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]



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]

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    

Rare!! Martzy Schubert Violin Sonatas 33cx 1399 Uk Columbia First Issue Lp Ex+Morrissey Beethoven Was Deaf Rare Orig Uk 1993 Hmv Lp Gatefold Sleeve The SmithsSxl 2279 Decca Uk Wbg Ed1 Ricci Sargent Tchaikovsky Dvorak Violin ConcertoSax 2411 B/s Brahms Violin Concerto Oistrakh KlempererDecca Sxl 2279 Ed1 Wbg Ruggiero Ricci Tchaikovsky & Dvorak Violin Concertos Ex+Telefunken - Cello Sonatas - Ludwig Hoelscher Altmann RaritySxl 2078-80 Ed1 * Turandot * Puccini * Tebaldi * Erede * NmEmi Sax 2307 Leonid Kogan Brahms Violin Concerto Philharmonia Orchestra Asd 273 G/c Ed1 Tchaikovsky Symphony 6 Silvestri Philharmonia NmDecca Sxl 2062 - Ed1 Wbg - Mother Goose Ravel / Debussy Nocturnes - AnsermetEmi Sax 2315 David Oistrakh Bethovens Violin Concerto Andre Cluytens Sax 2552 R/s * Symphony 5, 41 * Beethoven, Mozart * Szell * Ex+Alp 1286/7 Beethoven Symphony No. 9 'choral' / Furtwangler R/g 2 Lp Set33cx 1656 Janos Starker Bach Cello Suites 1 & 3 Uk Columbia First Issue Lp ExSax 2397 B/s Schubert "the Great" Klemperer J S Bach Solo Violin Sonatas & Partitas Enesco 3lp Box Japan Reissue Clp 104/6Alp 1287 R/g (record 2) Beethoven Choral 9 Furtwangler NmSax 2430-1 B/s Ed1 Brahms A German Requiem Klemperer Nm33cx 1887 Leonid Kogan Gilels Sonatas For 2 Violins Columbia Lp Red Semi LabelSb 2066* Violin Concerto * Prokofiev, Mendelssohn * Heifetz * NmAsd 2466 Red S/c Du Pre Haydn Monn Cello Concertos Barbirolli LsoAsv Alhb 306 (3 Lp Set) Bach Violin Sonatas Partitas Oscar Shumsky NmSxl 2290 Ed1 * Divertimenti * Mozart * Vienna Octet * Nm Alp1856 De Vito Bach & Mozart Violin Concertos Uk First Issue Mono Lp ExSb 2101* Violin Concerto * Sibelius * Heifetz * Hendl * NmLudwig Hoelscher Raucheisen Cello Recital Vol.2 Telefunken Ed.1 10" Tw 30 050 ExSxl 2289 Wbg Ed1 Mendelssohn Schubert Ansermet Suisse Romande NmQueen A Night At The Opera 33rpm Lp Original Master Recording Ex/exEmi Asd 429 Bach Violin Concerto Mozart Violin Concero Gioconda De VitoAsd 2433 S/c Ed1 Brahms Symphony 4 Barbirolli Vpo NmDecca Sxl 2109 Ed1 Wbg Blue Back Tchaikovsky Symphony No 5 Vpo Krips Ex+* Emi Asd 435 W/g 1st Uk * Nm * Sargent - Rossini OverturesSlpm 138659 * Symphony 6 * Tchaikovsky * Mravinsky * Red Lbl * NmFurtwangler Beethoven Sym 3 Urania 7095 Mono Super Rare Columbia Saxf 993 Andre Cluytens Debussy Jeux DowelDecca Sxl 2121 Ed1 Wbg Beethoven Symphony No 7 Vpo Solti Ex+Eterna Ed.1 Beethoven Konwitschny Symphonies No.2 & 9 Stereo 2 LpSxl 2266 Rossini Overtures Gamba Wbg Ed1 Lso Decca Uk 'ffss Arm' Dvorak Violin Concerto Johanna Martzy Fricsay Dgg Lpe 17178 Mint- 10" LpPierre Fournier Bach Solo Cello Suites 1 & 2 Archiv Ed.1 Stereo Sapm 198186 NmSax 2405 B/s * Symphony 9 * Dvorak * Giulini * NmEterna-825104-stereo-1964 - Beethoven Sinfonie No.6 - Pastorale. Eterna First Stereo Beethoven Symphony No.7 Konwitschny 825105 1965 Janos Starker Schumann Cello Lalo Mercury Living Presence M/nm Lp Record Sr90347George Szell Brahms Symphony No. 3 Lp Columbia Sax 2572 Stereo Otto Klemperer Conducts Wagner Sax 2347 / 8 Uk Stereo Lp Near MintHmv Asd 349 Gold/cream Beethoven Pastoral Symphony No.6 Kubelik RpoSzeryng Haebler Mozart Violin Sonatas & Variations 6-lp-box Philips MintBertelsmann 13154 Mozart Quint. Stross Quartet Wlach 10inchDecca Sxl 2010 Ed1 Wide Band ,beethoven Piano Backhaus 1958J S Bach Nathan Milstein Sonatas & Partitas For Solo Violin Dgg Rare 3-lp NmnmnmAsd 644 S/c Ed1 Delius Cello Concerto Du Pre NmSxl 2303 Ed1 * * Faure, Debussy * Ansermet * NmSax 2454/5 Bruckner, Klemperer, Columbia Silver Blue Lps, 1st Pressings, WagnerArthur Grumiaux 7 Violin Concertos Brahms Philips Ed.1 4lp Box S-c 71ax 403 NmSls 832 Paganini Violin Concerto No.1 Etc Itzhak Perlman Foster 2 X Lp Box SetJanos Starker Cello Tchaikovsky Mercury Living Presence M/nm Lp Record Sr90409Daniil Shafran Bach 3 Cello Sonatas 1027-1029 Eurodisc Ed.1 Stereo 80628 Zk NmSax 2411 *blue/silver* Oistrakh /klemperer* Brahms Violin Cto* Onrf* Nm@asd 380 *white/gold* Rudolf Kempe* Dvorak 'new World' Symphony No.5* Bpo* Nm