Classical CDs For Budget Shoppers Music critic Tom Manoff says you needn't spend a fortune on classical music CDs for holiday gifts. Hear his top picks for inexpensive classics, from renaissance masses to 20th-century guitar concertos.

Classical CDs For Budget Shoppers

Classical CDs For Budget Shoppers

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Music critic Tom Manoff says there are plenty of classical CDs that make great holiday gifts and won't bust your budget. Alexandr Tovstenko/iStockphoto.com hide caption

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Alexandr Tovstenko/iStockphoto.com

Shopping on a budget for the holidays this year? I'm always on the lookout for recordings that are pleasing to the ears and the pocketbook. Think about several things when shopping for budget-priced classical CDs. First, prices vary widely, so look around. Second, if you're shopping online, deal with a seller who responds quickly with a firm arrival date. And finally, understand that many budget CDs are re-releases, hence the low price. But some are as good as (or better than) higher-priced, more recent recordings of the same works. Here are five that made my list this season.

Classical CDs For Budget Shoppers

Cover for Rodrigo: Concierto de Aranjuez; Fantasía para un gentilhombre

Concierto de Aranjuez

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Concierto de Aranjuez

  • from Rodrigo: Concierto de Aranjuez; Fantasía para un gentilhombre
  • by Julian Bream

Julian Bream is among the best guitarists in the world, and he's playing the famous "Concierto de Aranjuez" by Joaquin Rodrigo, the 20th-century Spanish composer. The concerto balances classical design with popular Spanish elements, neither of which can dominate in a successful performance. And Bream's pristine guitar technique, matched with his affinity for folk music, makes for a soulful and energetic sound.

Cover for Debussy, Ravel: Streichquartette

String Quartet in F major

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Ravel: String Quartet in F Major

  • Song: String Quartet in F major
  • from Debussy, Ravel: Streichquartette
  • by Emerson String Quartet

French composer Maurice Ravel believed in mixing classical and popular traditions -- and also had a special attraction to the music of Spain. The second movement of his String Quartet is an example: The plucking and strumming evokes a Spanish guitar, while accompanying a folk-like French melody. The work is performed by the Emerson String Quartet, one of the world's best.

Cover for Lassus: Masses For Five Voices, Infelix Ego

Missa Entre vous filles, for 5 voices

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Missa Entre Vous Filles, for 5 Voices

  • Song: Missa Entre vous filles, for 5 voices
  • from Lassus: Masses For Five Voices, Infelix Ego
  • by Oxford Camerata

Now to the 16th century and a very different style. This is music from the Flemish master Orlande de Lassus, one of his Masses for Five Voices. A good performance of Renaissance choral music sounds effortless, though it's never easy to bring that off. The ensemble here is the Oxford Camerata, directed by Jeremy Summerly.

Cover for Handel: Israel in Egypt

Israel in Egypt, oratorio

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Israel in Egypt, Oratorio

  • Song: Israel in Egypt, oratorio
  • from Handel: Israel in Egypt
  • by Anthony Bramall

Staying with choral music, here's an oratorio by George Frideric Handel -- not his famous "Messiah," but the delightful and dramatic "Israel in Egypt." It’s a two-CD set with a handsome booklet, but priced as one budget CD.

Cover for Brahms: Piano Concerto No. 2; Piano Sonata No. 1

Piano Concerto No. 2

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Piano Concerto No. 2

  • from Brahms: Piano Concerto No. 2; Piano Sonata No. 1
  • by Sviatoslav Richter

When legendary Russian pianist Sviatoslav Richter first came to the U.S. in 1960, the piece he played first was the Piano Concerto No. 2 by Johannes Brahms with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra at Carnegie Hall. The recording of the work was made in the days after -- and remains, for me, the best version of the concerto on CD.