I have been listening to some Debussy for the past hour. Can you give me some suggestions on classical music. I have been meaning to expand my classical horizons.

I’m pretty noobie when it comes to classical music so anything will really do


Gustav Mahler, Austrian composer


enjoy Handel and Gabrelli (for brass), Bach, Handel, Mozart and Vivaldi (for orchestra and chamber music)


Here’s copypasta of a PM I sent to ERferg a while back (I’ll get to non-piano stuff in another post):

		 		 		 		 		Sure. I'll stick to piano stuff (including  piano concertos), but here are some suggestions. Note that I have biases  towards late 19th-century and early 20th century romanticism  (especially late Russian romanticism) that I have not been able to shrug  off here, so take it for what it's worth.

Standard stuff:

  • Bach: Goldberg variations, the well-tempered clavier, the partitas, the English Suites and the French Suites. A good rule of thumb is that if you get one recording of anything, don’t buy a Glenn Gould recording - he’s usually nonstandard, sometimes radically so. But if you’re getting two, one of them must be Gould’s.
  • Beethoven sonatas. There are 32 of them and they’re all great. Can’t go wrong. The early ones are fully classical pieces, the later ones are early romantic pieces.
  • Brahms: piano concertos, 1 and 2. Number 1 is a favorite of mine. Also get some of his shorter piano stuff - intermezzos, capriccios, etc. (he wrote a bunch of collections of this kind of thing).
  • Debussy - you should get some Debussy, but I can’t help you much here because I need to get more Debussy… oh well.
  • Liszt - the B Minor piano sonata is a masterpiece. His Annees de Pelerinage collections are all excellent, the Transcendental Etudes are breathtaking (but get a good recording of these, because not every pianist is up to the task! I recommend Arrau). His first piano concerto is quite famous, though I think slightly overrated. Lots of his random transcriptions and stuff are lots of fun.
  • Chopin - the ballades, scherzos, sonatas, and both concertos are a must. Also should get a complete set of preludes (he wrote 24, one in each key, then a few more random ones) and a complete set of etudes (he wrote 24, but this time he skipped some of the weird keys). The nocturnes are excellent. The mazurkas are idiosyncratic little pieces, but quite nice.
  • Grieg - get the sonata and the concerto (which is quite famous), and maybe some of his album leaves
  • Prokofiev - the piano as percussion instrument, in all its glory! Piano sonatas are excellent. Piano concertos are even better, especially #2 (one of my favorite concertos), which has the most epic cadenza in the history of cadenzas in the first movement. Some of his shorter piano stuff is also lots of fun - the Op. 4 pieces, the Visions Fugitives, and the Sarcasms.
  • Rachmaninoff - must get preludes, etude-tableaux, and at least piano concertos 1 through 3 (I happen to like number 4 as well, but for some reason it is rarely performed).
  • Tchaikovsky - not my favorite composer, to be honest. Others will disagree strongly. Get the first piano concerto, at least.
  • Schumann - I like his piano concerto (though it is quite repetitive, something I didn’t realize until recently). Schumann is at his best in collections of very short pieces: the Kinderszenen, the Davidsbundlertanze, the Waldszenen, the Kreisleriana.
  • Mozart - of the solo piano work, nothing really stands out to me except perhaps the “Turkish March” sonata (#11). The piano concertos are great, in general getting better as they go along. In both cases avoid his very early output. Despite the hype, his adolescent compositions are at best mediocre.
  • Schubert - he had a large sonata output - I especially recommend #21 - but my favorites are the impromptus and his Wanderer fantasy.
  • Haydn - sonatas out the wazoo. Pleasant enough.

