Build A Music Library

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Building an enjoyable classical music collection could be a challenge since there are thousands of composers and millions of CDs.

This page presents some of the most respected recordings by the greatest performers and conductors. If you decide to buy any of the CDs, you'll find bargain deals at They also let you hear selections of CD's using RealAudio, and provide extensive reviews.


Ludwig van Beethoven: Symphonies 1-9

Performed by the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Herbert von Karajan

Beethoven's symphonies form the core of his work. The most famous include No. 5, whose suspenseful opening has become a musical clich�; No. 6, named "Pastoral" for capturing sounds of the country; and No. 9, the Choral Symphony. This is one of the most popular recordings, featuring what is currently the largest and most respected symphony in the world.



George Gershwin: Rhapsody in Blue

Performed by the New York Philharmonic, conducted by Leonard Bernstein

This jazzy piano concerto is brilliantly performed and conducted by Leonard Bernstein. (The renowned composer, conductor, and pianist supposedly learned only three piano concertos: Rhapsody in Blue, Ravel's Concerto in G, and Shostakovich's Second Piano Concerto!) The piece opens with a racy clarinet solo and grows into an exciting yet bluesy piece for piano and large orchestra. One of the best-loved works ever, this is a must-have for any library.



Edvard Grieg: Peer Gynt Suites 1 & 2

Performed by the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Herbert von Karajan

You would immediately recognize pieces such as Morning Mood and In the Hall of the Mountain King even if you did not know they were from these suites. Grieg wrote this music to go along with Ibsen's play about Peer Gynt, a wild youth in search of adventure. Each piece portrays episodes in his travels through the coast of Morocco, storms at sea, the Saharas, and Egypt. Grieg used Norwegian folk songs for inspiration, and was a strong nationalist composer.



Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Symphonies No. 40 & 41

Performed by the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields, conducted by Sir Neville Marriner

These last two of Mozart's forty-one symphonies are possibly his greatest. Written on a grander scale than his earlier symphonies, which were composed during his adolescence, they represent Mozart's mature style.



Maurice Ravel: Bolero

Performed by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Sir Georg Solti

A single rhythmic theme drives this entire piece--beginning very quietly with sparse instrumentation, it is repeated�and repeated and repeated�different instruments add to the color, and variations allow the theme to evolve. This dance piece is another all-time favorite, and the CD also contains Debussy's famous La Mer (The Ocean--you guessed it, an impressionistic work!)



Antonio Vivaldi: The Four Seasons

Performed by the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Zubin Mehta

Each season is portrayed by a different violin concerto (a work for solo violin and orchestra), and each concerto on this CD is performed by a great violinist; Stern, Zuckerman, Mintz, and Perlman give virtuoso performances. Written in the Baroque Period, this piece remains one of the most popular works ever.



Johann Sebastian Bach: Brandenburg Conecertos

Performed by the English Chamber Orchestra and the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields, conducted by Benjamin Britten

This is without doubt a superior recording of the six Brandenburg Concertos, with renowned 20th Century composer Benjamin Britten conducting. Performances by trumpet soloists and orchestra members are excellent. If you want an outstanding Baroque CD for your library, hear this one!




Benjamin Britten: War Requiem

Performed by the London Symphony Orchestra and the London Symphony Chorus, conducted by Benjamin Britten

Britten wrote this emotionally charged piece with three singers in mind, one from Germany, England, and the Soviet Union--representing the unification of three countries scarred by WWII. Conducted by the composer, this is the definitive recording.



Claude Debussy: Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun

Performed by the Cleveland Orchestra, conducted by Pierre Boulez

Boulez wonderfully conducts this beautiful short work. A singularly gorgeous rendition. The CD also contains Images and Printemps, two other Impressionistic works.



Antonin Dvorak: Symphony No. 9 "From the New World"

Performed by the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Kurt Masur

Dvorak's most popular symphony, this piece holds the audience on the edge of their seats. The first two movements are beautifully slow and lyrical, while the last two have momentum and energy, building to an exciting climax.



Modest Mussorgsky: Pictures at an Exhibition

Performed by the Cleveland Orchestra, conducted by Lorin Maazel

First written as a traditional piano solo, this piece had little popularity until Ravel orchestrated it. Each number represents a different picture at a gallery; titles include The Marketplace at Limoges, Catacombs, and The Great Gate at Kiev. This is an excellent work for studying orchestration.



Sergei Prokofiev: Symphony No. 1 "Classical"

Performed by the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Herbert von Karajan

Prokofiev's first symphony, this work uses forms of the Classical Period yet alters them for the 20th Century. If you have studied music you will find this piece humorous.



Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakoff: Scheherazade

Performed by the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Glenn Dicterow

A famous and exciting work about adventures at sea.



Camille Saint-Sa� ns: Carnival of the Animals

Performed by the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Leonard Bernstein

This is a great CD for kids because it contains three children's classics: Peter and the Wolf (Prokofiev), The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra (Britten), and Carnival of the Animals. This CD stands out because in Carnival, Bernstein gives entertaining introductions of each animal-piece--which both kids and adults will find amusing! Several featured members of the orchestra are young musicians under age twenty. A fun recording.



Sergei Rachmaninoff: Piano Concertos 1-4

Performed by the London Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Andre Previn, pianist: Vladimir Ashkenazy

Rachmaninoff's exciting and often-performed piano concertos. The recent film Shine featured the "Rach 3," highlighting its drama and technical difficulty. Ashkenazy's expertise in Rachmaninoff works makes this recording brilliant.



Camille Saint-Saens: Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso, Op. 28

Performed by the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Zubin Mehta, violinist: Itzhak Perlman

This playful, short, and showy piece has much drama. The CD schowcases violin legend Perlman's talent.



Dmitri Shostakovich: First Piano Concerto

Performed by the English Symphony Orchestra, conducted by William Boughton, pianist: Martin Jones

Showy, virtuosic, and exciting first and fourth movements enclose a deep melancholic middle movement and an unusually short third movement. This concerto highlights the pianist's technical prowess and contains much humor, including a sudden bang on the keyboard in the middle of the fourth movement! Written for the uncommon instrumentation of chamber orchestra (strings only), piano, and trumpet, this piece pleases any audience while shocking them with its depressive inner movements.



Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky: Violin Concerto No. 1

Performed by the London Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Alfred Wallenstein, violinist: Itzhak Perlman

Perlman brilliantly performs this romantic violin concerto, full of passion and excitement.

Keywords: music library, music cd, symphonic works, concerti, famous classical masterpieces, classical music, instrumental music



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