These are the Classical CDs

that everybody should possess, in my humble opinion.

A friend of mine, Wouter Greuell, has compiled his own favourites list.

I selected discs that are special in both music and performance. So, you will, for instance, not find "Die Zauberflöte", since I have no clear preference which recording you should buy...

Should this list be too short for you, you may check Gramophone's recommendations.

Composer Title Performer Label Comments

J.S. Bach

Cantatas
131 Aus der Tiefen
73 Herr, wie du willt
105 Herr, gehe nicht ins Gericht
Barbara Schlick (soprano), Gérard Lesne (alto), Howard Crook (tenor), Peter Kooy (bass)
Collegium Vocale Gent
Philippe Herreweghe
Virgin
0-7777-59237-2-8
 
  Cantatas
21 Ich hatte viel Bekümmernis
42 Am Abend aber desselbigen Sabbats
Barbara Schlick (soprano), Gérard Lesne (alto), Howard Crook (tenor), Peter Harvey, Peter Kooy (bass)
Collegium Vocale Gent
Philippe Herreweghe
Harmonia Mundi
HMC 901328
 
  Cantatas
8 Liebster Gott, wenn werd ich sterben
125 Mit Fried und Freud ich fahr dahin
138 Warum betrübst du dich, mein Herz
Deborah York (soprano), Ingeborg Danz (contralto), Mark Padmore (tenor), Peter Kooy (bass)
Collegium Vocale Gent
Philippe Herreweghe
Harmonia Mundi
HMC 901659
 
  Matthäuspassion BWV 244 Anthony Rolfe Johnson (evang), Andreas Schmidt (Christ), Barbara Bonney, Ann Monoyios (soprano), Anne Sofie von Otter, Michael Chance (contralto), Howard Crook (tenor), Olaf Bär (bar)
Monteverdi Choir, English Baroque Soloists
John Eliot Gardiner
DG Archiv
427 648-2
3 CDs
  Sonatas and Partitas BWV 1001-1006 Sigiswald Kuijken (violin) DHM
GD 77043
2 CDs
Mid price
  Clavierbüchlein: Partitas BWV 825-831; Italienisches Konzert BWV 971 Andreas Staier (harpsichord) DHM
05472 77306-2
3 CDs
  Violin and harpsichord sonatas BWV 1014-1019a Monica Huggett (violin), Ton Koopman (harpsichord) Philips
410 401-2
2 CDs
Deleted!!!

W.A. Mozart

Idomeneo Rolfe Johnson, von Otter, McNair, Martinpelto
Monteverdi Ch, Eng Baroque Sol
John Eliot Gardiner
DG Archiv
431 674-2
3 CDs
  Sonatas for violin and fortepiano KV 296, 376-380 Jaap Schröder (violin), Jos van Immerseel (fortepiano) DHM 2 separate CDs
Deleted!!!
Bargain price
 
  Sonatas for violin and fortepiano KV 454, 481, 625 Jaap Schröder (violin), Lambert Orkis (fortepiano) Virgin Veritas
VC 7 91131-2

Deleted!!!
 
  Divertimento KV 563 Gidon Kremer (violin), Kim Kashkashian (viola), Yo-Yo Ma (cello) Sony
MK 39561
 
  Piano Concertos Malcolm Bilson (fortepiano)
Eng Baroque Sol
John Eliot Gardiner
DG Archiv Current favourites: nr 17 KV 453, nr 20 KV 466, nr 27 KV 595
  Symphony 25 in g KV 183 Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra
Ton Koopman
Erato
2292-45431-2
With Symphonies 29 and 33

L. van Beethoven

Piano Sonatas Emil Gilels DG
453 221-2
9 CDs
Bargain price
Also separately at full price
  String Quartets Quartetto Italiano Philips 11 CDs
Bargain price
Also available as 3 mid price boxes
  Symphony 5, Op 67; 7, Op 92 Wiener Philharmoniker
Carlos Kleiber
DG The Originals
447 400-2
Mid price

Franz Schubert

Piano Sonatas D 958, 959, 960 Andreas Staier Teldec Das Alte Werk
0630-13143-2
2 CDs
  Fantasie D 940 Murray Perahia, Radu Lupu Sony
MK 39511
With Mozart KV 448
  String Quintet D 956 Alban Berg-Quartett, Heinrich Schiff EMI
CDC 7 47018-2
 

Schubert, Schumann, Mendelssohn

Heine-Lieder from Schwanengesang (Schubert); Dichterliebe (Schumann) Christoph Prégardien, Andreas Staier DHM
05472 77319-2
 

F. Mendelssohn

String Quartets Op 13, 80 Carmina Quartet Denon  

Frédéric Chopin

10 Mazurkas, Prélude Op 45, Ballade Op 23, Scherzo Op 31 Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli DG
413 449-2
 

