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I used to take classical music lessons as a kid, but I never was into classical music until after I started learning to compose, and the spark for that came from film and game music. My classical music taste therefore isn't very refined. I'd love to find out what others enjoy listening to! Smile

Here's a few that have stuck with me:

Claude Debussy - Trois Nocturnes: Debussy is the classical composer I've probably listened to the most. I picked Trois Nocturnes because, apparently, I've given it the most plays, but it's hard to say which one of his works is my definitive favourite. I love his solo piano compositions as well has his orchestral works. There's just something really evocative and hauntingly beautiful about his compositional style.

Camille Saint-Saëns - The Carnival of the Animals: This one is, to put it simply, a lot of fun. In my opinion, it manages to stay fun throughout without falling flat (no pun intended) or sounding cheap or too gimmicky. It pulls a couple neat musical concepts as well, like the half-step key change in The Elephant and the chromatic voice leading in Tortoises which at one point sounds like a minor third is used as a suspension to a major chord.

Jean Sibelius - The Swan of Tuonela: I like this one largely of the same reasons I like Debussy. It's sublime and, well, hauntingly beautiful.

George Gershwin - Rhapsody in Blue: This one might reach slightly outside the realm of classical music, but I think it can be mentioned along the others. Rhapsody in Blue pulls off its brazen jazz influences so effortlessly. You can almost feel like you're witnessing the roaring twenties in person. It's certainly refreshing if you've stuck to more conventional works (or soundtracks) for a while.
Like you I more or less discovered classical through game and movie soundtracks. I can't say I'm an avid listener of the genre, but here's a few of my favorites:

Antonín Dvorák - Symphony No. 9 "From the New World". My favorite symphony. I love the way it seamlessly blends the old and the new; the emotion and grandeur of the Romantic era, mixed with both the sprightly cuteness of earlier classical music and colder, darker, more "modern" sounds. 

Gustav Holst - The Planets. First time I heard this one ages ago it was a real eye opener. It made me realize that even someone like John Williams has influences and favorite composers they tend to borrow ideas from, just like everyone else. This symphony was epic sci-fi movie before there even were epic sci-fi movies.

Carl Orff - Carmina Burana. I know, O Fortuna is a bit done to death, but I've been in love with it ever since I watched Excalibur as a kid. There is something fascinatingly ancient and atmospheric about the whole cantata. 

Edvard Grieg - Peer Gynt. Everyone knows Morning Mood and In the Hall of the Mountain King, but both suites have a lot of other lovely music as well, The Death of Åse being one of my favorites. Peer Gynt is on my list of more straightforward "accessible" classical music I often suggest to people looking to get into the genre, either for listening or composing.

Igor Stravinsky - Rite of Spring. I tend to lean towards more melodic and less experimental music when it comes to classical works, but for some reason this one has always appealed to me. It's weird as hell, but that's also what makes it sound fresh even after more than a century. It's also an inspiration goldmine when you need ideas for some tension music. An orgy in dissonance without actually sounding like random notes.

Edit: case in point. I think more than one composer has borrowed from this for chase scenes etc Wink
Out of the above, The Planets was the only one I wasn't familiar with, and I haven't heard the rest in a while either. Into the playlist they go. Thanks!

There was one work I can't believe I forgot to include:

Kentaro Sato - Symphonic Tale Peter Pan: This is what sounds like a contemporary take on tone poetry. Sadly, it's not available in its entirety, but what's there is wonderful. It's happy, sincere and, of course, beautifully composed. I've always wanted to hear (and compose) music that's just an honest celebration of fantasy and good storytelling, and Symphonic Tale Peter Pan really hits home. If you've heard the Garritan Personal Orchestra demos, you might have stumbled upon his Wings of Dreams, a standalone piece in a similar style.
The first classical works I was consciously exposed to were ELP's Pictures at an Exhibition and Walter Carlos' Clockwork Orange soundtrack. I was in my early teens, you can guess how old I'm at the moment.

Anyway, before any single work, there are three composers whose poetics —overall musical thought— I can't live without: Beethoven, Mahler and Sibelius.

Here's a few of my favorites:

Dvórak – Symphony no. 9 "From the New World"
Mahler – Das Lied von der Erde
Tchaikovskij – Symphony no. 6 "Pathétique"
Pizzetti and Respighi – Miscellaneous works for orchestra
Verdimost of the music behind the words of his operas
Wagner – same as above
Puccini – same as above
Delius and Finzi – Miscellaneous works
Britten – Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings, Les Illuminations, Sea Interludes
Stravinsky – Petrouchka
Barber – Wind quintet "Summer music"
Aho – Chamber music for winds
Wiren and Larsson – Miscellaneous works
Petterson – Symphony no. 13
(…)
Beethoven - Violin Concerto. He only wrote one and it's ace.

Beethoven, Symphony No. 9. It just gets better and better. You need to be patient. It's the one that contains "Ode to Joy". What he does with the vocals toward the end is stellar. This recording is practically amazing. The lyrics are pretty damn good too. It's about everyone becoming brothers.

Vivaldi - Four Seasons. Chamber music. So pretty.

Howard Shore - Lord of the Rings. I hereby proclaim this a classic.
I'm really into choral music, having spent a lot of years singing in choruses.  Here are some of my favorite classics:

Mozart: Requiem
Brahms: Ein Deutches Requiem
Handel: Messiah
Faure: Requiem
Bernstein: Chichester Psalms

And yes, Carmina Burana is totally awesome. Smile   I long ago lost count of how many times I've performed it, and I still love it.

There's also a lot of wonderful choral music being written today.  If you want to check out some current composers, listen to anything by John Rutter (especially his Requiem, but really it's all wonderful), Morton Lauridsen (especially Lux Aeterna), Karl Jenkins, or Christopher Tin.

For orchestral music, here are some of my favorites:

Borodin: In the Steppes of Central Asia
Moussorgsky: Pictures at an Exhibition
Stravinsky: Firebird suite
Saint-Saens: 4th piano concerto (they're all good, but the 4th is my very favorite)
Hector Berlioz: Symphony Fantastique
Bedřich Smetana: Má Vlast
Antonín Dvořák: Requiem
Tchaikovsky: Pretty much anything
Aaron Copland: Appalachian Spring


I recently became privy to a TV program called All Star Orchestra (it shows up on my PBS station here from time to time), which gives people like me who rarely get to see a live orchestra perform a chance to watch one and be exposed to interesting music of the "classical" variety. Not only is it interesting and educational to be able to see the players and their instruments in action, I get to hear works I might not have come across before. Perhaps to those schooled in the stuff, the selections might not be all that out of the ordinary, but for me it's been fun. I especially enjoyed Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov's Scheherazade, for example.


In any case, it's worth checking out on Youtube, if anyone is interested.
Some of my favorites:

Brahms: all of his symphonies. Also, his violin concerto. He has two piano concertos two, but I don't know them that well. One of them is great, though, and I suspect the other one is, too.

Mozart: Requiem, piano concertos (eg k467 and k 488), horn concertos (very melodious; look them up), the famous clarinet concerto (622).

Beethoven: symphonies 5 and 7. Also his violin concerto is great.

Dvorak: 9th symphony ("For the New World")

Schubert's 5th and 8th symphonies.

Prokofiev's Classic Symphony.