Odder/rarer stuff I like:

  • Barber piano sonata
  • Scriabin anything. His piano concerto is one of my top three favorites, period (the second movement is absolutely gorgeous) and his sonatas are all wonderful. Be warned; his mid-to-late music is essentially atonal.
  • Ravel anything. Listen to Miroirs, Gaspard de la Nuit, and Le Tombeau de Couperin, at least.
  • Alkan anything (esquisses, Concerto for Solo Piano, etc.). Incredibly technical music; go for the Hamelin recordings if you can
  • Saint-Saens: underrated piano concertos. #2 and #4 are the best
  • Messaien - gotta get used to Messaien, but he grows on you. He has a rather large output and I haven’t gotten through it all (I have some recordings I haven’t gotten around to listening to yet), but I’ll recommend his “Vingt regards sur l’enfant-Jésus” (he basically wrote music for two thigns: birds and Catholicism).
  • Medtner - also grows on you; I’ve been listening to him a lot recently. The piano sonatas, piano concertos, and “Fairy Tales” (this is a poor translation, I’ve heard, but it’s what the pieces go by in English) are his important output. In terms of late Russian romantic composers, he’s the anti-Rachnaninoff: stingy with the melodic lines.
  • Copland: anything, really, although the difference in style can be really stunning. He wrote lots of “Americana” type stuff (think Appalachian Spring or Rodeo) and also some really brutally modernist stuff. Of his piano output, I prefer the brutally modernist stuff: the piano variations, the piano sonata, and the piano fantasy are the main works.


Okay, on to not piano. I’m much less of an expert here. Also, there’s no opera here because I almost never listen to opera so I don’t know what I’m talking about there.

  • Bach - Brandenburg concertos, suites for unaccompanied cello (my favorite recordings are Mischa Maisky’s and Yo-Yo Ma’s, in that order), Mass in B Minor
  • Bartok if you’re into loud percussiony stuff (this is an absurd oversimplification)
  • Beethoven - every symphony. Obviously. Favorites (and also the most famous): 3, 5, 6, 7, 9. My own absolute favorite is probably the 7th, even though it may be the least Beethoven-like of all of them in color and whatnot. Also his random overtures. Can’t go wrong with the string quartets; I prefer the later ones, which are also the weirder ones: 13 through 16; 15 is my favorite (I believe Stravinsky said, of the Grosse Fugue at the end of the 13th, something like “it is an absolutely contemporary piece that will be contemporary forever”)
  • Luciano Berio - just kidding
  • Berlioz - the obvious (Symphonie Fantastique)
  • Brahms - all four symphonies. These are as important as Beethoven’s. Actually, I prefer them, especially 4 and then 3. The violin concerto and the double concerto (violin and cello) are also excellent.
  • Copland - Appalachian Spring, the 3rd symphony, Rodeo, Music for a Great City
  • Debussy - again, I have this inexplicable lack in knowledge when it comes to Debussy - at least try La Mer and the Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun
  • Dvorak - Symphonies, say 1 and 6-9 inclusive. I put 1 there just because I like listening to it; I don’t think it’s a very well-regarded piece compared to the others. Slavonic dances. Cello concerto.
  • Faure - piano trio, Requiem
  • Haydn - meh. Knock yourself out; he wrote more than a hundred symphonies. I don’t usually listen to them
  • Holst - the planets suite
  • Janacek - string quartets (weirdness warning)
  • Khachaturian - suites
  • Lutoslawski anything if you want to listen to a totally different way of writing music (aleatoric, tone clusters, etc.)
  • Mahler symphonies. They last a while (like, at least 80 minutes) and are uniformly great.
  • Mendelssohn - violin concerto. Don’t actually know much about his symphonies, but at least the Scottish symphony
  • Messiaen - Quartet for the End of Time
  • Moszkowski - piano concerto (missed this up there). Very accessible to the listener
  • Mozart - Requiem, the last few symphonies, especially #40
  • Mussorgsky - Pictures at an Exhibition (as much as I hate to say it, it sounds better with an orchestra than with a piano)
  • Prokofiev and Rachmaninoff symphonies are okay, but in both cases I prefer their piano music
  • Ravel - piano trio, Daphnis and Chloe suite, Rapsodie Espagnole
  • Rimsky-Korsakov - Scheherazade
  • Rodrigo - Concierto de Aranjuez
  • Saint-Saens - “Organ” symphony (#3)
  • Schubert - “Trout” quintet, quartets 9 and 13, I’m sure he’s written lots of other great stuff not for the piano but damned if I know much about it
  • Scriabin - Prometheus, Poem of Ecstasy
  • Shostakovich - string quartets are difficult but rewarding. Don’t know much about his other music, but he’s kind of hit-or-miss depending on whether he was writing for Stalin’s benefit or not
  • Sibelius - symphonies, Finlandia
  • Strauss (Richard) - An Alpine Symphony is my favorite
  • Stravinsky - the Rite of Spring
  • Tchaikovsky - try Symphony 6, at least
  • Vivaldi - four seasons
  • Wagner - don’t know much about him because of the opera thing, so pretty much all I listen to are overtures and such. That being said, the overture to Rienzi is fun.