César Franck, Claude Debussy

Violin Sonatas Kyung Wha Chung (violin), Radu Lupu (piano) Decca Chamber Music
421 154-2
Mid price
With Introduction et Allegro (Ravel); Sonata flute, viola, harp (Debussy) by Melos Ens

Alexandr Borodin

String Quartets Borodin Quartet EMI
CDC 7 47795-2
 

Johannes Brahms

Quintets, Sextets Carl Leister, clarinet; Daniel Barenboim, piano Amadeus Quartett etc. DG Chamber Music
419 875-2
3 CDs
Mid price
All-time Clarinet Quintet
  Rhapsodien Op 79, Intermezzi Op 117, Klavierstücke Op 118, 119 Radu Lupu Decca
417 599-2
 

Antonin Dvorak

Cello Concerto Mstislav Rostropovich
Berliner Philharmoniker
Herbert von Karajaon
DG The Originals
447 413-2
With Tchaikovky Rococo Variations
Mid price

Carl Nielsen

Symphony 4 "The Inextinguishable" Berliner Philharmoniker
Herbert von Karajaon
DG Masters
445 518-2
With Sibelius' Tapiola
Mid price

Hugo Wolf

Lieder Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Daniel Barenboim DG
447 515-2
6 CDs
Bargain price

Gustav Mahler

Das Lied von der Erde Christa Ludwig (contralto), René Kollo (tenor)
Berliner Philharmoniker
Herbert von Karajan
DG Galleria
419 058-2
Mid price
  Symphony 9; Kindertotenlieder; Rückert-Lieder Christa Ludwig (contralto)
Berliner Philharmoniker
Herbert von Karajan
DG Double
439 678-2
2 CDs
Mid price

Richard Strauss

Vier letzte Lieder Gundula Janowitz
Berliner Philharmoniker
Herbert von Karajan
DG Originals
447 422-2
With Tod und Verklärung and Metamorphosen
Mid price

Alban Berg

Wozzeck Franz Grundheber, Hildegard Behrens etc
Wiener Philharmoniker
Claudio Abbado
DG
423 857-2
2 CDs

Bela Bartok

Bluebeard's Castle Christa Ludwig, Walter Berry
London Symphony Orchestra
Istvan Kertesz
Decca
443 571-2
Bargain price
  String Quartets Takács Quartet Decca
455 297-2
2 CDs
  Piano Concerto 3 Deszö Ranki
Hungarian State Orchestra
Janos Ferencsik
Hungaroton
HCD 31036
With Allegro Barbaro etc.
Mid price
  Concerto for Orchestra; Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Fritz Reiner
RCA Living Stereo
09026 62504-2
Mid price

Arthur Honegger

Symphony 2 Berliner Philharmoniker
Herbert von Karajan
DG The Originals
447 435-2
Mid price
With Symphony 3 "Liturgique"; Basler Konzert (Stravinsky)

Dmitri Shostakovich

Violin Concertos David Oistrakh
Leningrad PhO, Mravinsky
Moskow PhO, Kondrashin
RCA Mid price

And these CDs are also very much worthwhile:

Composer Title Performer Label Comments

J.S. Bach

Cantatas
82 Ich habe genug
49 Ich geh' und suche mit Verlangen
58 Ach Gott, wie manches Herzeleid
Nancy Argenta (soprano), Klaus Mertens (bass)
La Petite Bande
Sigiswald Kuijken
Accent
ACC 9395 D
 
  Cantatas under Herreweghe. All are safe to buy. The list (see also above):
11, 43, 44
29, 119, 120
35, 53, 170
39, 93, 107
56, 82, 158
57, 110, 122
66 + Osteroratorium BWV 249
78, 198
80 + Magnificat BWV 243
Motets BWV 225-230
Missae BWV 234, 235 + Sanctus BWV 238
Missae BWV 233, 236
Many soloists, always involving Peter Kooy (bass)
Collegium Vocale Gent
Philippe Herreweghe
HMC (Virgin for 39, 93, 107 and the Missae)
separate disks
 
  Cantatas
54 Widerstehe doch der Sünde
169 Gott soll allein mein Herze haben
170 Vergnügte Ruh', beliebte Seelenlust
James Bowman (alto)
The King's Consort
Robert King
Hyperion
CDA66326
 
  Cantatas
180 Schmücke dich, o liebe Seele
49 Ich geh' und suche mit Verlangen
115 Mache dich, mein Geist, bereit
85 Ich bin ein guter Hirt
183 Sie werden euch in den Bann tun
199 Mein Herze schwimmt in Blut
175 Er rufet seinen Schafen mit Namen
41 Jesu, nun sei gepreiset
6 Bleib bei uns
68 Also Gott die Welt geliebt
Barbara Schlick (soprano), Andreas Scholl (altus), Christoph Prégardien (tenor), Gotthold Schwarz (bass)
Concerto Vocale Leipzig, Choeur de Chambre Accentus, Ens Bar Limoges
Christophe Coin
Astrée
E 8530
E 8544
E 8555
3 CDs
Mid price
Also available as three separate discs (180 + 49 + 115; 85 + 183 + 199 + 175; 41 + 6 + 68) at full price
  Johannespassion BWV 245 Christoph Prégardien (evang), Harry van der Kamp (Christ), Barbara Schlick (soprano), René Jacobs (altus), Nico van der Meel (tenor), Max van Egmond (bass)
La Petite Bande
Sigiswald Kuijken
DHM 2 CDs
Mid price
  Violin and harpsichord sonatas BWV 1014-1019a, 1021, 1023, 1024, Toccata & Fuga BWV 565 Andrew Manze (violin), Richard Eggarr (harpsichord), Jaap ter Linden (vc) HMU
907250.51
2 CDs

