In a catalogue that lists over 200 recordings of Vivaldi's "The Four Seasons", and even 60 versions of Orff's "Carmina Burana", which is the very best?
With the help of Gramophone, Penguin Stereo Guide, BBC Music, and our own ears, we have put together the definitive guide to the popular classics.
Here are a selection of recommended recordings that should find a place in everyone's collection.
Piano Works Vol. 1 (Includes the Pathatique Sonata)
Ronald Brautigam (fortepiano)
[ BIS / SACD - released 1/Sep/2004 ]
"The playing is riveting. Brautigam draws out the "Pathetique" sonata's first-movement introduction with plenty of rhetorical emphasis yet keeps the dotted rhythms in sharp focus...Whether in SACD surround-sound or conventional two-channel stereo...
Grieg: Peer Gynt / Symphonic Dance No.2 / In Autumn / etc.
Ilse Hollweg (soprano) / Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Sir Thomas Beecham
[ Warner Classics / CD - released 13/Feb/2012 ]
"Beecham showed a very special feeling for this score and to hear (these excerpts) under his baton is a uniquely rewarding experience. Ilse Hollweg makes an excellent soloist." Rosette - Penguin Stereo Guide
ERICH WOLFGANG KORNGOLD
Korngold: Violin Concerto / String Sextet
Andrew Haverson (violin) / RTE Concert Orchestra, John Wilson (conductor)
[ Chandos / CD - released 3/Apr/2020 ]
"[The Sextet] gets an absolutely cracking performance here from key members of Wilson's newly reformed Sinfonia of London led by Haveron" Gramophone Editor's Choice May 2020
Symphony No 6 Pathetique / Romeo and Juliet Fantasy Overture
Russian National Orchestra / Mikhail Pletnev
[ Deutsche Grammophon Entree / CD - released 11/Oct/2002 ]
"for Pletnev, the Pathetique, I suspect, stands apart from the other symphonies, as this new DG account remains an interpretation that throws moderation to the winds." (Gramophone)
FAURÉ / POULENC / RAVEL / DEBUSSY
Sabine Devieilhe (soprano), Alexandre Tharaud (piano)
[ Erato Classics / CD - released 11/Sep/2020 ]
GRAMOPHONE Award Nomination 2021 - Song BBC Music Award Nomination 2021 - Vocal
LUDWIG van BEETHOVEN
Beethoven: Fidelio (compete opera recorded in 1962)
Gottlob Frick, Christa Ludwig, Walter Berry, Ingeborg Hallstein / Philharmonia Orchestra & Chorus, Otto Klemperer
[ Warner Classics the Home of Opera / 2 CD - released 1/Feb/2016 ]
"Christa Ludwig, a mezzo rather than true soprano, brings dark colours to the role of Leonore, while tenor Jon Vickers is a superb Florestan." BBC Music Magazine, January 2012
Symphony No. 1 / Academic Festival Overture
Scottish Chamber Orchestra. Sir Charles Mackerras
[ Telarc Classics / CD - released 20/Sep/2005 ]
"An example of what's best in a new school of thought on the subject, the discs are indispensable." - Los Angeles Times
Sharon Bezaly (flute) / Ostrobothnian Chamber Orchestra, Juha Kangas
[ BIS SACD / SACD - released 1/Feb/2008 ]
"I was immediately struck by the dynamic shading the conductor was extracting from the orchestra, each phrase sharply chiselled. A remarkable and fascinating achievement." (MusicWeb Oct 2005)
PROKOFIEV / SCHUBERT / DUTILLEUX / JOLIVET
Masterworks for Flute and Piano
Sharon Bezaly (flute) / Ronald Brautigam (piano)
[ BIS SACD / Hybrid SACD - released 1/Jan/2006 ]
"On the evidence of this sensational disc, it seems clear that Sharon Bezaly is a flutist virtually without peer in the world today. Here we have four genuine masterpieces that make a lovely program together, all really written for flute and piano,...
