Classical Novice where do I start


I was looking in a charity shop recently and found some vinyl where the covers vinyl and sleeves were all mint so I bought 5 on a whim having little or no knowledge of classical music.

These albums were on the Deutsche Gramophone Classical label and they have blown me away in terms of sound Quality and musical content to such an extent I am looking to learn and buy more.

But as a classics novice I don’t know what to look for in terms of other quality labels or music it’s self. I mainly listen to vinyl and cd but have some streaming capability.

Where should I start?

What are the best labels?

Where is the best place to buy?

Appreciate any assistance.

Thanks Trevor

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It’s long, but has a wealth of information. Worth a look if you haven’t already, long as it is!

What five releases did you buy?

EMI/Decca are good vintage releases, and had great sound engineers - I generally prefer their LPs to a lot of later DG.

There’s a lot of great labels, and performances, out there.

The one of the best places to start is the Back Issues of Building a Library on Radio 3 .

I also like the Presto catalogue


What sort of Classical Music you you like…? Based on what you have.

You may need to do some investigation into the different Classical styles, before you go much further.

Symphonies, Chamber Music, Opera, Concertos,…?

Avant Garde, Modern, Classical, Early Music…?

Which composers do you like…? Mozart, Beethoven, Stravinsky, Vaughan-Williams, Dvorak, Bartok…?

There is also the Penguin Guide, which can point you towards the supposed ‘best’ version(s) of a particular work.

But… if you don’t like it… there is no point… :thinking:

If you want a few pointers -

Stravinsky - Rite of Spring
Mozart - Clarinet Concerto
Orff - Carmina Burana
Beethoven - 5th Symphony
Dvorak - 9th Symphony

You will probably ‘recognise’ something in each of those…!!

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Do what I have done and read the Classical thread @KJC & @graham55 + others have conversations which suggest all sorts - best version - best conductor …
I have bought a few suggested & am not disappointed, thanks to their input
The last one I bought was ‘The Planets - Sir Adrian Boult’ - really enjoyable !!!
I do not listen to a lot of classical music, but I am loving the journey so far - good luck !

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These are the 5 + a couple of others I found since

Wolfgang Mozart. Orpheus chamber music

Timely Korssakoff Der Golden Hahn & Ballettsuite Gayaneh

Mendelssohn Bartolody Symphony No3. Herbert Von Karajan

1812 Overture. Herbert Von Karajan

The Planets Gustavia Holts. Herbert Von Karajan

Johann Strauss Walter Polkas Marsche. Herbert Avon Karajan

Beethoven Symphony No9. Herbert Von Karajan

Beethoven Streichquartette. Amadeus Quartett

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Lotta Herbie…not my favourite conductor by any means, but good enough for starters.

Any of those composers leap out for you as obvious connections? When I in my teens, for instance, heard Sibelius I was transported…hope the same experience with whichever composer, happens for you.

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As I live near Gloucester

The Holst Museum is only 10 miles away so may take a look there.

Also the house where Elgar lived along with a small museum is only about 20 miles.

That might be worth a look.

I certainly like Vivaldi 4 seasons, holst the planets and the 1812 overture

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Trevor, great question to which the answer, is slightly different to the question you posed.
There is a good classical thread, but I think best to listen than trying to take in all the posts.

First if you are interested in buying s/h vinyl, you are best to either have access to, or own, a RCM.

Second, consider adding a streamer to your system (unless you wish to add a tuner). Great source is streamed radio or one of the streaming services.
In the case of radio, you need look no further than radio 3 from the beeb. Proms playing every night until September and on demand for a further month.

Listen each evening - ignore or switch off if it is not your “scene”. @Ian2001 has highlighted one programme, I will add two more, the R3 breakfast show at 6.30am and in-tune 5-7.30pm.
Listen in the background when something catches your attention, you can ascertain what you enjoyed, by looking at the play list on the beeb programme website. (Unfortunately ascertaining the same on Naim or Linn classical feeds is not so easy).

