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Exploring the Rewarding World of Classical Music

There's a pursuit in my life that brings me more pleasure than the WWW-- listening to good music in my living room: equipped with a good sound system and an audio CD collection, it brings me joy, peace, solace, and hours of satisfaction. I'm grateful to the artists and the industry that have brought this outstanding music and technology to an enjoyable and affordable level of excellence (by the way, the BMG CD folks have helped a lot in reducing distribution costs).

I've listed below what I consider to be a few of the best of the best, in the hope it will encourage some readers to further explore a part of the world that's very worthwhile. Be forewarned-- there's an entrance fee (beyond the $70 cost of a portable CD-player with headphones). Classical music is an acquired taste that grows with experience. Some people will find the music easier to appreciate than others do. Almost everyone will find some works and performances more satisfying than others, and will enjoy specific pieces of music more as they become more familiar. The recommendations below are chosen, not only for artistic excellence, but also for their approachability. (If you're already a classical music "buff," and haven't heard these specific works and performances, I recommend them on the basis of their artistic excellence alone.) For "classical newbies," if some of these specific performances or collections are unavailable, try another performance of the same work or type-- performances are not all equal, but there are many very good ones available, and you might even find one you like better than these. Best wishes for enjoyable listening. -wcm

P.S. - I notice that a non-classical disc or two has been smuggled into the list-- they must be very good to be keeping such fine company!

Albinoni, Adagio in G minor, plus others, I Musici (Philips 420 718-2); another disc with some overlap in content and equally fine performances is "Greatest Hits of 1720" by the Philharmonia Virtuosi of New York (CBS MK 34544)

Barber, Adagio for Strings, plus others, Leonard Slatkin, St. Louis Symphony Orchestra (Telarc, CD-80059)

Beethoven, Piano Concerto No. 5 (the "Emperor"), Claudio Arrau, Sir Collin Davis, Staatskapelle Dresden (Philips 416 215-2); more recent release with Mitsuko Uchida, Kurt Sanderling, Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks (Philips 289 462 586-2)

Handel, Water Music, Rafael Kubelik, Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra (Deutsche Grammophon, 419 861-2); or, if you prefer an "authentic" performance, try Jean-Claude Malgoire, La Grande Ecurie and La Chambre Du Roy (CBS MDK 44655)

Mozart, Clarinet Concerto and Clarinet Quintet, David Shifrin, Gerard Schwarz (Delos D/CD 3020)

"Begin Sweet World," Richard Stoltzman, Bill Douglas, Jeremy Wall, and Eddie Gomez (RCA RCD1-7124); Stoltzman has several other CD's and they're generally quite appealing

Chip Davis, Mannheim Steamroller, "Fresh Aire II," (American Gramaphone AGCD-359); definitely a crossover phenomenon, rock-lovers might find the Fresh Aire series a bridge to classical instruments and sounds, while enough "rock" remains to keep the sound generally familiar

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