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Hi all, just joined the forum! I have just started getting into classical music over the past year, and could use some suggestions from the experienced folks out there. I've been researching the lives and most popular works of the more famous composers (Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Vivaldi, Liszt, Dvorak, Chopin, Haydn, Wagner, Schubert, etc.), but that has only opened my mind to how much is really out there. I feel like I've barely been able to scratch the surface and am just starting to understand what I like and why. I suppose my question is - What are a few of your absolute favorite pieces that you could not live without?... because it's very possible I am currently living without them!

For reference, I'm still focusing more on the Baroque, Classical, and Romantic periods at this time; I plan to do more exploration on the 19th and 20th century pieces after I develop more of a bass in the deeper history.

Thanks for your help!
I think ArtRock's "for starters" list is a bit much. I think trying one piece from a variety of composers is a better approach to broaden your palate. So, for example:

Bach Brandenburg Concerto 3
Beethoven Symphony 5
Brahms Symphony 1
Copland Appalachian Spring
Gershwin Rhapsody in Blue
Mendelssohn Symphony 3
Mozart Eine Kleine Nachtmusik
Prokofiev Peter and the Wolf
Rossini William Tell Overture
Sibelius Finlandia
Johann Strauss On the Beautiful Blue Danube
Richard Strauss Don Quixote
Tchaikovsky Swan Lake Suite
Vivaldi The Four Seasons
Wagner Overture to Tannhauser
 

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Hi all, just joined the forum! I have just started getting into classical music over the past year, and could use some suggestions from the experienced folks out there. I've been researching the lives and most popular works of the more famous composers (Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Vivaldi, Liszt, Dvorak, Chopin, Haydn, Wagner, Schubert, etc.), but that has only opened my mind to how much is really out there. I feel like I've barely been able to scratch the surface and am just starting to understand what I like and why. I suppose my question is - What are a few of your absolute favorite pieces that you could not live without?... because it's very possible I am currently living without them!

For reference, I'm still focusing more on the Baroque, Classical, and Romantic periods at this time; I plan to do more exploration on the 19th and 20th century pieces after I develop more of a bass in the deeper history.

Thanks for your help!
I can see where you’re coming from, but at least there is a ton of help for you. There was nothing for me in the sixties except WRC, from whom I bought some most unsuitable recordings for a beginner (fugues by Bach and The Musical Offering for instance). I’m surprised I didn’t land up hating Bach. I’m into Weiss at the moment. His music is every bit the equal of Bach’s (well that’s my opinion anyway). We all have different tastes, though. I’m not all that fond of 19th century music and can‘t stand 20th and 21st. My favourite works by Mozart are the “Haydn“ quartets, which I must admit I wouldn’t recommend to a beginner. My favourite of his orchestral music is the Sinfonia Concertante for Violin and Viola. Of his operas I’m rather fond of Cosi for all its silly misogynistic plot. Mozart made up for all that with some of his most beautiful music. Having such a large gap in my tastes means I have to delve deep into the past when I have the urge for something new and I’ve discovered some excellent composers who still aren’t well known, Weiss being one of them.
 

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I think it's amazing that some people would rather show off than be helpful to someone who has a serious interest.

In any case, in no particular order.

Sibelius Symphony number 2
Beethoven Late String Quartets
Rimsky Korsakov Scheherazade
Copland Appalachian Spring and Rodeo
Dvorak "American" Quartet
Moussorgski Pictures at an Exhibition
Bach Cello Suites
Stravinsky Rite of Spring
Brahms Violin Concerto
Beethoven Piano Sonatas
Berlioz Harold in Italy
Gershwin American in Paris and Rhapsody in Blue
Chopin Etudes, Preludes, Waltzes, Polynaisses, Impromptudes (honestly whatever solo Chopin piano)

I'll stop there but I have much more to suggest if you end up listening to the list and liking it. Above is a very small part of the things I like to listen to after actively listening to classical music for over 65 years.
 

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This list may also help you. It's from a project that has been running for years here at Talk Classical, and that has had the participation of many members. There are thousands of works by hundreds of composers recommended there, ranked according to the tastes of the members who participated.

You may also want a reference of recordings of classical music works, as they are so important for this genre. For starters, try this blog.

The three most popular composers of classical music are Johann Sebastian Bach, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Ludwig van Beethoven, in chronological order. They are fundamental composers in the genre. If you want to explore their music, I suggest you to start from late period Mozart and middle period Bach and Beethoven.