W.F. Bach

6 Duets Falck 54-59 Barthold Kuijken, Marc Hantaï (traverso) Accent
ACC 9057 D
 

Ch.W. von Gluck

Orfeo ed Euridice Sylvia McNair, Derek Lee Ragin, Cynthia Sieden
Monteverdi Choir, English Baroque Soloists
John Eliot Gardiner
Philips
434 093-2
 

W.A. Mozart

Symphony 40 in g KV 550 Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra
Ton Koopman
Erato
0630-12724-2
With Symphony 39

L. van Beethoven

Piano Sonatas 26 Op 81a "Les Adieux", 29 Op 106 "Hammerklavier" Alfred Brendel Philips
446 093-2
 

Franz Schubert

String Quartet D 810 "Tod und das Mädchen" Vermeer Quartet Teldec Digital Experience
9031-74782-3
With Trout Quintet (Haydn-Trio)
Bargain price
  String Quartet 15 D 887 Tokyo Quartet RCA Victor
RD 60199
 

A. Dvorak, F. Mendelssohn

String Quartets Op. 96, B. 179 "American" (Dvorak); Op. 12 (Mendelssohn) Orlando Quartet Philips
420 396-2
Deleted!!!
  Piano Trio 1 Op. 8 (Brahms); 1 Op 49 (Mendelssohn) Chung Trio Decca
421 425-2
 

Robert Schumann

Lieder Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Christoph Eschenbach DG
6 CDs
Bargain price
  Symphonies 1-4, Manfred Overture Cleveland Orchestra
George Szell
Sony Masterworks Heritage
MH2K 62349
2 CDs, mid price

Richard Wagner

Ring des Nibelungen Berliner Philharmoniker
Herbert von Karajan
DG The Originals
439 678-2
15 CDs
Bargain price

P.I. Tchaikovsky

String Quartet 3 Op 30 Carmina-Quartett Tudor
770
 

A. Dvorak

Piano Quintet Op 81, B. 155; String Quartet Op 96, B. 179 "American" Hiroko Nakamura (piano), Tokyo String Quartet Sony
MK 44920
 
  Piano Trio 1, 3 Chung Trio Decca
421 118-2
 

Anton Bruckner

Symphony 8 Wiener Philharmoniker
Carlo Maria Giulini
DG Masters
445 529-2
2 CDs
Mid price
  Symphony 9 Wiener Philharmoniker
Carlo Maria Giulini
DG
427 345-2
 

Hugo Wolf

Lieder, a.o. Kennst du das Land, Gesang Weylas Anne Sofie von Otter, Ralf Gothoni DG
432 666-2
With Mahler Lieder

Leos Janacek

Kata Kabanova Elisabeth Söderström, Pter Dvorsky, Nadezda Kniplova
Wiener Staatsopernchor, Wiener Philharmoniker
Sir Charles Mackerras
Decca
421 852-2
2 CDs
  Mladi Basel Sextett Denon Deleted!
With Schönberg, Bach

Gustav Mahler

Symphony 5 Wiener Philharmoniker
Leonard Bernstein
DG
423 608-2
 
  Symphony 6 Wiener Philharmoniker
Leonard Bernstein
DG
427 697-2
With Kindertotenlieder (Hampson)
2 CDs

Alban Berg

Lulu Suite; 3 Orchesterstücke Op 6; Altenberglieder Op 4 Margaret Price (soprano)
London Symphony Orchestra
Claudio Abbado
DG Originals Mid price
  Kammerkonzert (Berg) Thomas Zehermair (violin), Oleg Maisenberg (piano)
Chamber Orch Europe
Heinz Holliger
Teldec
2292-460129-2
With Kammersymphonie 1 (Arnold Schönberg)

Maurice Ravel

Orchestral Works Orchestre Symphonique de Montreal
Charles Dutoit
Decca Ovation
421 458-2
4 CDs
Mid price

Dmitri Shostakovich

String Quartets; Piano Quintet Borodin Quartet
Sviatoslav Richter
Melodiya
74321 40711-2
6 CDs
Super-bargain price
  Symphony nr 13 "Babi Yar" Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra
Choirs Russian Rep.
Arthur Eisen (bass)
Kirill Kondrashin
Melodiya
74321 19842-2
Super-bargain price