you have done a good job with your lists, but I can’t fathom why you’ve omitted Handel - especially his Water Music and Messiah.


Yeah, add those in. Must’ve missed him somewhere. I like the Water Music a lot, although I should probably get a better recording than the one I have (Carroll conducting the Washington Chamber Soloists).


in my younger days as a budding classical music neophyte I bought “Pachobel’s Greatest Hits” for my wife. What I failed to read was the title was actually “Pachobel’s Greatest Hit” - it was 10 variations of Cannon in D!

Now I enjoy Cannon in D once and can tolerate a second time, but 10 times back to back! Boy, did my wife give me grief about that one! She still brings it up from time to time!:o


before you start listening to any of that wall of ****, look up the songs and learn about their themes and the story they are trying to tell. you’ll appreciate them a whole lot more


I think, once, I heard a piece by Pachelbel that wasn’t the Canon in D.

It should be reemphasized that the list above is in no way comprehensive or even a particularly good survey of anything in particular other than music I happen to enjoy. Also, of the last ten pieces of music I’ve listened to, perhaps one or two are on the above list (I tend to advise people to listen to things that are not quite as out there as what I listen to on average).

Also, Demon Runner, most of this music isn’t programmatic.


Pacobel should be the poster child for one hit wonders!


Yeah I am just using these as a starting point. After I listen to a few I’ll research some more of what I like and then expand from there.

Thanks again


You’re starting with great lists from eh. (My degree is in music, btw)

Opera – I really love baroque opera. Some fantastic stuff by Handel (e.g. Orlando, Ariodante). To me the epitome however is Rameau (Hippolyte and Aricie, Zoroastre). Beethoven wrote only one opera (Fidelio). If you listen to it, you’ll know why. Mozart Don Giovanni, and Magic Flute. Rossini Barber of Seville. You know it already from Bugs Bunny, but it’s really a great piece and hilarious. If you want to try more modern Italian, then Puccini, La Boheme.

Just a couple additions:

Satie – 3 Gymnopedies, Gnossienes. Strange, wonderful, sad, idiosyncratic piano work.

Mahler – Das Lied von der Erde. A vocal work with orchestra. Sublime.

Prokofiev – Alexander Nevsky. Absolutely glorious, probably the best movie score ever written. Romeo and Juliet.

Faure – Pavanne

Dvorak – String Quartets (any)

Thomas Tallis – Lamentations of Jeremiah. Some of the most intricate Renaissance vocal work ever written. If you like that, try William Byrd’s [I]Mass for Four Voices.



Hard to imagine now, but Beethoven was immensely impressed - and more than a little jealous - of Luigi Cherubini, the now-minor Italian opera composer.

I’m listening to Dvorak chamber music right now (the second piano quintet)!

I have the Faure Pavane on the same recording as the Reqiuem (I believe they’re often paired). The tune’s been used so many times in movies and popular music that I’m sure everyone will recognize it.