Once you have an idea as to what appeals, the sub category genres are numerous, then it will inform your perusing in the dedicated sections or shops that you can visit.

The s/h shops are now wise as to the value of these pre-owned items, in part due to discogs. DG long ago were reliable recordings, but so were many others. HvonK was popular and usually good quality, but there are other interpretations - a personal choice. My collection has seen too many decades for my liking, but they are all in good condition. Happy listening and hunting - yes there is something more rewarding than a stream feed, if you hold a record sleeve. The plastic incarnation of a music source is best forgotten in a tactile context!

edit - for those of a classical leaning - R3 Sean (or was it Petroc?) last week, mentioned that one of the independent classical labels in the uk, are set to start to stream their back catalogue; - apologies for being a bit vague - I need to check, I only caught the comment in passing.

edit 2 - This from the classical-music website British classical label “Hyperion Records has today made part of its catalogue available on streaming platforms. For the first time in the label’s 43-year history, 200 albums will be available for streaming from today.” It is to be an ongoing project IIUC.


Why not listen to BBC Radio 3 and decide what you like? Then have a look at recommended recordings of the works you like on the Building a Library website (also BBC R3 - there are many years of recommendations). And listen to Record Review from 9:00am on a Saturday Morning, especially the Building a Library section at 10:30.


Presto have a streaming service - and they have a formidable catalogue

PsI think your comment is superb,

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Definitely try listening to the Proms series, which are broadcast live every evening on BBC Radio 3. You can also listen again on BBC Sounds. The Proms series are on until 9 September.

I’m currently listening to Elijah by Mendelssohn, which is this evening’s prom.


I do apologise for missing out @Clive who is VERY knowledgeable & informative

It’s commercial with adverts but Classic FM radio/stream is also a good option for bits of more popular classical music, a lot of which you may well recognise, or if not may serve as tasters for various composers/styles.

The styles are also probably just as varied as pop/rock so some you’ll love, others you won’t so much.

Something I’ve personally found with classical is that the first version of something you hear tends to set a baseline in your mind (for good or bad) and other versions of the same work can sound so incredibly different that they’re often jarring if you enjoyed the first version a lot. Streaming services give us so much choice now with many if not dozens of interpretations of famous works to try which should help us find ones which resonate best for us personally.

There’s a lot of perceived snobbery around classical music, and I confess I’m no expert, but as with other forms of music there are works I enjoy a lot (and ones I don’t) and of those I enjoy I have preferred versions for many of them.


Oohh… Yes. I started in Classical on Mid Price & Budget LP’s - and bought generally what the Penguin guide suggested. When I got into CD’s, I tried to again buy the ‘best’ version. But… this was often NOT the one I had first heard on LP… In several cases, I later decided to buy the CD version of the Mid Price or Budget LP I had had originally.

The differences between versions can be huge. The most extreme probably being say an Early Music take on Bach vs a ‘modern’ one. Some will love the Early Music sound - others may hate it. YMMV…

My advice would be not to be afraid of the Budget or Mid Price releases with Classical. They can be real gems - just a bit older than the latest sparkly CD release.


Buy any recording of music conducted by Carlos Kleiber, easily the most gifted conductor of his generation. Sadly, he didn’t make many recordings, but every one is special.

I have a very limited knowledge and collection of.classical music.

I dip in to BBC R3/Classic FM and generally enjoy that.

Personally if I were to go further I would subscribe to Apple Music for a few months and just trawl what they have on the Classical app. From that I’d note what I liked and decide what to buy/store.

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Good suggestion for the Classical app if an Apple Music subscriber.

  • 1 for dipping into Radio 3 / Classic FM / The Proms but do give each piece a good chance before rejecting it

Can I suggest a slightly approach what other (non classical ) music do you listen too? This may lead contributors with a wide taste in music to match composers with your taste in music

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What a good suggestion.