The Well-Tempered Ear

It’s Black Friday: Here are classical music CD gift guides

November 26, 2010

By Jacob Stockinger

Today is Black Friday.

It sounds bad – like some kind of stock market crash — but it’s really good. The name means it’s the one day of the year, heading into the holiday shopping season, when a lot of retailers rely on shoppers to put them and their profits into the black for the year.

So people will be shopping. Most will do it in person in so-called “bricks and mortar” stores and in malls where experts predict a 2 to 3 percent increase in sales over last year.

But many gift-givers will shop on-line, and started yesterday or Cyber Thursday.  (Experts predict an 11 percent increase in Internet sales over last year.)

For classical music fans, how do you find the right recording for the right person? What do you think are reliable guides you trust?

For many listeners, is the first on-line choice. They list new releases by the week, and they also feature User Reviews:

But how reliable do you find them to be? I find them uneven – some are very good and some seem oddly quirky or untrustworthy at best.

You can also go to lists in the Listmania section and see if they are helpful. You can find a list of classical music for Metalheads or the Best Classical CDs Ever. Here’s an example:

Another good source is:

This source is good for older issues as well as new releases and is quite detailed in the remarks that include comparisons to other performers and recordings:

Gramophone magazine (below) is a vintage source, since it has been around since 1923. But many observers say it tends to favor British artists and labels. Still, it is highly respected and names its Best of the Month as well as Best of the Year.

Critics at the New York Times just published their Best Of 2010 list:

At some point soon, the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal and other major newspapers will also publish out their critics’ choice of the Best Classical Recordings of 2010. I’ll pass them along as I find them. You can do them same for me.

Here’s another source:

Another British magazine, produced by the BBC,  is also a standard:

Or you might try an old American favorite, Fanfare magazine:

National Public Radio also has Tom Huizenga, who features CD reviews:

Do you have a favorite source for finding classical recordings reviews?

What do you like or dislike about the ones I’ve named.

The Ear wants to hear.

Posted in Classical music

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