In the digital age, centuries of incredible sounds are available at the swipe of a finger, so there’s no longer any excuse for not knowing your Bach from your Elgar.
Neil Fisher, classical music critic of The Times, composes an insider’s guide to getting the best out of the most powerful, most enduring and — yes! — most revolutionary music ever made
By Carlos Kleiber and the Vienna Philharmonic (DG)
"Hard as it is to go wrong with Beethoven's Symphony No 5, this is where everything went right. Kleiber's performances were all collectable: the conductor later became a recluse."
By Callas, di Stefano, Gobbi, c [conducted] De Sabata (EMI)
"Puccini's opera is a sleazy thriller and no one played the title character, a diva herself, better than Maria Callas, with five-star support from baritone Tito Gobbi and tenor Giuseppe di Stefano."
Elgar: Cello Concerto
By Jacqueline du Pré c Barbirolli (EMI)
"Multiple sclerosis robbed us of du Pré far too early (see the 1998 Emily Watson film Hilary and Jackie); her musicality and formidable technique make Elgar’s elegiac concerto crackle with drama."
Bach: The Goldberg Variations
By Glenn Gould (Sony)
"Bach's keyboard suite requires some concentration. It’s worth it. The Canadian pianist Glenn Gould laboured over all his recordings, but did nothing better than this."
Stravinsky: The Rite of Spring
By c Salonen (DG)
"Some say the 20th century really began with Stravinsky’s (above) 1913 ballet score, which caused a riot on its premiere in Paris. But it’s not difficult music to listen to: the rhythmic pulse is overwhelming."
Neil Fisher is Deputy Arts Editor at The Times and a classical music critic.