For example, try these (I chose the performances carefully for you):

Mozart's symphony no. 40 in G minor, K. 550. Performance: Karajan/Berlin PO.

Mozart's piano concerto no. 21 in C major, K. 467. Performance: Szell/Casadesus/Columbia SO.

Bach's harpsichord concerto no. 1 in D minor, BWV 1052. Performance: Muller-Bruhl/Cologne CO

Bach's prelude and fugue in A minor, BWV 543. Performance: Walcha.

Bach's cantata "Non sa che sia dolore", BWV 209. Performance: La Divina Armonia.
 

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Hi aesthetiszt and welcome.

I agree with some of the other posters. I once turned to a friend, a professional violinist, with your same question. He thoughtfully compiled a list for me - which I still have on my refrigerator and not just because I had a crush on him - but I have to say, most of those works are not really ones that really resonate with me. Though some of the composers led me to other works I love. As others have said, music is subjective like any other art form and what musical voices I connect with is personal, though there are of course universal greats. My musical tastes also evolve over time, for example, it took me a while to appreciate Brahms and opera. I have a suggestion. Listen to the classical music radio station if you have one in your area. WQXR, the classical station in the New York metro area, can also be live streamed by anyone. I learn new works nearly every day. I listen often while I work and endlessly jot titles down on post-it notes if something catches my ear. They often will play one movement of a symphony or concerto, etc. so you can get a flavor for it and explore it some more on your own. It's also a great way to learn about concerts in your area. Also download the TC list! Happy exploring :)
 

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There are a few threads right here that might inspire you.

I've been curating The Beginner's Guide To Classical Music, a subjective romp through important and accessible Classical Music.

Beginner's Guide To Classical Music

Chilham also has a nifty chronological Guide. There are others, easily discovered as you explore the site.
 

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There are a lot of great specific suggestions here. Rather than add any more individual items, I'll just suggest the value of depth, breadth, repetition, and patience. First of all, regarding depth, let's say you find that you really like Dvorak's 9th Symphony, the New World. Well then, dive into more Dvorak. You could try his Slavonic Dances, his Cello Concerto, his later String Quartets, his Symphonies 7 & 8, his piano quartets, and quintets, the Dumky Trio, and more. Or listen to more romantic symphonies of about that period. This would be depth. Or let's say you like one of Beethoven's symphonies or piano sonatas. Well, try listening to more Beethoven. There's a lot of great stuff. If Beethoven continues to draw you in, keep going. If you find a composer you like, go deeper into that composer. Or in terms of genre, if you like piano music, or ballet, or opera, or violin concertos, go deeper into that genre.

Breadth would involve continuing to explore, moving on from something you like to something related but a little different. Try a new composer or explore a new genre that's adjacent to something you already like. Maybe you haven't clicked with opera, but you like Mozart's symphonies and concertos. Then maybe segue into Mozart's operas and from there, into other operas. Perhaps slide from Mozart to Puccini to Verdi. I am a big fan of piano music. For a long time, I loved Beethoven, Schubert, Mozart, Chopin, and Bach on the piano. Now, Schumann's symphonies hadn't really grabbed me. He was a bit of a "meh" composer for me. But when I started in on his piano music I quickly decided, "This guy is fantastic!" Schumann's piano works led me back to his symphonies, which I now really like, as well as his songs, chamber music, etcetera. The broader your musical knowledge and interest, the more readily you'll respond when you encounter a new piece or a new composer. Achieving musical breadth often means moving from a composer, instrument, or genre you already like to something adjacent. Over time, you will have covered a very broad range.

Repetition is also important. A great piece of music can bear repeated hearings, and with repetition, that music gets into your bones. Then you're ready to go deeper into that composer, and also to listen to other composers who bear some relation to that composer.

Let me also add the principle of patience. When I first listened to the music of Debussy, for example, I didn't quite get it. I was coming out of a fairly deep exploration of Bach, the Viennese classics (Mozart, Haydn and Beethoven), and the mainstream 19th century romantics. Debussy didn't quite make sense to me when I listened from that particular context. Still, I was open to the possiblity that I might like him later. And lo and behold, as my musical listening grew broader, I found that Debussy's music suddenly came very easily to me, and now he's one of my favorites. Being a pianophile, I confess that I'm particuarly drawn to Debussy's piano music, so I got into his music via a favorite genre. But if one dismisses a composer as "bad" after just a few hearings, it might be harder to overcome what has become a mental barrier. I still haven't really clicked with Bruckner, for example, but I'm open to the possiblity that I might some day change my mind.

