Classical Best Versions

What Is The Very Best Version?

In a catalogue that lists over 200 recordings of Vivaldi's "The Four Seasons", and even 60 versions of Orff's "Carmina Burana", which is the very best?

With the help of Gramophone, Penguin Stereo Guide, BBC Music, and our own ears, we have put together the definitive guide to the popular classics.

Here are a selection of recommended recordings that should find a place in everyone's collection.

Displaying items 1 to 40 of 224

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String Quartets Nos 1 & 2 cover
add to cart $25.00 Out of Stock
2-4 weeks
ENESCU
String Quartets Nos 1 & 2
Ad Libitum Quartet
[ Naxos / CD - released 1/May/2001 ]
2001 GRAMOPHONE AWARD FINALIST - Chamber
Satie: Gymnopedies and other piano works cover
add to cart $20.00 Low Stock
ERIK SATIE
Satie: Gymnopedies and other piano works
Aldo Ciccolini (piano)
[ Warner Classics Original Jacket Reissues / EMI / CD - released 20/Apr/2015 ]
"No more committed or convincing champion of this music could be found than Ciccolini, who equally well conveys, for example, the tenderness of the fifth Gnossienne, the pre-Poulenc pert humour and charm of the Morceaux en forme de poire and the...
MARBECKS COLLECTABLE: Shostakovich: The preludes and fugues cover
add to cart $45.00 Low Stock
DMITRI SHOSTAKOVICH
MARBECKS COLLECTABLE: Shostakovich: The preludes and fugues
Alexander Melnikov (piano)
[ Harmonia Mundi / 2 CD - released 10/Apr/2015 ]
"Melnikov unquestionably gives an impression of freshness and daring, as if he's discovering the music for the first time." (BBC Music Award WINNER 2011 - Instrumental)
Shostakovich: Piano Concertos nos.1 & 2 / Sonata for violin and piano op.134 cover
add to cart $35.00 Out of Stock
2-4 weeks
DMITRI SHOSTAKOVICH
Shostakovich: Piano Concertos nos.1 & 2 / Sonata for violin and piano op.134
Alexander Melnikov (piano) / Mahler Chamber Orchestra, Teodor Currentzis, with Isabelle Faust (violin)
[ Harmonia Mundi / CD - released 20/Feb/2012 ]
"He makes his case well. The First Concerto is all rampaging dissonances and erotic regret; the Second (1957) masks nerve-racking syncopations beneath its surface brilliance...[the sonata] a compelling performance in which logic and rhetoric combine...
Mozart: Violin Sonatas Vol 1 cover
add to cart $30.00 In Stock
W. A. MOZART
Mozart: Violin Sonatas Vol 1
Alina Ibragimova (violin), Cédric Tiberghien (piano)
[ Hyperion / 2 CD - released 1/Apr/2016 ]
"It is difficult to imagine [these sonatas] better played" (Five Stars BBC Music)
Shostakovich: Violin Concertos Nos 1 & 2 cover
add to cart $30.00 In Stock
DMITRI SHOSTAKOVICH
Shostakovich: Violin Concertos Nos 1 & 2
Alina Ibragimova (violin), State Academic Symphony Orchestra of Russia 'Evgeny Svetlanov', Vladimir Jurowski (conductor)
[ Hyperion / CD - released 5/Jun/2020 ]
GRAMOPHONE Award WINNER 2021 - Concerto BBC Music Award Nomination 2021 - Concerto
String Quartets: Brahms Nos.1-3; Dvořák No.12 'American'; Haydn Op.76/3 'Emperor' cover
add to cart $30.00 Out of Stock
2-4 weeks
JOHANNES BRAHMS / ANTONIN DVORAK / JOSEPH HAYDN
String Quartets: Brahms Nos.1-3; Dvořák No.12 'American'; Haydn Op.76/3 'Emperor'
Amadeus Quartet
[ Alto / CD - released 17/Feb/2023 ]
"I'm struck afresh by the power, precision and sheer puissance of their music-making … The Brahms quartet recordings remain 'outstanding'; affectionate but free of affection, considered yet vitally spontaneous" [Dvořák]: "strongly conceived, full of...