MARBECKS COLLECTABLE: Verdi: Macbeth (Complete Opera)
Shirley Verrett, Piero Cappuccilli, Placido Domingo / Milan La Scala Chorus; Milan La Scala Orchestra / Claudio Abbado
[ Deutsche Grammophon Originals / 2 CD Box Set - released 5/May/2000 ]
1001 Classical recordings you must hear before you die (1801-1850) - "scrupulously prepared, executed and recorded." (Gramophone)
GEORG FRIDERIC HANDEL
Handel: The Organ Concertos
Simon Preston (organ) / The English Consort, Trevor Pinnock
[ Archiv Trio / 3 CD Box Set - released 1/Jun/2002 ]
"Simon Preston's set of Handel Organ concertos now comes on three discs....attractive for the warmth and assurance of the playing, which comes near the ideal for a period performance...strongly recommended." (Penguin Guide)
La Maga Abbandonata
Simone Kermes / Maite Beaumont / Il Complesso Barocco / Alan Curtis
[ Deutsche Harmonia Mundi / Hybrid SACD - released 2/May/2007 ]
The two singers on this disc are outstanding. Simone Kermes, familiar to Handel lovers from Peter Neumann's impressive German recordings of Saul and Belshazzar, and who has recorded the title-role in Curtis's Deidamia, is a clean and focussed soprano...
Rodelinda (first recording of complete opera)
Simone Kermes / Marijana Mijanovic / Il Complesso Barocco / Alan Curtis
[ Archiv / 3 CD - released 25/Jul/2005 ]
1001 Classical recordings to hear before you die (1700-1760) - "I find it difficult to imagine anyone doing greater justice to the role than Simone Kermes, who proves capable of descending to the depths of deepest pathos at one moment, while...
La Diva: Arias for Cuzzoni
Simone Kermes (soprano) / Lautten Compagney / Wolfgang Katschner (conductor)
[ Berlin Classics / CD - released 1/Apr/2009 ]
This recording presents opera arias written for the brightest star soprano in Handel's London opera company, the Italian soprano Francesca Cuzzoni. These arias demonstrate the emotional and vocal range demanded by Handel's female characters,...
Amor Sacro-Vivaldi Sacred Motets
Simone Kermes (soprano) / Venice Baroque Orchestra / Andrea Marcon
[ Archiv / CD - released 20/Feb/2007 ]
"If any doubts still linger among readers concerning Vivaldi's originality in the setting of sacred texts, then this recital should dispel them once and for all. Simone Kermes is an agile singer with a wide vocal range who is comfortably able to...
IVES / TIPPETT / POULENC / BARBER / STRAVINSKY
A la Gloire de Dieu
The Sixteen / BBC Philharmonic Orchestra / Harry Christophers
[ Coro / CD - released 14/Jul/2003 ]
BEST VERSION EVER OF THE "SYMPHONY OF PSALMS" "The Sixteen give a deeply committed and technically brilliant reading of this extremely difficult repertoire." - Gramophone.
J. S. BACH
Lutheran Masses Volume 1
The Sixteen Harry Christophers
[ Coro / CD - released 1/Nov/2013 ]
Following a series of concerts at London's newest music venue, Kings Place, Harry Christophers and The Sixteen recorded two new CDs of the Masses. Each volume also features a Cantata. The fact that The Sixteen has not performed or recorded such a...
Membra Jesu Nostri
[ Linn Records / CD - released 25/Apr/2001 ]
2001 GRAMOPHONE AWARD FINALIST - Baroque Vocal
Irish Welsh and Scottish Songs
Sophie Daneman, soprano, Sophie Daneman soprano, Paul Agnew, tenor, Peter Harvey, bar
[ Astree Naive / CD - released 25/Nov/2001 ]
"Beethoven's charming and inventive folksong settings given colourful performances on period instruments." - Editor's Choice - Gramophone Magazine (Dec 2001)
String Quartets 4, 6 & 8
St Petersburg String Quartet
[ Hyperion / CD - released 15/Nov/2000 ]
'These are among the great interpretations that have been placed on disc' (Fanfare).