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    

Bach / Mozart: Violin Concertos - Gioconda De Vito **hmv Asd 429 Ed1 Lp** Superb Rare Sax 2323 Kogan Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto B/s First Uk Stereo Lp NmRossini: String Sonatas - Salvatore Accardo / Gazeau **philips 6769 024 2lp**Beethoven: Violin Concerto - Nathan Milstein **uk Columbia Sax 2508 Ed1 Lp**Rare Sax 2315 Beethoven Violin Concerto Oistrakh/cluytens, First Uk Lp B/s Vg++Bach: Complete Solo Cello Suites - Henri Honegger **valois Mb 326-28 3lp Set**Dvorak: Cello Concerto - Anja Thauer **deutsche Dg Tulip 139 392 Stereo Lp** Beethoven: Cello Sonatas - Rostropovich / Richter *philips Hi-fi Stereo Ed1 2lp*Lp Sax 2531 Leonid Kogan Elisabeth Gilels Violin Sonatas Uk Columbia NmBruch: Scottish Fantasia / Hindemith - Oistrakh **decca Sxl 6035 Wideband Lp** Bach: Complete Solo Cello Suites - Jean-max Clement **l'oiseau-lyre Ol 50186/7**Tartini / Vivaldi / Corelli: Sonatas - Nathan Milstein **capitol Sp 8481 Lp**Bach: Sonatas & Partitas - Wolfgang Marschner **christophorus 3lp Ed1 Box Set**Bach: Complete Solo Cello Suites - Daniil Shafran **melodiya Vic 4006-7 2lp**Beethoven: Violin Concerto - Szigeti / Lso **mercury Stereo Sr 90358 Ed1 Dg Lp**Mozart: Don Giovanni (complete Opera) - Krips **decca Sxl 2117-20 Wbg Ed1 4lp**Mozart: 'haydn' Quartets - Julliard String Quartet **columbia Sax 2470-72 3lp**Schubert: Arpeggione Sonata - Janos Starker **hmv Victor Vx-30 Stereo Ed1 Lp**Beethoven: Cello Sonatas - Pierre Fournier **deutsche Dg Red Stereo 138 081** Schubert: Arpeggione Sonata - Rostropovich / Britten **decca Sxl 6426 Lp**Bach: Sonatas & Partitas - Ida Haendel **testament 3lp Ed1 Stereo Box Set**Rare Sax 2510 Szell Beethoven Symphony & Wagner Uk Lp B/s Stereo Lp Ex+Bach / Dvorak / Chopin: Recital - Ludwig Hoelscher **telefunken Ble 43071 Lp**The Art Of Leonid Kogan - Mozart / Vivaldi / Ysaye... **hmv Emi 4lp Stereo Set**Rare Sax 2552 Szell Beethoven Symphony 5 Mozart 41 Uk Lp First Red S/c Lp ExDecca Wideband Sxl 2062 Ansermet Ravel Goose Debussy Nocturnes Ed1 But No GrooveLsc 2449 Sd 1s 1s Faust Ballet, Carmen Suite, Gibson, Royal Opera House Orch.Andre Navarra Unaccompanied Bach Solo Cello Suites Calliope 3 Lp Box Mint Rare Rachmaninov: Piano Concerto No.3 - Malcuzynski **columbia Sax 2515 Ed1 Lp**Bach / Beethoven: Violin Recital - Lola Bobescu / Bobesco **electrecord Ed1 Lp**Leonid Kogan Beethoven: Violin Concerto Lp Uk Columbia 33cx 1738Brahms: Violin Concerto - Szigeti / Lso **mercury Hi-fi Stereo Ams 16034 Ed1**Tchaikovsky: Violin Concerto - Szeryng / Munch **rca Sb-2080 Living Stereo Lp**Philips 835 198 / 200 Ay 3lp Bach Solo Violin Sonatas And Partitas Grumiaux HifiRare Sax 2548 Cluytens Debussy Uk First Red S/c Lp Columbia ExDecca Sxl 6035 Stereo Wb Bruch Hindemith Oistrakh Horenstein 1e SampersFaure: Cello Sonatas - Monique & Guy Fallot **ducretet Thomson 270 C 025 10"**Philips 6747 125. 6 Lp Box Mozart 16 Great Violin Sonatas Szeryng HaeblerColumbia Sax 2454/5(2) Klemperer - Bruckner - Symphony No 7Mozart: Sinfonia Concertante - Arthur Grumiaux **philips Hi-fi Stereo Ed1 Lp**Dvorak: Cello Concerto - Ludwig Hoelscher / Keilberth **telefunken Slt 43009**Tchaikovsky / Rimsky-korsakov / Glinka - Paul Kletzki **hmv Asd 343 Ed1 Lp**Lsc 2313 Sd 1s1s "venice" Solti, Roho, Rossini, Offenbach, Ponchielli RcaTchaikovsky: Violin Concerto - Nathan Milstein **uk Capitol Sp 8512 Ed1 Lp**Columbia B/s Stereo Sax 2350 Brahms 4th Symphony Otto KlempererBach: Complete Solo Cello Suites - Iwan D'archambeau **orion Stereo 3lp Set**Grumiaux Klien Mozart Great Violin Sonatas Philips Digital Ed.1 5 Lp Sealed NewBrahms / Handel / Kreisler: Encores - Nathan Milstein **uk Capitol P 8536 Ed1**Lsc 2281 Sd 1s Szeryng, Brahms Violin Concerto, Monteux, London SoBeethoven / Debussy / Faure: Nathan Milstein **us Capitol Pbr 8502 2lp Set**Bach: Cello Suites 5 & 6 - Andre Navarra **calliope Cal 1643 Gatefold Lp** Columbia Sax 2362 Klemperer - Brahms - Symphony No 2 In D Major Columbia Sax 2441 Klemperer - Schwarzkopf - Mahler - Symphony No 4Fournier+moore. Cello Encores. Col 33cx 1644. Nm(-)Bach / Haydn: Violin Concertos - Arthur Grumiaux **philips Hi-fi Stereo Ed1 Lp**Bach: Sonatas & Partitas - Ruggiero Ricci **unicorn Dkp 9010/12 3lp Stereo Set**Beethoven: Cello Sonatas Nos. 1 & 2 - Ludwig Hoelscher **telefunken Ble 14081**Beethoven: 'pastoral' Symphony No.6 - Andre Cluytens **hmv Asd 433 Ed1 Lp**Faure: Cello Sonatas - Monique & Guy Fallot *london Ducretet Thomson Dtl 93050*Brahms: Cello Sonatas Nos. 1 & 2 - Daniil Shafran **melodiya Sycr-075 Lp**