Bach: Partitas BWV825-BWV830 cover
add to cart $60.00 Low Stock
J. S. BACH
Bach: Partitas BWV825-BWV830
Andras Schiff (piano)
[ ECM Records / 2 CD - released 1/Apr/2009 ]
MARBECKS STAFF PICK: CD OF THE YEAR 2009 MUSICWEB UK RECORDING OF THE MONTH "Schiff's…unashamedly and masterfully pianistic, contrasting sustained tone and light staccato teasing out fragmentary motifs." BBC Music
Bach: Well-Tempered Clavier Books 1 & 2 cover
add to cart $80.00 Out of Stock
2-4 weeks
J. S. BACH
Bach: Well-Tempered Clavier Books 1 & 2
Andras Schiff (piano)
[ ECM New Series / 4 CD Box Set - released 20/Sep/2012 ]
GRAMOPHONE AWARD FINALIST 2013: Instrumental
Goldberg Variations cover
add to cart $40.00 Low Stock
J.S. BACH
Goldberg Variations
Andras Schiff (piano)
[ ECM Records / CD - released 5/Oct/2003 ]
""Great" is not a word to be used casually when it comes to CDs, but no other term does justice. Lucidity, elegance and strength are all here and exquisitely balanced. The definitive Goldberg? As far as I'm concerned, yes." Ann Picard, Independent...
Verdi: Aida (complete opera recorded in 2015) cover
add to cart $35.00 In Stock
MARBECKS COLLECTABLE: Bach (C.P.E.): Cello Concertos, Symphonies cover
add to cart $25.00 Low Stock
C.P.E. BACH
MARBECKS COLLECTABLE: Bach (C.P.E.): Cello Concertos, Symphonies
Anner Bylsma (cello) / Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment / Gustav Leonhardt
[ Erato Veritas / 2 CD - released 5/Jul/2000 ]
[Cello Concertos Wq.170-2] 'It is difficult to imagine a better partnership to provide authentic versions of these three fine works.' Penguin Guide
Mendelssohn: Violin Concerto / Bruch: Violin Concerto No 1 cover
add to cart $28.00 Out of Stock
FELIX MENDELSSOHN / MAX BRUCH
Mendelssohn: Violin Concerto / Bruch: Violin Concerto No 1
Anne-Sophie Mutter (violin) / Berlin Philharmonic, Herbert von Karajan
[ Deutsche Grammophon The Originals / CD - released 1/Apr/2002 ]
"Anne-Sophie Mutter's approach communicates vividly to the listener, creating the feeling of hearing the work anew" Penguin Guide to Compact Discs)
Mozart: Clarinet Concerto in A major, K622 / Oboe Concerto In C major, K314 cover
add to cart $36.00 Out of Stock
W. A. MOZART
Mozart: Clarinet Concerto in A major, K622 / Oboe Concerto In C major, K314
Anthony Pay (clarinet) Michel Piguet (oboe) / The Academy of Ancient Music / Christopher Hogwood
[ Decca / CD - released 9/Mar/2007 ]
"Anthony Pay's basset clarinet adds wonderfully oily low notes and his playing has all the range, clarity and vigour needed to bring this well-known work to new life." (KC)
Solo Piano Works: Sonata In E Major D157 / Sonata In G Major D894 / etc cover
add to cart $20.00 Out of Stock
FRANZ SCHUBERT
Solo Piano Works: Sonata In E Major D157 / Sonata In G Major D894 / etc
Arcadi Volodos (piano)
[ Sony Classics / CD - released 18/Mar/2002 ]
1001 Classical recordings to hear before you die (1801-1850) - Gramophone Magazine - Recording of the month (June 2002)
In C cover
add to cart $37.00 Out of Stock
2-4 weeks
TERRY RILEY
In C
Ars Nova Copenhagen / Percurama Percussion Ensemble / Paul Hillier
[ DaCapo / CD - released 1/Mar/2007 ]
Terry Riley's 1964 masterpiece "In C" is probably the first masterpiece of US minimalism. From Paul Hillier of Hilliard Ensemble reknown comes a new version of this semi-improvised piece performed by mallet percussion and voices.
