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.
Kullervo Symphony Op 7
Lilli Paasikivi (mezzo-soprano) Raimo Laukka (baritone) / Lahti Symphony / Osmo Vanska.
[ BIS / CD - released 1/Feb/2001 ]
2001 GRAMOPHONE AWARD FINALIST - Choral
PYOTR ILYICH TCHAIKOSVKY / JEAN SIBELIUS
Tchaikovsky & Sibelius: Violin Concertos
Lisa Batiashvili (violin) / Staatskapelle Dresden, Daniel Barenboim
[ Deutsche Grammophon / CD - released 15/Aug/2017 ]
"Every familiar phrase somehow manages to sound both authoritative and newly discovered...a delight from start to finish." Gramophone Magazine Disc of the Month - January 2017
Dvorak: Symphonies Nos 1-9 / Overtures / Scherzo Capriccioso
London Symphony Orchestra / Istvan Kertesz
[ Decca Collector's Edition / 6 CD Box Set - released 1/Jan/2002 ]
"The CD transfers are of Decca's best quality, full-bodied and vivid...his readings give us fresh insights into these often inspired works...a magnificent memorial to a conductor who died sadly young" - Rosette (Highest Award). Penguin Stereo Guide
Symphony No 2 'London' [Original Version] (with Butterworth - Banks of Green Willow)
London Symphony Orchestra / Richard Hickox
[ Chandos SACD / Hybrid SACD - released 20/Mar/2003 ]
'Hickox and the LSO respond with an unquenchable spirit, generous flexibility and tender affection that suit VW's admirably ambitious inspiration to a T, and Chandos' sound is big and bold to match. Quite simply, an essential purchase for anyone...
Prokofiev: Romeo and Juliet (Complete ballet recorded November 2008)
London Symphony Orchestra, Valery Gergiev
[ LSO Live SACD / 2 SACD - released 20/Jan/2010 ]
DISC OF THE YEAR 2011 (BBC Music) - "Prokofiev's Romeo & Juliet warrants a hi-res recording of the complete score since it is regarded by many as the greatest ballet score ever composed. The live recording is sensational in its realism." (AudAud...
BRAHMS / HANDEL / LIEBERSON / MAHLER
Lieder (Recorded live at Wigmore Hall, 30 November 1998)
Lorraine Hunt Lieberson (mezzo-soprano) Roger Vignoles (piano)
[ Wigmore Hall Live / CD - released 21/Feb/2007 ]
Taped live at a Wigmore Hall recital in 1998 this recording has now come to light following Hunt Lieberson's tragically early death in 2006. Highly recommended by Marbecks staff - a definite disc of the year.
Debussy: Songs 4
Lucy Crowe (soprano), Malcolm Martineau (piano) with Jennifer France (soprano) & Christopher Maltman (baritone)
[ Hyperion / CD - released 2/Mar/2018 ]
"In wonderful voice throughout, Crowe very much makes this repertory her own. Ascents into the stratospheres are all beautifully and securely accomplished, and those long melismas are tautly controlled and always expressive, never vacuous" Gramophone
DVORAK / MARTINU / JANACEK
Magdalena Kozena (soprano) Graham Johnson (piano)
[ Deutsche Grammophon / CD - released 30/Aug/2000 ]
2001 GRAMOPHONE AWARD WINNER - Vocal
Puccini: Tosca (Complete Opera recorded in 1953)
Maria Callas, Giuseppe di Stefano, Tito Gobbi / Coro e Orchestra del Teatro alla Scala, Milano. Victor de Sabata
[ Warner Classics Maria Callas Remastered / 2 CD - released 20/Oct/2014 ]
1001 Classical recordings you must hear before you die (1851-1900) - 50 GREATEST RECORDINGS OF ALL TIME (No 5) - BBC MUSIC
Chopin: Nocturnes (Complete) (2CD)
Maria Joao Pires (piano)
[ Deutsche Grammophon Duo / 2 CD - released 1/Mar/2012 ]
1001 Classical recordings to hear before you die (1801-1850) - "one has no hesitation in declaring Maria João Pires among the most eloquent master-musicians of our time." - Gramophone Classical Good CD Guide.
