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.
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Recent News: Classical Records
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Celebrating 25 yearsLaGrange Daily News, January 23rd
His first recording for the Sony Classical record label, “Appalachia Waltz,” was a collaboration with Yo-Yo Ma and Edgar Meyer. The works O'Connor composed for the disc, including its title track, gained him worldwide recognition. The successful follow...Read more
Listening to the Star Wars Soundtrack in a Pygmy VillageThe Atlantic, January 10th
In a series of interviews with novelist Michael Ondaatje, Murch recalled a summer cataloguing a radio station's classical record collection, and listening only to medieval music for weeks. After listening to 15th-century music during this solitary...Read more
'Mozart in the Jungle' plays it close to homeTribune-Review, January 9th
Rodrigo charms a crowd of elderly society ladies who can barely conceal their attraction to the young conductor. “There's no big message to the show,” Schwartzman said. “But it would be amazing if someone saw it and went out and got a classical...Read more
Naxos launches new high-definition music streaming and download serviceGramophone, January 6th
Music Library subscription service, launched in 2002, ClassicsOnline HD•LL is now available for £11.99 per month, and offers a search facility tailored to classical music, plus a catalogue drawn from most of the leading classical record labels...Read more
Hi-Res and Lossless Streaming from ClassicsOnlineSan Francisco Classical Voice, January 5th
country, instrument, year released, year composed, label, genre, and, of course, title. It claims a wide range of repertoire from “most” classical record labels, easy playlist creation, genre and artist radio programming, and off-line listening via...Read more
'Mozart in the Jungle' plays it close to home in the classical worldPress Herald, December 28th
exposed to classical music at an early age thanks to his mother, Talia Shire, who would take him to the L.A. Philharmonic. “There's no big message to the show,” he said. “But it would be amazing if someone saw it and went out and got a classical...Read more
Tokyo's magnificent Tower RecordsChina Post, December 27th
So, is this it for classical record stores as we know them? Can the still well-stocked departments at Amoeba Records in Hollywood, Canterbury in Pasadena and Record Surplus in Santa Monica buck the trend? Will Amazon finally submerge even Tower in ...Read more
I've found classical record buying nirvana – in Tokyo's Tower RecordsThe Guardian (blog), May 1st
I've found classical record buying nirvana – in Tokyo's Tower Records. If you want a fix of actual tangible classical music product, there's only one place to go. Pity it's the other side of the world … Tower Records flagship store, Tokyo, Japan...Read more