A listener should always have certain things in mind when he listens to classical music and buys Cds and DVDs. I have summarized the basic points in 10 Commandments, our credo.
Commandment 1: Listen to classical music!
The more you listen the more you love classical music. Tune and listen to classical music radios in your area. Search through your music collection, your family/friends' music collection and I'm sure you'll find some classical music to enjoy.
Commandment 2: Choose the Big names at start and Learn to Listen!
Choose composers that you know such as Beethoven and Mozart to start with and works that you might have heard of such as Beethoven's 5th Symphony or Mozart's 'Little Night Music' serenade. At the beginning, choose what pleases your ear. However, gradually, you should explore and learn to listen to the varieties of classical music from the polyphonic music of the Middle Ages to the atonal music of the 20th & 21st centuries.
Commandment 3: Be selective when you buy!
When you come to the point that you will buy a classical music recording do not choose any mart/super market to go to. Visit a specialized store with music recordings and search through their classical music section or choose a major classical music Internet store. This, though, does not mean that expensive recordings guarantee better music quality to inexpensive ones. Remember, the performance matters the most, not the price.
Commandment 4: Old and New Performances!
A newer recording of a work does not mean that is by definition better than an older one in terms of interpretation. You may like more the 1937 recording of Verdi's Falstaff by Toscanini conducting the NBC Symphony Orchestra to Karajan's 1957 interpretation of the same work.
Commandment 5: Authentic and Modern Instruments!
When a music piece is recorded by musicians who play on authentic or period instruments it is not certain that the sound will be closer to what was heard in the 18th century, for example. Wood, glues and repairs as well as a performer's virtuosity may alter the sound produced by an old instrument. Also, the sound of a 18th c. performance may not be better compared to the sound produced with modern instruments.
Commandment 6: AAD or DDD (analog or digital)!
CD and DVD recordings may be marked as AAD, ADD, or DDD or other similar marking on disc covers or the discs themselves. An AAD or analog recording (originally recorded on professional tape recorder) may be better than a DDD (digital recording) and a performance recorded initially on analog video tape may be better than a new production recorded digitally. It is not the production process and the medium that matters but the quality of the performance that was captured on it.
Commandment 7: Compare and Contrast Recordings!
It's good practice, even from the start, to own more than one recordings of at least the major works. When you listen to a Beethoven's 9th conducted by Karajan and the same work conducted by Bohm or Barenboim they are not the same. The notes and the melody may be the same but the tempos and the emphases of the various parts are different because each conductor interprets the work in its own way. This also explains why different recordings of the same work may differ in recorded time. Listen and decide what you like most.
Commandment 8: Use some decent equipment!
All right! You may listen to classical music from a portable player or your laptop but in order to unleash the beauty of the performances buy some descent stereo equipment or a home cinema/theater system.
Commandment 9: How about some History!
Classical music is not just the music produced by composers in the 18th century. A short classical music history book or Internet sites with the development of classical music and biographies of composers will help you understand the complexities and varieties of classical music compositions from the Middle Ages to the 21st century.
Commandment 10: Use Sinfonias site!
Well, there are many classical music sites out there but Sinfonias is made and maintained with the serious classical music listener in mind.