Requiem (with the 6 Biblical Songs)
Maria Stader / Siegline Wagner / Czech Philharmonic / Karel Ancerl
[ Deutsche Grammophon / 2 CD - released 26/Mar/2000 ]
"This superb DG set from 1959 brings an inspired performance of a work that can sound relatively conventional but which here emerges with fiery intensity, helped by a recording made in appropriately spacious acoustic that gives an illusion of an...
Franck: Organ Works
Marie-Claire Alain (organ)
[ Erato Apex / 2 CD ]
1001 Classical recordings you must hear before you die (1801-1850) -
Haydn: The Seasons (Complete oratorio)
Marlis Petersen (soprano), Werner Gura (tenor), Dietrich Henschel (baritone), RIAS-Kammerchor, Freiburger Barockorchester, Rene Jacobs
[ Harmonia Mundi Haydn Edition / 2 CD - released 1/Feb/2009 ]
"The thrilling sound of the Freiburg Baroque Orchestra and Berlin's crack RIAS Chamber Choir make for a life-enhancing experience. The three soloists are superb; the whole set makes you wonder anew at the 67-year-old composer's creativity and...
Saint-Saëns: Organ Symphony / Carnival of the Animals
Martha Argerich (piano) Antonio Pappano (piano) Daniele Rossi (organ) / Orchestra dell'Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia
[ Warner Classics / CD - released 25/Sep/2017 ]
Martha Argerich and Antonio Pappano (as pianist rather than conductor) lead the fun in Saint-Saëns' Carnival of the Animals with Members of the Orchestra dell'Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia.
Prokofiev: Piano Concerto no 3 (coupled with Ravel-Piano Concerto in G)
Martha Argerich (piano) / Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, Claudio Abbado
[ Deutsche Grammophon The Originals / CD - released 5/May/2000 ]
"all done with the most engaging reckless abandon." (Gramophone)
Clarinet Works (Incls sonatas & trio)
Martin Frost (clarinet) / Roland Pantinen (piano) / Torleif Thedaen (cello)
[ BIS SACD / Hybrid SACD - released 1/Oct/2005 ]
"Martin Fröst is as fine a clarinetist as anyone alive today, and he teams up with two equally superb colleagues in presenting exceptional performances of these three chestnuts of the chamber-music-with-winds repertoire...if you're looking for...
Martin Frost (clarinet) / Tapiola Sinfonietta / Jean-Jacques Kantorow
[ BIS SACD / Hybrid SACD - released 1/Oct/2013 ]
"This is an absolutely wonderful disc in every way. Weber's clarinet music is delightful, and it's hard to imagine it being better played or recorded. Martin Fröst has such a supple, liquid timbre that at times you could almost swear there were words...
The Late Piano Sonatas
Maurizio Pollini (piano)
[ Deutsche Grammophon The Originals / 2 CD - released 6/Jul/2004 ]
"Pollini's recordings of the late sonatas, which won the 1977 Gramophone critic's award for instrumental music, contain playing of the highest mastery." - Penguin Stereo Guide
BEETHOVEN / BRAHMS / BRUCH / PAGANINI / TCHAIKOVSKY / SIBELIUS / etc
Best Of Maxim Vengerov
Maxim Vengerov (violin) / Various orchestras & conductors
[ Warner Classics / 11 CD Box Set - released 20/Nov/2006 ]
"his technique is highly impressive, and he produces a beautiful tone even in the violin's lower regions." (BBC Music)
TCHAIKOVSKY / SHOSTAKOVICH / PAGANINI / SIBELIUS / BACH / MENDELSSOHN / BARTOK / etc
The Art of Midori
Midori (violin) / Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, New York Philharmonic, Israel Philharmonic, with Robert McDonald (piano)
[ Sony Classical / 10 CD Box Set - released 26/May/2017 ]
"A very grand performance, full of swaggering confidence and interpretative panache..Strongly recommended for anyone fancying this coupling." (Gramophone on the Tchaikosvky/Shostakovich)