So, coming full circle, think about following the principles of depth, breadth, repetition, and patience. If you follow wherever your interests lead, while maintaining an open mind, that can lead to a lifetime of listening pleasure.
 

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Bach Die Kunst der fugue (String quartet recording)
Bach - Musical offering
Bach suites for cello
Bach Goldberg variations
Bach Passacaglia and Fugue in C minor,
Mozart string quartets 14-23
Mozart piano quartets
Beethoven Triple Concerto
Beethoven piano trios
Beethoven string quartets
Brahms string quintets
Brahms string sextets
Brahms piano quartets
Brahms piano trios
Brahms The Schicksalslied (Song of Destiny)
 

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I mainly focus on Chopin's music so you can get me for any recommendation about this composer, anyways, here is a list of my absolute favourite pieces he wrote:

Sonata No. 2 in B-flat minor, Op. 35
Preludes, Op. 28
Etudes, Op. 10 (With No. 1, 3, 4, 5, and 12 being my favourites)
Etudes, Op. 25 (With No. 1, 4, 5, 9, 11, and 12 being my favourites)
3 Ecossaises, Op. 72
Polonaises, Op. 26 No. 1, Op. 40 No. 2, Op. 44, Op. 53
Complete Waltzes (They are all amazing with Op. 18, Op. 64 No. 3, and Op. 69 No. 2 being my absolute favourites)
Mazurkas Op. 30, Op. 33, and Op.59

I'm going also to give you a couple of Liszt pieces because they are excellent as well:

Complete Liebestraums
Complete Transcendental Etudes (1, 4, 5, and 8 are my favourites)
Consolation No. 3 in D-flat Major
Un Sospiro (I'm too lazy to type the full name of this thing)
Anees de pelerinage, Year 2 - Italy
Prometheus, Symphonic Poem No. 5
Grande Galop Chromatique
Galop in A minor

Hope you enjoy these pieces!
 

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Hi all, just joined the forum! I have just started getting into classical music over the past year, and could use some suggestions from the experienced folks out there. I've been researching the lives and most popular works of the more famous composers (Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Vivaldi, Liszt, Dvorak, Chopin, Haydn, Wagner, Schubert, etc.), but that has only opened my mind to how much is really out there. I feel like I've barely been able to scratch the surface and am just starting to understand what I like and why. I suppose my question is - What are a few of your absolute favorite pieces that you could not live without?... because it's very possible I am currently living without them!
Looks like you have already received quite a mountain of suggestions/recommendations in responses so far to your original request for help. There are a number of previous threads along the lines of "What are your favorite ...?" that might also be worth sifting through. In this same general theme, for a newcomer to classical music, the recent thread Pieces with gripping openings that immediately grab your attention would seem to be particularly useful, since responses tend to focus on works that are extremely engaging and "gripping". Also, a couple of articles of mine on classical music have been published that are especially oriented to newcomers and offer guidance; you might find some of the info useful:

The Transformative Power of Great Classical Music
Classical Music Tips for Listening, Concerts, Free Music & More
 

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If memory serves me right, here are about 20 pieces that instantly drew me to classical music when I was a novice:

Bach - Brandenburg Concertos: any one, you really can't go wrong with any of them, but I think 2 and 4 were the ones that I liked the best at the beginning
Mozart - Symphony 40
Mozart - Piano Concerto 20
Mozart - Serenade for 13 Winds in B-flat major, K. 361 "Gran Partita"
Beethoven - Symphony 5
Beethoven - Symphony 6
Beethoven - Symphony 9
Beethoven - Piano Concerto 5
Beethoven - Piano Sonata 8 "Pathetique"
Berlioz - Symphonie Fantastique
Brahms - Symphony 1
Brahms - Symphony 4
Vaughan Williams - Fantasia on a theme by Thomas Tallis
Sibelius - Symphony 2
Sibelius - Finlandia
Grieg - Peer Gynt suite
Prokofiev - Symphony 1
Borodin - Symphony 2
Tchaikovsky - Symphony 6
Tchaikovsky - Piano Concerto 1
Rimsky-Korsakov - Scheherazade
Dvorak - Symphony 7
Dvorak - Symphony 9
Mahler - Symphony 1
Mendelssohn - Violin Concerto
 

