About Classical CD Guide.com
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There are many books and Web sites that recommend classical music recordings, but these sites are so comprehensive as to be intimidating to the beginner, and there is no single resource a beginner can use to determine the first few classical CDs he or she should buy. Classical CD Guide.com was created in 2004 to fill this void. I wish that this site had existed when I started buying classical music CDs, and I hope that it proves helpful to those who take the time to visit it. If you enjoy it or have suggestions as to how it could be improved, I invite you to send us feedback.
The Reason For This Site
Classical music has greatly enriched my life, and I want to share with others the joy that classical music has brought to me. But getting started in classical music is often intimidating for the beginner. Most books and other Internet guides list hundreds of pieces and are filled with technical jargon, making them of little value to the novice. At its worst, classical music can seem difficult, snobbish, and inaccessible. But it doesn't have to be this way.
I created this guide to give beginners a straightforward introduction to classical music and its recordings. No other high-quality guide available on the Internet offers explicit recommendations for the first twenty CDs to buy. These recordings form the foundation of my and many others' collections, and contain some of the greatest performances ever committed to record. The remainder of the site is an extension of the two central lists, the Top 10 and Top 20 CDs. People who discover music they like on these two lists can find similar pieces in the Composers, Eras, or Genres sections. With more than 150 CDs representing dozens of different composers, the site has enough material to make anyone an expert. By the time you've exhausted these lists you will know both what composers and what works you love and how to find the best recordings.
How I Came to Love Classical Music
I did not grow up in a musical family: I never learned to play piano or violin, I didn't go to classical concerts, and I owned no classical music recordings. Then one day when I was seventeen, I saw some Beethoven and Mozart CDs for two dollars each in Best Buy. Figuring that I would try to see why those two composers were the ones people always talked about, I bought a half-dozen or so. When I took them home and listened to them, I was hooked. I had never heard music so emotional, so powerful, or so beautiful. I began buying classical CDs as fast as my budget would allow, and listening to them constantly. By the time I went to college the next year, classical music was an integral part of my life. I auditioned for orchestras, I took music classes, I joined the college radio station, and of course, I kept buying CDs.
As I was building my collection, I had very little guidance as to what pieces to buy and what recordings to choose. I solved the first problem using the principle on which this site is based: I bought pieces similar to the ones I already liked. I loved Beethoven's and Mozart's symphonies, so I bought symphonies by Brahms and Tchaikovsky. I loved Tchaikovsky so much that I snatched up all his major works, and then moved on to other Russians. I loved the Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto, so I looked for other Romantic concertos. And so on.
The recordings problem was solved much less successfully. At first I just bought whatever was cheapest -- which were almost always mediocre to poor performances, and after I had acquired more experience ended up buying better recordings of the same pieces. (Today my collection contains almost none of those first thirty or so CDs.) After a while I discovered the Penguin Guide, which offered thousands of recommendations -- so many as to be overwhelming. I didn't become comfortable buying CDs until after I had worked several years at the radio station, where I spent a lot of time comparing multiple recordings of various works, and grew familiar with different performers' and conductors' strengths and weaknesses.
My experience with classical music has left me with several very strong beliefs. First, it is never too late to start loving classical music. Second, the best way to learn about the music is to listen to it, which means acquiring recordings. Third, the infinite variety of classical music means there are always more great works waiting to be discovered. This site is built around these three principles. They have made classical music an integral part of my life, and I hope they can make it an important part of yours as well.
--David FreemanView our Top 10 Classical Music CD recommendations