Best Classical to "broaden" listening arena?

I have come to "love" Yanni, Norah Jones, Sade, Sarah Brightman, etc.

Since I really appreciate individual instruments & have a fairly high end system with separation as a strong point--I am interested in which composer / group I should start my "classical" specific collection with?

On Audiogon, Classical seems to be the highest sold category thereby indicating high collectibility & listening by educated music lovers.

Thx in advance for your opinions,

Dr David Joned
First, start with the following CD: Best of the Millennium: Top 40 Classical Hits

It's not a perfect recording, but there's a great chance that you're familiar with almost all of the songs and the cover will even tell you where you have heard it in the past (i.e. commercials, etc.). I find that I enjoy music a lot more when it's familiar.

Second, I would suggest getting a few of the Jacques Loussier Trio CDs because they are classical music performed in a jazz style that I suspect you'll enjoy. I'd recommend The Four Seasons and The Brandenburgs, both are favorites in my collection.

Finally, I would suggest starting with smaller groups or concertos. I'm a huge fan of the violin. Here are a few suggestions:

(1) Lara St. John - Vivaldi: The Four Seasons; Piazzolla: The Four Seasons of Buenos Aires [Hybrid SACD]

(2) David Garrett - Pure Classics

(3) David Garrett - Tchaikovsky Conus: Violin Concertos

(4) Ning Feng - Solo

(5) Ning Feng - Paganini: Hello Mr. Paganini

(6) Regina Carter - Paganini: After a Dream (this is more jazz than classical, but you'll love it)

David Garrett also has several crossover/rock CDs that are excellent.

Ning Feng is probably my favorite violin player because he makes the absolute most difficult pieces musical in a way that I have not heard anyone else match. His music is very technical so that may not appeal to you, but the recommened CDs are fantastic recordings.
Among the composers who IMO should be on your initial short list, I would add Schubert, Chopin, Dvorak, and Schumann to those already suggested in Ojgalli's post. If opera may be of interest, Puccini. From the earlier Baroque period, Telemann and Handel. And for some fun stuff, that can often show off a high quality system to good advantage, try some music from the even earlier Renaissance period.

I would also suggest giving preference to recordings produced on labels that are recognized for consistently good sound quality. A lot of excellent musical material that has been put out over the years by the major labels is sonically ruined by excessive multi-mic'ing and processing, which may prove to be particularly discouraging during your initial explorations.

I have found the following labels to have provided excellent sounding recordings with a high degree of consistency, although unfortunately a number of them no longer exist:

Harmonia Mundi France
M&K Realtime
Mercury Living Presence re-issues
North Star
Pierre Verany
Reference Recordings
Sheffield Labs
Telarc (many are excellent; some will be disappointing)
Wilson Audio


-- Al
If you have a public library near you, most let you check out classical music cd's and see what you are drawn to.
Go to Amazon or other music sites and sample their music. The sites also will suggest similar works and what other people liked as well. It is free and you will get to hear 30 second clips to wet your whistle. (check out Frederick Fennell conducts Leroy Anderson @Amazon)!

Compilation/Sampler CDs from Chesky, Telarc, Reference Recordings etc, are also an easy way to get excellent quality at a fair price. HD tracks lets you hear first as well.
I assume you are looking for more specific recommendations, and especially some that are well recorded, spacious, and engaging. For violin, try some of Hillary Hahn's Sony recordings, such as Mozart, Barber & Meyer, Brahms & Stravinsky, Mendelsohn, and Elgar. For cello and piano, try Zuill Bailey's Telarc recording of Brahms works for cello and piano. All are quite accessible.