Violin Sonatas and Partitas cover
add to cart $27.00 Out of Stock
J.S. BACH
Violin Sonatas and Partitas
Arthur Grumiaux (violin) Egida Giordani Sartori (harpsichord)
[ Philips Originals / 2 CD - released 15/Apr/2006 ]
1001 Recordings to hear before you die - "Grumiaux comes closer than any other violinist I have heard to an ideal performance ..There is a kind of honesty to Bach's intentions here...that I find deeply impressive and often very exciting." Gramophone
Rachmaninov: Piano Concerto No 4 (with Ravel - Piano Concerto in G) cover
add to cart $20.00 Low Stock
SERGEI RACHMANINOV
Rachmaninov: Piano Concerto No 4 (with Ravel - Piano Concerto in G)
Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli (Piano) / Philharmonia Orchestra, Ettore Gracis
[ Warner Classics Original Jacket Reissues / CD - released 20/Apr/2015 ]
1001 Classical recordings you must hear before you die (1901-1950) 50 GREATEST RECORDINGS OF ALL TIME (No 18) - BBC MUSIC
Bach: Overtures (Four Orchestral Suites) cover
add to cart $35.00 Out of Stock
2-4 weeks
J. S. BACH
Bach: Overtures (Four Orchestral Suites)
Bach Collegium Japan / Masaaki Suzuki
[ BIS SACD / 2 Hybrid SACD - released 1/Aug/2005 ]
"These performances are magnificent, and offering two SACDs for the price of one makes them a good deal too. Suzuki does more than just play the music very well: he evokes its purpose, social milieu, and lavishness of content in such a way that...
Dvorak: Symphony No. 9 in E minor, Op. 95, From the New World / Symphonic Variations Op. 78 cover
add to cart $25.00 Low Stock
ANTONIN DVORAK
Dvorak: Symphony No. 9 in E minor, Op. 95, From the New World / Symphonic Variations Op. 78
Baltimore Symphony Orchestra / Marin Alsop
[ Naxos / CD - released 1/Jul/2008 ]
"The Largo is given one of the most perfectly shaped and unaffectedly styraightforward performances I have heard, led by a magnificently vocal cor anglais solo." Disc of the Month (BBC Music Magazine July 2008)
Mozart: Requiem KV 626 cover
add to cart $42.00 Out of Stock
W. A. MOZART
Mozart: Requiem KV 626
Barbara Bonney, Anne Sofie Von Otter, Willard White / Monteverdi Choir / English Baroque / Sir John Eliot Gardiner
[ Philips / CD - released 12/Dec/2005 ]
"John Elliot Gardiner with characteristic panache gives one of the most powerful performances on record" *** Three Stars. Penguin Stereo Guide.
Bach Transcriptions (arrangements by great composers) cover
add to cart $35.00 Out of Stock
2-4 weeks
J. S. BACH
Bach Transcriptions (arrangements by great composers)
BBC Philharmonic / Leonard Slatkin
[ Chandos Classics / CD - released 5/Jul/2000 ]
Editor's Choice - Gramophone Magazine (Oct 2000) - Five Stars (*****) Classic CD (Oct 2000)
Holst: The Planets / Egdon Heath cover
add to cart $20.00 Out of Stock
GUSTAV HOLST
Holst: The Planets / Egdon Heath
BBC Symphony Orchestra & Chorus, Andrew Davis
[ Warner Classics Apex / CD - released 1/Apr/2016 ]
1001 Classical recordings you must hear before you die (1901-1950) "An unmissable opportunity to test fresh musical waters....price, presentation and repertory selections, all are bang on target." Gramophone Magazine
Bach: Goldberg Variations cover
add to cart $30.00 Low Stock
J. S. BACH
Bach: Goldberg Variations
Beatrice Rana (piano)
[ Warner Classics / CD - released 1/Mar/2017 ]
"Her detailing is one of the aspects that makes this performance so compelling, be it the bringing out of a new line in the repeat, subtle changes in phrasing, a touch of pedal - examples are to be found in every single variation." Gramophone
Grieg: Holberg Suite / Two Elegiac Melodies / Two Lyric Pieces / etc cover
add to cart $35.00 Out of Stock
2-4 weeks
EDWARD GRIEG
Grieg: Holberg Suite / Two Elegiac Melodies / Two Lyric Pieces / etc
Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra / Ole Kristian Ruud (conductor)
[ BIS SACD / Hybrid SACD - released 1/Nov/2005 ]
"This is simply the most beautiful record of Grieg's string music in the catalogue, and one of the most beautiful and realistic recordings of strings we have ever heard. Try and hear the disc on SACD equipment with four speakers, and you will be...
Tchaikovsky: Swan Lake / Nutcracker / Sleeping Beauty (Ballet Suites) cover
add to cart $25.00 Out of Stock
PYOTR Il'yich TCHAIKOVSKY
Tchaikovsky: Swan Lake / Nutcracker / Sleeping Beauty (Ballet Suites)
Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, Mstislav Rostropovich.
