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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John Medeski finds the keys to a new soundBoston Globe, December 9th
Not that anyone would necessarily mistake “A Different Time” for a classical record. Nelson's melody of “I'm Falling in Love Again,” the gospel of “His Eye Is on the Sparrow,” the Randy Newman-esque Americana of Medeski's “Waiting at the Gate,” and the ...Read more
Leona Lewis interview: 'My next album has to be better'Digital Spy, November 27th
"I'd love to do a classical record at some point. If the opportunity came up I definitely would." Lewis Lewis 'Christmas, With Love' press shot. Talking of future albums, how is work coming along on your next record? "I was working on it for a while in...Read more
The joy of vinyl, a magnanimous Pope and the truth about the National LiberalsTelegraph.co.uk (blog), November 22nd
So I popped into the Notting Hill Classical Record Exchange and acquired, for under a fiver, an LP boxed set of Karajan's Butterfly with Freni and Pavarotti. That had a lavishly presented libretto – and three LPs, which sounded dreadful on my clapped...Read more
Traces of YouWarwick Beacon, November 21st
She'll play songs from previous albums, as well as “Traces of You,” which was released last month on Deutsche Grammophon, a German classical record label founded in 1898. So far, she said, fans are enjoying it. “As far as direct feedback from people...Read more
Greece Exposed by New ZealanderPR Web (press release), November 18th
He has worked in classical record production, schools, universities, and theatre. He studied Drama, Theatre Arts, and Music at the University of Birmingham and has an MA in Linguistics from the University of London. Besides the United Kingdom, he has...Read more
The musical romance of Wendy Sutter and Philip GlassArizona Daily Star (blog), November 13th
To date, it has sold 85,000 downloads — a huge number for a classical record. Songs and Poems was the first work Glass composed for Sutter, whom he met in the mid-2000s while she was a member of the Bang on a Can All-Stars. Sutter had never really ...Read more