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I think it can be good to try a range of different forms of classical music, like orchestral, quartet, solo instrument, choral, opera... Whichever form appeals to you can draw you in and you can explore different periods. For example, if solo keyboard grabs you, you could listen to works of Bach, Mozart, Liszt, and on into modern composers like Debussy, Hindemith, and so on. Sometimes a certain artist can be a hook into various periods and forms. Suppose you find you especially enjoy the artistic interpretation and expression of the pianist John Browning. Well, he can take you on a trip from Scarlatti all the way to Samuel Barber in solo piano, and into the piano concert form. These are experiences I have had during my classical music life. Find the approach that works for you and enjoy!
 

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There are a few threads right here that might inspire you.

I've been curating The Beginner's Guide To Classical Music, a subjective romp through important and accessible Classical Music.

Beginner's Guide To Classical Music

Chilham also has a nifty chronological Guide. There are others, easily discovered as you explore the site.
As long as we're listing . . . Here's the first 50. It's a subjective, and somewhat random collection, but all are excellent entry level works. Of course, if you follow the guide in the thread, almost all of the entries have some commentary that help in one way or another.

There's an awful lot of overlap between my own list, and lists that have been posted by others. If you're feeling picky you could start with items that are on more than one list offered.

Holst - The Planets, Op. 32. 1918
Dvorak - "New World" Symphony No.9 in E minor "From the New World", Op 95. 1893
Beethoven - Symphony No. 3 "Eroica"
Stravinsky - The Firebird. 1910
Tchaikovsky - 1812 Festival Overture, Op. 49. 1882

Vivaldi - Summer, The Four Seasons. 1723
JS Bach - Brandenburg Concerto #6, In B Flat, BWV 1051. 1721.
WA Mozart - Symphony 41 in C "Jupiter", K. 551. 1788
Borodin - In the Steppes of Central Asia. 1880.
WA Mozart - Overture from The Marriage of Figaro. 1786

Grieg - Peer Gynt: Suite No. 1, Op. 46, and Suite No. 2, Op. 55. (Original score, Op. 23). 1876
Frederic Chopin - Polonaise Op. 53
Mussorgsky - Pictures at an Exhibition (Ravel orchestration). 1922
Gershwin - Rhapsody in Blue
Stravinsky - The Rite of Spring

Beethoven - Symphony No.5 in C minor, Op. 67. 1808
JS Bach - Cello Suite No. 1 in G major, BWV 1007
Carl Orff - O Fortuna from Carmina Burana
Mussorgsky - Night On Bald Mountain (Rimsky-Korsokov arrangement). 1886
Johann Sebastian Bach - Well-Tempered Clavier 2, Prelude F Sharp minor

Claude Debussy - The Sunken Cathedral
Sergei Rachmaninoff - Prelude Op. 23 No. 5
Franz Liszt - Consolation No. 3
Richard Strauss - Also Sprach Zarathustra
Ravel - Bolero

George Martin - Pepperland
Chopin - Prelude in Db "Raindrop"
Beethoven - Piano Sonata No. 14 in C♯ minor ("Moonlight Sonata")
Antonio Vivaldi - The Four Seasons
Rossini - Overture to "The Barber of Seville"

Wagner - Ride of the Valkyries
Mozart - Symphony No.40 in G minor
Vivaldi - The Four Seasons "Spring"
Beethoven's "Pastoral" Symphony No. 6
Mozart - Requiem in D minor

Johann Strauss II - The Blue Danube, Op.314
Tchaikovsky - Capriccio Italien
Paul Dukas - The Sorcerer's Apprentice
Beethoven - "Choral" Symphony No. 9
Schubert - Ave Maria

Ottorino Respighi - The Pines of Rome
Beethoven's Symphony No. 7
Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 4 in G Major: Op.50
Tallis - Spem in Alium (40-voice motet) 1570
Beethoven's Piano Sonata No.21 in C Major Op.53 (The Waldstein)

Dvorak - Slavonic Dance No. 7, Op. 46
Josquin des Prez - Missa L'Homme armé super voces musicales
Palestrina - Missa Aeterna Christi munera
Allegri - Miserere
Beethoven's String Quartet in F Major Op.59, no.1
 
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