[ Deutsche Grammophon The Originals / CD - released 5/May/2001 ]
'Rostropovich's trypich of Tchaikovsky ballets is very special. The remastering, always outstanding. Now approaches demonstration standard. 69 minutes of sheer joy.' - Rosette (highest rating) Penguin Guide
Cosi fan tutte (Complete opera) cover
add to cart $62.99 Out of Stock
2-4 weeks
W.A. MOZART
Cosi fan tutte (Complete opera)
Bernarda Fink (soprano) Veronique Gens (soprano) Werner Gura (tenor) Marcel Boone (baritone) / Concerto Koln / Rene Jacobs
[ Harmonia Mundi Mozart Edition / 3 CD - released 1/Oct/2005 ]
"The bite and clarity of the orchestral playing are revelatory...Once again, this greatest of operas amazes and beguiles. We scarcely need another recording...but this is one I would not willingly be without, especially because of the singers'...
MARBECKS COLLECTABLE: Beethoven: Symphony No 6 'Pastoral' / Overtures: 'Coriolan' & 'Prometheus' / 'Egmont'-Overture & Incidental Music (recorded 1957 cover
add to cart $25.00 Low Stock
LUDWIG van BEETHOVEN
MARBECKS COLLECTABLE: Beethoven: Symphony No 6 'Pastoral' / Overtures: 'Coriolan' & 'Prometheus' / 'Egmont'-Overture & Incidental Music (recorded 1957
Birgit Nilsson (soprano) / Philharmonia Orchestra / Otto Klemperer
[ EMI Great Recordings of the Century / CD - released 15/Feb/2003 ]
"Klemperer's account of the Pastoral is one of the very finest of all his records." (Penguin Guide to Compact Discs)
Bartok: Miraculous Mandarin (The) (Complete Ballet) / Hungarian Pictures / Dance Suite cover
add to cart $28.00 Out of Stock
2-4 weeks
BELA BARTOK
Bartok: Miraculous Mandarin (The) (Complete Ballet) / Hungarian Pictures / Dance Suite
Bournemouth Symphony Chorus / Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra / Marin Alsop, conductor
[ Naxos SACD / Hybrid SACD - released 17/Apr/2005 ]
"There's really no reason not to acquire this CD" International record review (June 2005)
Mozart: Horn Concertos Nos. 1 - 4 / Quintet for piano & winds cover
add to cart $20.00 Out of Stock
W. A. MOZART
Mozart: Horn Concertos Nos. 1 - 4 / Quintet for piano & winds
Dennis Brain (horn) / Dennis Brain Wind Ensemble / Philharmonia Orchestra, Herbert von Karajan
[ Warner Classics Masters / CD - released 13/Feb/2012 ]
'Truly an all-time classic. Timelessly neat and elegant orchestral playing under Karajan accompanies Dennis Brain's flawless and characterful horn playing.' ('The Gramophone' Good CD Guide, 2005)
Bach: Missae Breves (Lutheran Masses) - BWV233, BWV234, BWV235 and BWV236 cover
add to cart $35.00 Out of Stock
2-4 weeks
J. S. BACH
Bach: Missae Breves (Lutheran Masses) - BWV233, BWV234, BWV235 and BWV236
Cantus Colln / Konrad Junghanel
[ Harmonia Mundi Gold / 2 CD - released 1/Mar/2018 ]
"Konrad Junghänel brings finesse and clarity to the music, but there is also plenty of excitement… Cantus Cölln's unity of approach between voices and instruments is outstanding." BBC Music Magazine, October 2008
Haydn, (M.): Requiem & Mass cover
add to cart $30.00 Out of Stock
2-4 weeks
MICHAEL HAYDN
Haydn, (M.): Requiem & Mass
Carolyn Sampson (soprano) Hilary Summers (alto) James Gilchrist (tenor) Peter Harvey (bass) / King's Consort / Robert King
[ Hyperion / 2 CD - released 13/Apr/2005 ]
"King and his forces give the Mass a satisfyingly spirited performance, but these discs are memorable for their fine recording of Michael Haydn's astonishing Requiem. This must be one of my records of the year and I do urge you to buy it." -...
