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.
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).
Brahms: The Final Piano Pieces
Stephen Hough (piano)
[ Hyperion / CD - released 31/Jan/2020 ]
"'One of the finest accounts of Brahms's late piano works on record, one that stands head and shoulders above most contenders in an ever-growing catalogue." Gramophone Awards 2020 Short List - Instrumental
Mompou: Piano Works
Stephen Hough (piano)
[ Hyperion / CD - released 19/Sep/2003 ]
1001 Classical recordings you must hear before you die (1901-1950) - Rosette (Highest Rating) Penguin Stereo Guide - GRAMOPHONE EDITOR'S CHOICE
Mendelssohn: Piano Concerto No 1 & No 2 / Capriccio Brillant in B minor Op 22; Rondo Brillant in E flat major Op 29 ; etc (The Romantic Piano Concerto
Stephen Hough (piano) City of Birmingham Symphony / Lawrence Foster
[ Hyperion Romantic Piano Concerto Vol 17 / CD - released 15/Apr/2003 ]
1001 Classical recordings to hear before you die (1801-1850) - 'The soft, stylish arpeggios that open the first work on the disc announce immediately that something special is on the way. Hough is now clearly first recommendation in the concertos'...
Saint-Saens: Piano Concertos Nos 1-5 / Africa Fantasie for piano and orchestra
Stephen Hough (piano) / City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, Sakari Oramo
[ Hyperion Romantic Piano Concertos Vol 27 / 2 CD - released 16/Sep/2001 ]
1001 Classical recordings you must hear before you die (1851-1900) -- "This seems to me a spiffing set and pleasurable discoveries and rediscoveries await." (Gramophone)
Piano Concertos Nos 2 & 3
Stephen Hough (piano) / English Chamber Orchestra / Bryden Thomson
[ Chandos Classics / CD - released 10/May/2004 ]
"In Stephen Hough's virtuosic hands, the coruscating final coda of the A minor Concerto is one of the most exciting things I've heard for years. Bravo!" - Lionel Salter (Gramophone)
MARBECKS COLLECTABLE: Tavener: The Protecting Veil / Thrinos for solo cello (with Britten - Cello Suite No.3)
Stephen Isserlis (cello) / London Symphony Orchestra, Gennadi Rozhdestvensky
[ Virgin Classics / CD - released 10/Feb/1992 ]
"The Isserlis/Rozhdestvensky pioneering version of Tavener's Protecting Veil hardly needs any recommendation from me." (Gramophone)
Vingt Regards sur l'Enfant-Jesus
Steven Osborne (piano)
[ Hyperion / 2 CD - released 5/Oct/2002 ]
'Steven Osborn's performance is one of towering authority and technical achievement' - Editor's Choice (Gramophone Magazine) October 2002 'a performance of commanding virtuosity, deep poetry and ravishing colour' (Gramophone)