Getting Started with Classical Music

When you want to begin listening to classical music, how do you get started? Which pieces or composers are essential to the point of being almost 'compulsory' and which aren't?

Well, to begin with, I should state very clearly that there is absolutely no compulsion for anybody to like every, or any, particular piece of classical music! Each of us has individual tastes and what is glorious and wonderful to one person is found to be tedious and discordant to another. [...] 

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