Vintage classical vinyl records are prized by collectors for their warm sound quality compared to digital as well as the fact that many rare or out-of-print titles are only available in LP format. There's an extremely wide range of desirable record titles available to classical-music fans, from recordings by famous conductors (Furtwangler, Orff) and instrumentalists (Menuhin, Oistrakh) to rare and compelling pressings by lesser-known artists. Collectors have varying methods of accumulating classical records—some prefer specific conductors, musicians, or record labels, while others fancy particular eras.

Some of the first records ever produced were classical recordings. Beginning in 1903, 12-inch classical records with about five minutes of music per side were sold. These early classical records spun at 78 rpm and mostly featured European classical music, which was popular in the United States at the time.

By the 1930s, with the advent and widespread popularity of radios, these 78 records were no longer sufficient to capture live-music transmissions, which lasted longer than any single disc could hold. After World War II, Columbia thought it had this problem solved when it introduced its 12-inch, 33 1/3 rpm vinyl monaural record, which it branded as the LP, for Long Play. The slower speed allowed record companies to put more music on a disc, although at first popular music was relegated to smaller, less-expensive 10-inch discs.

Eventually, all music went to 12-inch discs, and by the 1950s and 1960s, classical music was largely replaced in the mainstream by jazz and rock ’n’ roll. In response, perhaps, classical composers moved away from some of their staples—tonal centre and harmonic progression. This may have been the heyday of vinyl records, but not necessarily of classical recordings.

Classical music’s struggles continued into the early days of the compact disc, the late 70s and early 80s. Many of the major labels spent heavily to produce a lot of recordings that are widely regarded today as junk, while small retailers were replaced by oversized, and understaffed, record stores. The entire classical music industry was in a state of severe distress.

The few successes of that period, which kept the industry afloat, were reissues of older vinyl records for serious fans, as well as recordings that brought classical music almost into the realm of pop. The prime examples of that type of recording are albums by The Three Tenors—Plácido Domingo, José Carreras, and Luciano Pavarotti—whose music remains popular to this day.

Collecting classical music records is somewhat easier for the lay collector than other musical genres. This is due in large part to lower prices and the vast variety and quantity...

Some of the most popular classical records on the market include Leonid Kogan’s Beethoven Concerto, released in the United Kingdom by Columbia, Enrico Mainardi’s performances of Bach’s Cellosuites on Deutsche Grammophon, and Rossini’s Sonate a Quattro with Salvatore Accardo on the violin, released by Philips. Recordings by pianist Glenn Gould, particularly of Bach's Goldberg Variations, are enduring favorites, though not especially rare on vinyl.

One of the most collected conductors is Leonard Bernstein, although, as with Gould, his vinyl records, such as those with the New York Philharmonic, are widely available. Bernstein released 72 different vinyl records from 1933 to 1959, but film fans often gravitate to his recordings of "On the Waterfront" or "West Side Story." Other movie-and-classical-music fans look for the collaborations between composer and conductor Bernard Herrmann and director Alfred Hitchcock—Herrmann scored such classics as "North By Northwest" and "Psycho."

In a league of his own is Eugene Ormandy, who spent almost half a century with the Philadelphia Orchestra, with whom he made hundreds of records on labels from RCA Victor Red Seal to Columbia Masterworks, although the quality of the music on his later recordings with EMI/Angel is not considered as strong as his work in the 1950s and '60s.

As with blues, rock, and jazz vinyl records, the quality of a classical recording's cover is also important to most collectors.

About our sources | Got something to add?

▼ Expand to read the full article ▼

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

The Remington Site

The Remington Site

Since 1999, the Remington Site has offered classical music collectors a glimpse into Remington Records, an independ… [read review or visit site]

Vinyl Divas

Vinyl Divas

Vinyl Divas pays homage to international female opera singers of the LP era. Chronicling more than 800 singers, the… [read review or visit site]

317X

317X

Despite its mysterious title, 317X is plain and simple—an online gallery of vintage LPs, with a 1950s vintage fee… [read review or visit site]

Mybeatles.net

Mybeatles.net

Jesse Barron's collection of Beatles 45s, picture sleeves, magazines, books, and memorabilia. Browse singles and al… [read review or visit site]

Association of Vogue Picture Record Collectors

Association of Vogue Picture Record Collectors

This great site, from the Association of Vogue Picture Record Collectors, offers detailed background information an… [read review or visit site]



