We live in a golden age for classical music. Never before has it been possible to access such a staggering array of performances. Through downloads, CDs and DVD listeners can access music from the medieval period to the modern, played by groups and individuals from around the world, and recorded at any point since the invention of recording itself.
But how do you pick your way through these hundreds of thousands of pieces? It used to be possible to work within the constraints of the record shop: these days are, of course, now long gone and a new way to navigate is needed. The Penguin Guide to the 1000 Finest Classical Recordings draws together an amazing array of enthusiasms to create something genuinely new and extremely useful. The selection is so generous that the book avoids being merely a reductive 'greatest hits' - all sorts of extraordinary music is lurking inside it and readers will be pushed into directions they never anticipated, discovering whole areas of music previously closed to them.
The Guide is far more than a listing - it also includes an essay on downloads, a history of recording, a short guide to composers, ballet and opera. But what makes it truly exceptional is the many years of warmth and enthusiasm its writers bring to their great subject.