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 of records available. On a sheer bang-for-your buck evaluation, classical music beats out most other genres. Also, in comparison to other vinyl records, the appeal of classical vinyl to collectors has less to do with actual sound quality, which is surprising considering the pains patrons of classical music go to in order to ensure that the music they love is performed in acoustically perfect settings.
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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Nonesuch President Bob Hurwitz Gives Keynote Address for Mannes College ...Nonesuch Records, May 23rd
We read or hear stories, on a daily basis, about orchestras fighting for survival, about the collapse of the classical record business, about how young conservatory-trained musicians are now banding together to form modern music ensembles, or play in...Read more
For 2nd time, Missouri Benedictine nuns have top classical albumCatholic Culture, May 23rd
“Angels and Saints at Ephesus,” a new album released by the Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles, has debuted at the top position on the Billboard traditional classical albums chart. “Advent at Ephesus,” an earlier album, also reached the top...Read more
John Cooper Clarke, poet – portrait of the artistThe Guardian, May 21st
Whenever I hear someone from the pop world choose a classical record on Desert Island Discs, I always think: "You lying bastard." Who would play you in the film of your life? Johnny Depp. He owes me one after Edward Scissorhands: he pinched my whole...Read more
WTJU's 'Gamut' marks 1000th show Wednesday with three-hour fund driveThe Daily Progress, May 19th
Soon after starting the show, Graves decided that he wouldn't repeat a work until he got through his extensive private collection of classical music. He had amassed a large part of the collection while working for a classical record label that was part...Read more
Angelina Jolie used disguises to keep surgery secret, sources sayChicago Sun-Times, May 15th
VINYL VORTEX: Kudos to my old pal Bob Craig, the force behind the Midwest Classical Record Show, taking place Saturday at the Holiday Inn North Shore in Skokie. It's an event for anyone who loves classical music, and many of the records go for $1 to $5...Read more
Music by the people finds its voiceThe Australian, May 15th
"No record company would ever spend $200,000 making a classical record," she says. "It's really unheard of. Only somebody like me would be stupid enough to do that." It helps, of course, that Schneider brings a formidable reputation to these occasions...Read more
'Taking Five' to recall two musical passingsLake Geneva Regional News, May 7th
He was the 23-year-old Texan who won the International Tchaikovsky piano competition in Moscow in 1958, becoming an American hero. His recording of the "First Piano Concerto" was the first million-selling classical record, eventually reaching more than...Read more
Greenville Symphony conductor carries on grand legacyGreenville News, April 27th
His recordings of Tchaikovsky evoke an almost ecstatic response among classical record collectors. Writing of Mravinsky's legendary 1960 recording of Tchaikovsky's Symphonies Nos. 4-6, the English musicologist David Fanning colorfully summed up the...Read more