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Guide to Building a Classical CD Collection


There are numerous publications that can aid in making the decisions associated with buying classical compact discs. The following is a list of what I feel are the better publications (listed alphabetically):

AMERICAN RECORD GUIDE - Founded in 1935, this bimonthly publication contains high-quality reviews of recent releases by independent reviewers, with some editorial commentary on recent developments in the area of classical music performance. With the demise of Musical America - a live performance review magazine - many of the writers have been absorbed by ARG, and there are also articles on performers and ensembles. Address - Record Guide Productions, 4412 Braddock Street, Cincinnati, OH 45204. Phone - (513) 941-1116.

EARLY MUSIC - "Early Music" is published by Oxford University Press. The subscription offer I just received lists the following 2 addresses:

Journals Marketing Oxford University Press Walton Street Oxford OX2 6DP, UK Journals Marketing Oxford University Press 2001 Evans Road Cary, NC 27513, USA

FANFARE - This bimonthly publication, established in 1976, contains high-quality reviews, with some interviews and editorial-style reporting on recent developments in the area of classical music performance, as well as regular reports on consumer audio electronics, and other features. Re-releases, historical performances, and releases from smaller independent CD manufacturers are also reviewed prominently, along with the expected reviews of new releases by major labels. Cost - $5.00. Address - P.O. Box 720, Tenafly, NJ 07670. Phone - (201) 567-3908.

GRAMOPHONE - A monthly British publication in magazine form, Gramophone includes numerous articles in addition to reviews of classical CD releases, and has been published since 1923. As with the Penguin Guide, British releases are featured prominently with little coverage of new releases from U.S. independents. Address - Gramophone Publications Limited, 135 Greenford Road, Sudbury Hill, Harrow, Middlesex, HA1 3YD, Great Britain - Phone: +44 (0)181-422 4562; Fax: +44 (0)181-869 8400 E-mail:

PENGUIN GUIDE TO COMPACT DISCS - This is a yearly compendium of the outstanding recordings reviewed by the British contributors, Edward Greenfield, Robert Layton and Ivan March. These reviewers have been, or currently are, contributors to the monthly magazine Gramophone. The Penguin Guide is arranged alphabetically by composer and composition, with individual recordings listed with associated reviews, often in capsule form. Emphasis is on recordings commonly available in England, thus recordings from the smaller independent American labels are sparsely represented, if at all. Address - U.S.: Viking Penguin, 375 Hudson Street, N.Y., NY 10014 U.K.: Penguin Group, 27 Wrights Lane, London W8 5TZ, England.

STEVENSON CLASSICAL COMPACT DISC GUIDE - This quarterly publication, which was started in 1983, maintained cumulative listings giving summaries of reviews found in other publications (such as those listed herein). The Stevenson Guide was arranged by composer and composition, with recordings that received the best recommendations listed first. Complete recording information (including manufacturer, catalog number and performers, and often SPARS code and duration in minutes) was given with sufficient information to find the particular review cited (such as publication name, issue/volume number and date). The Stevenson Guide also provided reviews and announcements of new domestic releases from the major labels, as well as from many independents. A major feature of the Stevenson guide was the "Honor Roll" which was a separate listing of recordings that had received superlative reviews from at least five reviewers with no negative reviews from any other reviewer. Last Date of Publication: Autumn 1996, Issue 101, Volume 9 #1

TUROK'S CHOICE - Since 1990, offering pithy capsule reviews of 80 or so new classical CD and video releases in a 4-page, newsletter format. The ultimate consumer question, "To buy or not to buy," is always kept in mind. Published eleven times a year (monthly, with a single "Summer" issue for July/August) by Paul Turok, whose criticism appeared regularly in Music Journal, Ovation and the Arts and Leisure Section of the New York Sunday TImes in the years prior to founding his own publication. Available only by annual subscription. Address- P.O.Box 202, New York, NY 10113-0202. P.T. E-mail: