On Air Now
Smooth Classics with Margherita Taylor 10pm - 1am
Take a look at our epic list of the best classical music recordings, complete with download links. Find out which artists, which works and which recordings are essential to your collection!
Named after a Schubert song, this huge collection of Fischer-Dieskau's greatest recordings spans from the 70s and throughout his career.
Arnold's quirky, often grumpy and deeply idiosyncratic style is perfectly captured on this disc of regional dances, and performed with verve by the LPO.
Decca comes up trumps here with this definitive recording of the Brandenburg Concertos. An essential library-starting item.
Brendel is a natural choice for the expressive and technical requirements of one of Bach's best-loved keyboard works.
An all-star cast including Janet Baker and the legendary Peter Pears combine to enormously affecting effect in this mammoth recording of Bach's Mass in B Minor.
This double-bill of 20th Century violin razzamatazz shows off just how much fun and emotional depth can be crammed into four strings and a sympathetic player like Shaham.
Beethoven's only opera is captured perfectly here by Otto Klemperer, who fights to bring out every nuance of the rich score. Beware, though - you might have to go second hand on this one if you want the CD.
If you're going to get a copy of the most famous symphonic opening ever written, you'd better make it a good one. And they don't come much better than Carlos Kleiber's.
This is the symphony that changed everything, so why not enjoy it in the best possible recording? Klemperer was among the finest interpreters of Beethoven's music, so you'll be in safe hands here.
Beethoven's biggest symphony gets the epic treatment it deserves from the Bayreuth Festival's finest, all under the watchful baton of Wilhelm Furtwangler.
Zukerman's breathtaking tone on the violin is ably assisted by Marc Neikrug on this complete cycle of Beethoven's sonatas.
A stellar line-up attacks these heavyweight concertos. Everywhere you look there's class, poise and fantastic playing.
The Emperor concerto is given a hearty interpretation in this 1957 recording. You can practically hear Gilels in the room with you, such is the amazing clarity of playing and sensitivity.
These late-period Beethoven piano sonatas are among his most exploratory, and Solomon is more than capable of bringing out every colour in the score.
Rubinstein was undoubtedly a master of performance, so it's a real treat to hear him bring life to such staple piece as the Pathetique.
Mitsuko Uchida has quietly become a giant of the piano, and nowhere is this more evident than in her sensitive and powerful readings of these Beethoven Sonatas.
The Pastoral is given extra depth and clarity by Klemperer, a proven master when it comes to interpreting Beethoven symphonies.
This disc of Beethoven's violin concerto (and one of Mozart's for good measure) is sprightly, clever and impeccably controlled by Schneiderhan, conducting from the violin.
Berlioz's masterpiece describes 'An Episode In The Life Of An Artist'. That's a lofty brief, and one that is completely justified by this grandstanding recording conducted by Thomas Beecham.
Another Thomas Beecham special, this superb recording of Bizet's sultry and addictive Carmen features a top-notch cast.
The second symphony took Borodin a good couple of years to complete. Was it down to the tortuous artistic process? No, it was because Borodin got sidetracked by his scientific research and teaching duties at a renowned St. Petersburg medical academy. There's nothing like broadening your interests…
De Peyer's sensitive playing and Barenboim's accommodating accompaniment make these two woodwind gems completely indispensable.
This dynamic threesome bring life and vigour to Brahms' horn trio, while just the formidable pairing of Itzhak Perlman and Vladimir Ashkenazy tackle the Franck sonata. A triumph of interplay.
Even the pose on the artwork for this Karajan classic shows that he means business. These two big-hitting symphonies are effortlessly controlled here, with thrilling results rich in texture.
These 1970s recordings have become legendary for the superb tone Chung coaxes out of her instrument, as well as the deep interplay between her and the RPO. A real testament to the quality of analogue sound.
This superb set of songs is an enchanting achievement from an all-French team of musicians. Shot through with gorgeous imagery and soaring tones, this is one to cherish.
When it comes to Chopin's piano music, you don't really need much more than this. Charming vintage interpretations of well-loved works and classy musicianship from Dinu Lipatti - what more could you want?
This exhaustive set of Chopin classics is deftly handled by the nimble genius of Pollini (pictured). It's a mammoth set, too, so it'll keep you occupied for quite a while.
Who could resist this? A fantastic collection of Christmas traditionals - don't expect your bog-standard hymns and carols, though. This is a set of serious festive music, beautifully delivered by The Sixteen.
Michael Tilson Thomas proves yet again that he is more than comfortable with the music of his homeland. Copland's vibrant Appalachian Spring is brought effectively into being by a boisterous San Francisco Symphony Orchestra.
Another Beecham masterclass, this time with Delius. There's something almost quaint about the feel of these pieces, but Beecham injects real intelligence into his readings with the RPO.
Dvorak's wild and stormy orchestral works are given huge colour and scope by Pesek's assured direction of the RLPO.
The vigour of these various Slavonic Dances is captured brilliantly by the boisterous forces of the Czech Philharmonic, and Mackerras matches their energy perfectly.
Trust Sir Charles to come up with the goods. With the able help of the LPO, he encourages the right amount of expanse and romantic intensity to these monumental Dvorak symphonies.
The question of whether Elgar was an old romantic or a formal modernist is, as yet, still unanswered. But when you've got an orchestra as good as the Halle and a conductor as steeped in the work as Barbirolli, it doesn't really matter. This is scintillating stuff.
Elgar's musical palate extended even further with his second symphony, so it needs a first-rate recording to bring out all the colours. This Richard Hickox special is more than capable of doing that, and more.
Recordings don't come much more notorious than this. Jaqueline Du Pre had such a history with the Elgar concerto that it becomes increasingly hard for new performers to compare. In the end, you may as well stick with the definitive.
Two giants of string music from the 20th Century are paired perfectly on this disc, and Sir John Barbirolli shows his formidable skill marshalling strings.
This most famous classical guitar piece includes two gorgeous big-hitters. The open and cheerful first movement is delicately overcome by the dark, romantic second.
One of the most notable operatic works of the 20th Century, Gershwin's classic is here given superb treatment by an all-star cast at Glyndebourne.
This could be the ultimate harp disc. Plenty of major harp concertos are covered by a range of superb performers - fingers at the ready…
Two giants of the keyboard are well and truly tamed with uniquely powerful interpretations from Murray Perahia (pictured), all under the watchful baton of Sir Colin Davis.
Well, Grieg doesn't get more lively than this. These spirited dances are not only imbued with Grieg's homeland's dark beauty, but they're also played in rip-roaring style by the Estonian National Symphony Orchestra.
Glazunov was a crafty master of melody, and it takes a great orchestra to bring out the best of them. Fortunately, the Minnesota Orchestra are more than capable on this cracking disc.
You really can't argue with Handel's Messiah, but there are so many recordings to choose from. Luckily, we've done the hard work and concluded that you can't go far wrong with this LPO double-disc special from 1946.
John Eliot Gardiner manages to coax out the sinewy intensity of the opening from one of Haydn's most free-form and experimental works. Involving and immersive stuff.
Some of Haydn's best-loved symphonies performed with total ease and composure by a fantastic orchestra and Sir Colin at the height of his powers. A treat from beginning to end.
Well, openings don't come much bigger than Mars, the opening movement from Holst's best-loved masterpiece. Sir Adrian Boult doesn't pull any punches, and makes sure the intensity is there from the very first note.
This impeccable cast recording brings out every ounce of frivolity in Kern's score to Showboat - much underrated these days.
James Ehnes' inspired readings of these modern classics are to be cherished - three fantastic works played by a young violinist with energy and ideas to spare.
Lehar's The Merry Widow is a firm favourite at Classic FM, but don't take our word for it. This superb recording is full of verve and vigour, as well as some serious retro charm.
Along with the complete Chopin, this is basically an essential piano purchase. Bolet is an undisputed master of interpretation, and this exhaustive collection of Liszt works is a total treat.
Simon Rattle has made some unforgettable recordings of Mahler's Resurrection, but this one is the original and best.
Another epic Mahler symphony, another epic performance. George Szell takes a firm hand with the fourth, and the results are a taut, rewarding experience.
Mahler's fifth is among his more popular and approachable works, but it still takes phenomenal orchestra and conductor to make it as accessible as it sounds here.
Haitink pulls out all the stops for this choral barnstormer. Mahler has rarely sounded so big as he does on this epic recording.
One of history's greatest composers conducted by one of Britain's greatest composers - what's not to like?
The trouble with Mozart recordings is that there are so many great ones to choose from. But when it came to Mozart's darkest opera, no-one handles it better than the Philharmonia and Giulini.
This riotous performance of one of the most famous operas of all time (all the hits are present and correct) is exhilarating stuff. Grab a translation, sit down and get lost in it.
From the jittering overture to the huge climax, The Marriage of Figaro is a masterclass in comic opera. And who better to show us how it's done than the Philharmonia under Giulini?
When it comes to the Horn Concertos, everyone tends to flock to the big-hitter, the Rondo from concerto no. 4. But Dennis Brain makes them all sound like hits - he's just that good.
The great Dennis Brain presides over these horn works, with typically attentive and able assistance from Herbert von Karajan.
This performance has a fine vintage, featuring the great Benjamin Britten holding the baton and the equally great Richter at the keys, delivering all the fun and frolics of one of Mozart's best piano concertos.
The jubilation associated with the annual New Year's Day concert is well and truly captured here, with the traditional programme and Karajan's typically exuberant conducting.
The stormy Shakespearean relationship to end all relationships is duly thrashed by an effervescent Previn and the LSO - tenderness, stress and romance all the way.
The bohemian idyll of Paris' Latin quarter is beautifully evoked by Puccini's score, but it's the cast that bring it to life on this scintillating recording.
It's not one of Puccini's better-known operas, but Gheorgiu and Alagna are magnetic as the two leads, and Pappano makes a sterling contribution from the podium.
Maria Callas lights up La Scala with her radiant performance, but she is perfectly matched by the rest of the cast and, indeed, La Scala's Orchestra and Chorus.
The great Stephen Hough presides over the Rach concertos with stylish flair, and the Paganini Rhapsody is every inch the romantic masterpiece under Litton's control.
This beast of a symphony is wrangled under control by Andre Previn, and the results are typically stunning. Nice shirt on the cover, too.
Monster piano concertos, tamed by the fingers of Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli. What more could any discerning piano fan ask for?
Who better than Herbert von Karajan to guide us through the orchestra works of Ravel, one of France's most lush and romantic composers?
This innovative work features recorded birdsong (a gimmick from the era when loudspeakers were something of a novelty), but it's the gorgeous, atmospheric orchestral work that lingers longer in the memory.
This exotic-sounding piece is given all the necessary heft and intrigue by the ever-listenable Gergiev.
Few people have more recognisable overtures to their name than Rossini, and here they're given glittering renditions on this fun disc from Giulini and the Philharmonia.
The Carnival of the Animals is always a joy to hear, but there's a great deal of maturity in this reading of the third symphony that makes it a real stand-out.
Clifford Curzon blends perfectly with the Weiner Oktett here, lending just the right amount of impish fun and nagging beauty to Schubert's Trout.
Sir Thomas Beecham turns these early Schubert symphonies into real monuments, with perfect clarity and infinite details to explore.
Swallisch's attention to detail here is the perfect compliment to Schumann's dense writing, and he manages to bring out the tiniest details with ease.
The first symphony is among Shostakovich's most raw and confusing compositions, so Andre Kostelanetz makes it is brutally entertaining as possible. Scintillating stuff.
This pairing of some of Shostakovich's best-known and least-known works is brought to life with attentive playing.
Elizabeth Schwarzkopf's fingerprints are all over this great recording, but she still lets Strauss' songs come to the fore.
One of Strauss' most enduring works is given the Karajan treatment in this epic and rewarding recording.
Another diamond Schawrtzkopf/Strauss pairing in which both elements combine to become greater than the sum of their parts.
Despite the slightly strange cover art (Karajan driving to rehearsal, maybe?), Strauss and the great conductor make a fine pair - the results on this superb collection are astonishing.
Steven Isserlis wrings out all the religiosity he can in this meditative piece, superbly captured and supported by the LSO.
Three giants of the violin repertoire taken on by one Jascha Heifetz - the results are stunning. Epic, intimate, furious and beautiful.
Tchaikovsky's last symphonies, including the heart-wrenching Pathetique, are given the treatment they deserve by the composer's fellow countrymen.
A match made in heaven. Andre and Smith combine to fantastic effect here, tackling trumpet repertoire from throughout history.
Tchaikovsky's tragic tale of a selfish anti-hero is brought to life with a superb cast and fantastic support from the workhorses at the Royal Opera House.
The legendary string quartet are on top form across this mammoth set effortlessly tackling the likes of Borodin, Mozart, Ravel and Schubert. Essential for string quartet aficionados.
Transport yourself to a punt on a sleepy canal with his fabulous and extensive set of British Light Music Classics, all under the assured baton of Ronald Corp.
The inimitable Stephen Hough records inimitable versions of some of his favourite composers' works. Chopin, Saint Saens and even Richard Rodgers all get a look-in - what's not to like?
Fiery stuff here from an on-form Hans Knappertsbusch, expertly directing one of Wagner's most enduring and all-encompassing dramas.
This one does exactly what it says on the tin - it's highlights from Wagner's Ring performed without the singing bits. More than anything it highlights what a wonderful orchestral writer Wagner could be.
Wagner's ghostly epic is brought to spooky and atmospheric life by the Bayreuth Festival choir and orchestra, not to mention the stirling solo work.
Trust Maria Callas to ooze class and poise in this most challenging of roles... La Traviata is a crowd-pleaser for sure, but few can please those crowds quite like Callas.
Heitor Villa-Lobos himself helms this superb recording of these legendary Brazilian works. Full of intrigue, fun and atmosphere, there's plenty to explore here.
There are countless recordings of this seminal Vivaldi work, but few capture the real poetic power of the suite quite as accurately and excitingly as Carmignola.
This showcase for the world's favourite counter-tenor is a perfect introduction to his repertoire. Few singers consider their songs as carefully as Scholl, so it's always a pleasure to get lost in one of his clever interpretations.