Also, I’d add that if you have any experience with the piano at all, you can play Satie’s music - it’s very technically simple.

I need to get a recording of Das Lied von der Erde.

Some of that Tallis music is crazy intricate. The glee choir here sang Spem in alium last year, which has forty voice parts (!).


Just a taste, Orange. Turn those woofers to maximum. If you’re not stirred by this, you have no pulse.



The hardest I am finding with classical music is finding good copies of their music due to the different variations/the different orchestras


For orchestral music, the best advice I can give is look for famous conductors, not necessarily famous orchestras.

Since there’s no way I’ll be as helpful as this guy, here’s some copypasta recommendations:

conductors: Claudio Abbado, Barbirolli, Barenboim, Bernstein, Boulez, Chailly, Colin Davis, Dohnanyi, Dorati, Dutoit, Gardiner, Giulini, Haitink, Jansons, Jarvi, Karajan, Carlos Kleiber, Kubelik, Levine, Maazel, Masur, Mehta, Marriner, Munch, Muti, Ormandy, Ozawa, Previn, Rattle, Reiner, Sawallisch, Robert Shaw, Sinopoli, Slatkin, Solti, Stokowski, Szell, Temirkanov, Tilson Thomas.
pianists: Argerich, Arrau, Ashkenazy, Biret, Brendel, Cliburn, de Larrocha, Gilels, Hamelin, Horowitz, Hough, Jando, Janis (but AVOID his recent EMI CDs), Katchen, Kempff, Kissin, Lupu, Perahia, Pletnev, Pires, Pollini, Sviatoslav Richter, Rubinstein, Schiff, Rudolf Serkin, Abbey Simon, Thibaudet, Uchida, Weissenberg, Wild, Zimerman.
violinists: Bell, Sarah Chang, Francescatti, Grumiaux, Hahn, Heifetz, Josefowicz, Kremer, Cho-Liang Lin, Midori, Milstein, Mullova, Mutter, Perlman, Repin, Shaham, Stern, Szeryng, Vengerov, Zukerman.
cellists: Jacqueline du Pré, Fournier, Harell, Yo-Yo Ma, Maisky, Rostropovich, Starker.
other instrumentalists: Maurice Andre, Bashmet, Bream, Galway, Rampal, Pepe Romero, John Williams.
vocalists: Alagna, Ameling, Bartoli, Battle, Caballe, Callas, Carreras, Domingo, Fleming, Fischer-Dieskau, Gheorghiu, Hampson, Jessye Norman, von Otter, Pavarotti, Leontyne Price, Sutherland, Te Kanawa, Terfel.

Of course it is a very abbreviated list. Also, I picked them not because they are the greatest. They are good, but there are others who are as good or even better but are not included (e.g. Toscanini, Furtwangler, Josef Hofmann, Rachmaninoff, Kreisler, Casals, Ponselle, Segovia, etc.). The above artists are picked because: 1) most of their recordings are stereo and I think beginners should start with stereo recordings (if you want to avoid old, mono recordings, you should find out the recording date. Virtually all recordings made before 1958 are mono. Horowitz, for instance, made many stereo but even more mono recordings, and so you have to be careful), 2) most of them are prolific artists, and 3)they are at least not very controversial (For instance, Pogorelich is a highly controversial figure, and there are as many people who are crazy about him as there are people who couldn’t hate him more).

This should be obvious, but avoid amateur recordings on YouTube at all costs. There are gems, but it’s probably not worth your time to find them. Also avoid very low-quality uploads to YouTube (e.g., live recordings in concerts with ****ty equipment).





omg eh, I just noticed your comment about Shostakovich. You need to listen to his Symphony #5, conducted by Bernstein if you can. Let me know what you think.

In general, Russians conducting Russians performing Russians is a good idea.


Will do.

I love his string quartets, but you have to be in the right mood for them.