The world of classical music spans nearly ten centuries, and encompasses a multitude of styles, forms, and purposes. This section of the Guide was compiled in the hope that it will help and encourage many people in the exploration of the abundance of recorded classical music that is now available. With that in mind, this section focuses on those composers and compositions that provide a basic repertoire of music representing the various major styles and forms developed over the past millennium in Western Art Music.
The Classical Net staff has assembled a list of compositions that we feel form a solid basis for a music collection that contains representative works from all periods and styles of the last millenium in Western art music. At the time this list was prepared every attempt was made to ensure that recordings of all the compositions listed are currently available. However, availability of recordings is at times a complex and fast-changing issue complicated by distributor and manufacturer offerings in various countries and even regions within countries, as well as changes in label ownership. In particular, the compositions we have marked with an red star are those we feel are fundamental and a good starting point for getting acquainted with more music by a particular composer or historic period – look for ( or asterisk * )
This list has been designed to provide a roadmap to classical music in its many forms and styles, and to assist the user in acquiring a collection of recordings that bring this music into the home. We hope this list will help you in collecting your own library of recordings and to become acquainted with the music of different composers, thus leading to the greatest possible enjoyment of music.
Much more music is offered here than one would expect in a basic library. This is done to have available to you more suggestions in those areas where you find the music most congenial and interesting. At times, however, we suggest you sample other composers or periods – a year or two from now you may find you have been missing some fine music! As a general rule, the music from the Classical and Romantic periods are the most accessible and familiar to the modern listener as snippets of great works are often used in commercials and films. Works from these periods are probably the best place for a novice to start.
Almost anyone will think of pieces of music and performances which "must" be in a basic library but are missing here. Personal favorites and dislikes are bound to influence anyone's choices, including ours. Additionally, personal tastes in interpretations vary widely. We have endeavored to provide a good place to begin exploring specific works, but the reader should feel free to investigate any alternative that interests them, regardless of what any classical music guide specifies as the "correct" course.