Which composer would you recommend as an introduction to classical music? Explain your reasons for your choice.

Which composer would you recommend as an introduction to classical music? Explain your reasons for your choice.
I'd start with
81% (121 votes)
Haven't a clue
19% (29 votes)
Total votes: 150

Reader "max" says he has a young friend who "wants to try classical music, but does not know where to start." Which single composer would you recommend to introduce someone to classical music? And why?

gsn's picture


Andy's picture

Stravinsky's Rites of Spring & The Firebird. His approach may resound better with today's listeners.

Sam's picture

I would start with Beethoven because he wrote a lot of music that is easy to listen to, such as his violin concerto or his symphonies, yet one can hear it over and over without tiring of it, all the while gaining greater understanding and appreciation of it. Also, in his music, one can spot Beethoven's rebelliousness against established musical practice, as well as events from every day life. For example, in the third movement of his Pathetique sonata for piano, every once in a while there is a loud, piercing note high in the treble, which is like going about normal activities at home, and then all of a sudden hearing a child scream. It scares the wits out of you, but you go and check, and he or she was just playing. So for me, his music is very relatable.

g's picture

Ludwig van Beethoven: Powerful music with lots of emotion.

Daniel's picture

I'd pick Gustav Holst, specifically a good version of The Planets like the one on the Apex label. There's a good variety of moods, melodies and textures, from delicacy to full-on assault.

Eric's picture

It all depends on the listener. If they are curious and enthusiastic, I would recommend Mozart. If they're cynical and indifferent I would recommend Leroy Anderson, no joke. Obviously there is not much of a comparison between the two, but they both display a level of craft that is at once immediately accessible and also stands up to closer inspection.

Matt's picture

Beethoven. Fun & genius in one.

Laura in Spokane's picture

I don't have a clue. I'm pretty much a rock 'n' roll girl and the closest I come to classical music in my collection would be Emerson Lake & Palmer's interpretation of Musgorsky's Pictures at an Exhibition. An awesome album.

selfdivider's picture

Stockhausen. Just kidding. Since max's friend is young, I'd recommend Rachmaninoff. Emotionally acceessible, intuitive music that's harmonically dense & colorful, with big, big sound. Hummable.

Igor Cerneka, Croatia's picture

The Mystery Sonatas, composed by Heinrich Biber, played by John Holloway and Tragicomedia, issued by Virgin Classics. Holoway's barock violin playing is real magic and the recording is one of the best I have heard. Pure pleasure for starting the baroque adventure.

Sean Patterson's picture

Brahms. He is a bridge between the classical period and the modern period.

Carl's picture

Just one? Beethoven. Familiar and excellent. Your friend will recognize some of the music but will find pieces that are new as well. The 9th Symphony and 2nd Symphony for example. Both outstanding and quite different. I could go on for a while, but you get the point.

Pradeep's picture

Vivaldi's The Four Seasons for it is easy to understand and appreciate in just one listening.

Dimitris Gogas's picture

Modest Mussorgsky. His music is so diverse it can even sound like rock 'n roll, yet it's not too complicated for someone new to classical music.

steve's picture

Tchaikovsky. Melodic, sensuous, "accessible."

EP's picture

I would start with the classical period and recommend Mozart because his life and genius is so interesting and because he was so prolific in his composing, there are many great and varied compositions to audition. I would also introduce the young friend to Beethoven not too long after Mozart. Afterward, transport the younf friend back to the baroque period where he/she can enjoy some Bach.

Phil K's picture

Mozart, based on my own experience back in the early '60s, when a college friend played Bruno Walter's recording of the Haffner Symphony for me on his parents' system. Though I've forgotten what kind of gear they had—it was clearly state of the art for the time—I'll never forget the thrill I experienced as the opening chords resounded through the room. By the time we got to the end of Side 2, my conversion from the formulaic offerings of pre-Beatles rock 'n' roll was complete.

Don Vieweg's picture

I would start by asking a few questions first: 1) Are melody and harmony important to you? If so, avoid the new classical stuff. Not even Stravinsky or Shostakovitch. 2) Would you like to start with music that was in cartoons? If yes, watch Tom & Jerry and some Looney Tunes first. Then watch Fantasia. Get the theme to Rossini's Barber of Seville, Beethoven's 6th ("Pastorale") and the hybrid CD/SACD of Stokowski's Rhapsodies. The way Stokowski lined up the big stringed instruments across the back and the power that presents in the soundstage will appeal to kids. 3) Would you like to start with music that you didn't know you'd heard in movies? Or music that's reminiscent of movie thematic music. Watch The Lord of the Rings and then listen to Mahler's 3rd and 1st. In general, go with something they can relate to and will keep their interest.

pdavis's picture

Bach. He is foundational. If you don't like him, I suggest a job as the Grim Reaper.

Mijs's picture

J. S. Bach (the keyboard concertos!), if the friend is analytical. Rimsky-Korsakov, if the friend is a romantic. Rachmaninov, if the friend is a dreamer.

daryl from Winnipeg's picture

I love Rossini. HIs "William Tell Overture" is dynamic and thrilling to listen to. Everyone has heard parts of Mozart, etc. For someone young, I think that it is a good idea to challenge the idea that all classical music subdued.

JimD's picture

The Nutcracker, a universal favorite! Peer Gynt and Peter and the Wolf for an orchestral introduction.

Jayne Lee Wilson, Liverpool UK's picture

Tchaikovsky: the suites, the symphonies, the symphonic poems and the ballets. For their sheer musical zip and love of life! Gorgeous singing melodies, rich and sparkling orchestration, Russian rhythms marching and dancing. A 20th century option would be Stravinsky, for pretty much the same reasons and many more; a youngster might "get" Stravinsky better because of his "modern" sound, closer to a suave urban sophistication in his concertos and symphonies. I remember the thrill of discovery in my teens, and envy someone starting out on the journey into the far-flung world of the symphony orchestra!

Jeff Hon's picture

Leonard Bernstein's Young People's Concerts.

Greg Borrowman's picture

J. S. Bach His works have been re-interpreted in so many styles: rock, jazz, vocal, ambient, etc, that there's an entry point for any age, and any musical leaning.

Geoffrey S's picture

J. S. Bach. Inspiring, beautiful, easy to listen to music. I'd probably start with the Brandenburg Concertos.

John Protopapas's picture

Rachmaninoff. Well crafted full blown romantic music, either the Second Symphony or Second Piano Concerto as starters. Vaughn-Williams' Fantasia on Theme by Thomas Tallis, alternate choice.

Aaron's picture

My personal fave is Debussy, but I would start out with a modern composer along the lines of Hans Zimmer or Philip Glass in hopes of seeing him live. Then again, you can always fall back on Beethoven's Symphony No. 5. Arguably the most famous piece of classical music ever.

jose's picture

Beethoven, of course!

J Keith's picture

Vivaldi; so easy to appreciate, having energy to entertain immediately.