No. 5
Shostakovich Symphony No. 5

Agreed - the Lorin Mazel version with the CLeveland Orchestra is OTT! It may not be the moving interpretation but it sure is fun.
I asked something remarkably similar a couple of weeks back, but I asked for ten pieces of music. Someone recommended a book you can get on Amazon (or anywhere else), called The NPR Guide to Building a Classical CD Collection. It lists 350 major works, and the author's opinion as to the best recordings of them. I will pass on the recommendation--it has given me some context for understanding the music, and a little comfort around which version of the various pieces I get. Have fun!
I have the NPR guide as well! Anyone interested in expanding their universe a little can let me know and I'll supply some information on a few morsels of audiophile grade 20th century works that may just stir a part of you that is currently dormant. Rochberg's Symphony No. 1 on Naxos, for example, would be a great start.
Anne Sophie Mutter-Carmen Fantasies on Deutsche Grammophon.
Wagner; Die Walkyure on (Arte Nova) Gustav Kahn.
Pamela Frank plays all Mozart violin Concertos (all 5) on Arte Nova also.
Pianists; Vladimir Horowitz, evgeny Kissin.
Cecilia Bartoli for female vocals.
Dvorak Piano Trios by Ax/Kim/Ma on CBS Masterworks.
Joe, I think the easiest way to start is listen to a local FM (or internet) radio station. You're bound to find composers you'll like.

Haydn is pretty easy to get into as much of his music sounds 'uplifting' (at least to me) ..the cello concertos, many of his symphonies , piano works.

..Brahms symphonies..and about anything by Beethoven and you're on your way.. good luck
LOL, Classical music? Actually I think the best advice is by those who suggest you look in your local library or listen to a local radio station that plays classical music, it is too varied. There are different periods of Western Classical music. You might like Gregorian Chants, Renaissance, Baroque, Classical era, Romantic or Modern. Another recommendation is to get a book on the Great Composers to develop an appreciation of the era they lived in and why they were considered great for the period they came from. Typically these books list many of the works and masterpieces they created. One example is "The A-Z of Classical Composers" by Peter Gammond. Not too heavy but quite informative. There are others that list recordings that are considered definitive, not because of recording quality but performance. An example is "101 Masterpieces of Music & Their Composers" by Martin Bookspan.

Ultimately it will come down to what peaks your interest. When you decide which music sounds good to you then you might ask for specific recommendations so far as recordings.

Here's a new release that's just lovely by a group I admire very much. Haydn Piano Trios Vol 1 by The Florestan Trio on Hyperion (CDA67719). After listening to this music it's not difficult to understand why Mozart held "Papa" Haydn in such high regard. This is the first of a promising Haydn Piano Trio series by this group.

I can recommend any CD by The Floristan Trio. They've already covered quite a bit of the Piano Trio repertoire. Their 4 CD set of Beethoven Trios is outstanding and has garnered wide acclaim. There's also 2 CDs of Mozart Trios that's quite good.
Rja, FWIW, I totally agree with your comments about the Floristan Trio and their recording of the Beethoven Piano Trios. Excellent performances and recordings as well, I think, and I recommend them to anyone inclined.
Joe5, Welcome to the music lovers club! " if it's good, I like it"! ! Me too! All great suggestions above. Avgeorgeguy, how about tv's Green Hornet theme, known as "flight of the bumble bee" Rimsky/Korsakov? Also movies are responcible in introducing classical music. " Breaking Away", bicycle racing movie. Great classical soundtrack. Anyway, Wynton Marsalis / Raymond Lepparrd Grammy winner. Also, Doc Severinsen "Trumpet Spectacular". Both, interpretations on a classical theme. Great introductions to classical IMHO " Doc, I think I ran that blazer over last night on the San Bernando Freeway" (Johnny).. "HEEYYOOOOH" (Ed)