Clubs & Associations

Discussion Forums

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

@sax 2323 *b/s* Leonid Kogan* Tchaikovsky Violin Cto /meditation* Silvestri* NmSxl 2289 Uk 1961 Orig Decca Wbg Ed1 Gatefold Istvan Kertesz Dvorak New WorldSax 2304 Columbia Uk Ed1 B/s David Oistrakh Alceo Galliera Mozart Prokofiev@alp 1479 *r/g* Ginette Neveu* Plays *sibelius Violin Cto /suk: Four Pieces* NmAnnlies Schmidt-de Neveu 'bach 6 Suiten Fur Violoncello Solo'Classical Lp Leonid Kogan-brahms Concerto Columbia Uk Sax 2307 - Stereo Ex++/nmSax 2441 Columbia Uk Ed1 B/s Klemperer Mahler Symphony No.4 SchwarzkopfAndre Navarra Unaccompanied Bach Solo Cello Suites Calliope 3 Lp Box Mint Rare 33cx 1887 Columbia Uk Lp Leonid Kogan Elisabeth Gilels Sonatas For Two Violins@sax 2262 *blue/silver* Klemperer* Brahms Symphony No.1* Philharmonia* Nm @sxl 2289 Wbg Ed2 *kertesz* Dvorak "new World" Symphony* Vienna Philharmonic*Devy Erlih 'bach 6 Sonates Et Paritas Pour Seul' Sls 789/5 *1st*jacqueline Du Pre* Beethoven Piano Trios* Barenboim /zukerman X5Sxl 2236 Decca Wbg Ed1 Uk Lp Brahms Piano Concerto No.2 Katchen Lso Ferencsik Uk Ed.1 Hmv Asd 254 Guido Cantelli Beethoven Symphony No.7 NmSxl 6088 Wbg Ed1 *david /igor Oistrakh* Mozart Sinfonia Concertante /duo* NmAsd 2421 Hmv 1st Ed1 Semi Barbirolli Brahms Symphony No2 Nm Final Upgrade MuseumBeggars Opera 1971 Uk Vertigo Lp 6360054 Large Swirl Waters Of ChangeEva Pedrazzi Play Bach Uncompanied Cello 6 Sonatas Grumiaux Klien Mozart Great Violin Sonatas Philips Digital Ed.1 5 Lp Box NmRare Ed1 Sxl 2279 Ricci Tchaikovsky Dvorak Violin Concertos First Uk Wbg Lp Ex+@asd 2331 *semicircle* 1st *jacqueline Du Pre* Haydn /boccherini Cello Ctos* NmMravinsky Tchaikovsky Symphony No.5 Dgg Ed.1 Red Stereo Tulip Slpm 138658 NmAms 16134 Mercury Living Presence Henryk Szeryng Brahms Violin Concerto DoratiEnrico Mainardi Bach Cello Solo Suites 1 & 2 Eurodisc Ed.1 70222 Kk NmLxt 2967 /5255-6 1st *knappertsbusch* Conducts *bruckner /wagner* 3 Lp* Nm@sxl 2109 Wbg Ed1 *josef Krips* Tchaikovsky Symphony No.5* Vpo* NmVery Rare Grumiaux Sartori Bach Sonatas Uk Philips Hifi Stereo 2 Xlp Box Set ExRare Beethoven Violin Sonatas 1 & 8 Oistrakh Philips Hifi Stereo Earliest Lp Ex+Still Sealed Denon Pcm Janos Starker Cello Recital The Most Beautiful MelodiesAnnlies Schmidt-de Neveu 'cello Recital' (very Rare)Enrico Mainardi - Bach Cello Suites - Eurodisc - Stereo - 1st Ed. !Rare Beethoven Violin Sonatas 9 & 4 Oistrakh Philips Hifi Stereo Earliest Lp Ex+Rare Beethoven Violin Sonatas 3 & 7 Oistrakh Philips Hifi Stereo Earliest Lp Ex+Mravinsky Tchaikovsky Symphony No.4 Dgg Ed.1 Red Stereo Tulip Slpm 138657 NmSax 2354 *b/s* Klemperer* Beethoven Symphony No.4 /consecration Of The House* NmClp 1650 Hmv Uk Lp Jacqueline Du Pre Herbert Downes Music For Viola & CelloQueen A Night At The Opera 1975 Uk Press 5063-2 / 5064-3 12" Vinyl Record LpRare Beethoven Violin Sonatas 5 & 6 Oistrakh Philips Hifi Stereo Earliest Lp Ex+Sax 2502 *blue/silver* Charles Rosen* Plays *schubert /mozart Piano Sonatas* NmSax 2339 Columbia Uk Ed1 B/s Tchaikovsky Markevitch Romeo & Juliet Nutcracker@philips Hi-fi Stereo *holland* Oistrakh /oborin* Beethoven Violin Sonatas* NmPeinemann Dvorak Violin Concerto Ravel Tzigane Dgg Stereo Tulip Slpm 139120 NmBrahms Cello Sonatas 1 & 2 Annlies Schmidt De Neveu Knieper Piano Bam 063 Ed1 !Viktoria Mullova Bach Paganini Works For Solo Violin (1988) Philips Digital LpVery Rare Sxl 2240 Ricci Solo Violin Bartok Etc Earliest Wbg Uk Decca Lp Nm/ex!P Tchaikovsky Dlp Swan Lake *e Ansermet Audiophile Decca Sxl 2107-08 Uk Orig WbgSax 2347 Columbia Ed1 B/s Uk Lp Otto Klemperer Conducts Wagner Asd 3425 David Oistrakh Brahms Violin Sonata No.1 No.2 Uk Hmv NmDavid Oistrakh Beethoven Violin Concerto In D Maj Sax 2315 Blue/silver Stereo NmRare Beethoven Violin Sonatas 2 & 10 Oistrakh Philips Hifistereo Earliest Lp Ex+Janos Starker / Bach Suites For Cello Solo / Original Mercury Sr 3-9016, 3lp@sxl 6165 & 7 Wbg Ed1 *ansermet* Conducts *berlioz /debussy* Osr* 2 Lp* Nm@philips Hi-fi Stereo Grumiaux /pellicia Mozart Violin Cto /sinfonia ConcertanteBeethoven Symphony No.6 Bruno Walter Orig Columbia Us 6-eye Dg Lp Ms 6012 Nm Ed1Argo Zrg 506 Stereo Oval Grooved Ed1 Rossini String Sonatas Marriner NmStarker Bach Unaccompanied Cello Mercury Stereo Living Presence Sr3-9016 Box SetBach~ Starker~ Complete Suites For Unaccompanied Cello~mercury~ Sr1 3-77002 3xlpSxl 2002 Wbg Ed1 Bbb Beethoven Piano Concerto 5 Curzon Knappertsbusch Vpo NmOut Of Print Mfsl Queen A Night At The Opera Mobile Fidelity Sound Labs Mofi