Cecilia & Bryn: Duets cover
add to cart $35.00 In Stock
MOZART / ROSSINI / DONIZETTI
Cecilia & Bryn: Duets
Cecilia Bartoli (soprano) Bryn Terfel (bass) / Orchestra dell'Accademia di Santa
[ Decca Records / CD - released 2/May/2001 ]
The world's leading mezzo-soprano and the world's greatest baritone combine!
O magnum mysterium cover
add to cart $30.00 Out of Stock
2-4 weeks
VICTORIA
O magnum mysterium
Choir of Westminster Cathedral / David Hill (conductor)
[ Hyperion / CD - released 25/May/2005 ]
GRAMOPHONE CRITICS' CHOICE 'Superb music, and the listener is thrillingly involved when the sound so successfully combines immediacy and body, yet remains admirably coloured by the Westminster resonance' (The Penguin Guide to Compact Discs)
Durufle: Requiem / Quatre Motets / Messe cum Jubilo / etc cover
add to cart $30.00 Out of Stock
2-4 weeks
MAURICE DURUFLE
Durufle: Requiem / Quatre Motets / Messe cum Jubilo / etc
Choir of Westminster Cathedral / James O'Donnell (conductor) with Aaron Webber (treble) and Simon Keenlyside (baritone)
[ Hyperion / CD - released 25/May/2005 ]
'The Westminster Cathedral boys and men carry the lyricism and harmonic luxuriance to an ethereal plane. The choral singing is superb ... helping one to bathe in Duruflé's sumptuous ideas' (The Daily Telegraph)
Mahler: Das Lied von der Erde cover
add to cart $20.00 Out of Stock
GUSTAV MAHLER
Mahler: Das Lied von der Erde
Christa Ludwig, Fritz Wunderlich / Philharmonia & New Philharmonia, Otto Klemperer
[ Warner Classics Original Jacket Reissues / CD - released 22/Aug/2015 ]
1001 Classical recordings you must hear before you die (1901-1950) - "....not likely to be outshone for a long time" (Gramophone)
MARBECKS COLLECTABLE: Mahler: Symphony No. 9 in D major / Kindertotenlieder / Rückert-Lieder cover
add to cart $35.00 Low Stock
GUSTAV MAHLER
MARBECKS COLLECTABLE: Mahler: Symphony No. 9 in D major / Kindertotenlieder / Rückert-Lieder
Christa Ludwig (mezzo) / Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, Herbert von Karajan
[ Deutsche Grammophon / 2 CD - released 10/Oct/2014 ]
"Certainly this is the finest live performance of a Mahler symphony to have appeared on any kind of record since Mengelberg's 1939 account of the Fourth Symphony." Gramophone Top Ten Mahler Symphonies of all time
Mozart: Requiem in D minor, K626 cover
add to cart $35.00 Out of Stock
W. A. MOZART
Mozart: Requiem in D minor, K626
Christine Schafer (sop) Bernarda Fink (mezzo) Kurt Streit (tenor) Gerald Finley (baritone) / Vienna Concentus Musicus / Nikolaus Harnoncourt
[ Deutsche Harmonia Mundi / CD - released 2/Jul/2004 ]
"Subtle realism imbues Harnoncourt's deeply considered second recording" Editor's Choice Gramophone July 2004
Prokofiev: Cinderella (Complete Ballet) / Glazunov: The Seasons cover
add to cart $42.00 Out of Stock
SERGEI PROKOFIEV / ALEXANDER GLAZUNOV
Prokofiev: Cinderella (Complete Ballet) / Glazunov: The Seasons
Cleveland Orchestra / Royal Philharmonic / Vladimir Ashkenazy
[ Double Decca / 2 CD - released 12/Jul/2000 ]
"Ashkenazy gets excellent results from the Cleveland orchestra. The recording's fine definition is enchanced, yet not at the expense of atmosphere, and the bright, vivid image is given striking projection." (Penguin Stereo Guide)
Mozart: Eine kleine Nachtmusik / Serenata Notturna / etc cover
add to cart $35.00 Out of Stock
2-4 weeks
W. A. MOZART
Mozart: Eine kleine Nachtmusik / Serenata Notturna / etc
Concert des Nations, Jordi Savall
[ Alia Vox SACD / Hybrid SACD - released 30/May/2008 ]
"Savall sets some brisk tempos, particularly for the slow movement of Eine kleine Nachtmusik, but they're convincing. …it's vivid playing from everyone, well defined in outline and responding imaginatively to the varied character of Mozart's music."