Classical music can be an ambiguous term. It is widely used to identify the Classical period, which approximately covers the years from 1750 to 1820. On the other hand, Western art music from 1000 CE to the present is also called classical music.
The following is a list of the best classical music download sites that provide a mix of both, i.e. classical music ranging from Baroque, Classical, and Romantic periods and via the 20th century to Contemporary classical music of our time.
All tracks and albums are legal to download. They are either copyleft / public domain or available under a Creative Commons license.
Classical.com is the classical pendant to iTunes. It contains over 450,000 tracks from 3,290 composers, which can be downloaded in exchange for a small fee.
Every week, however, an entire album is available to download for free.
As I write this article, the free download is an album of famous Strauss waltzes, available as mp3’s in 128 and 192 kbps. To download the album you must register. The form asks for an email address and password. Make sure to check or uncheck the box to subscribe or not subscribe to the newsletter, respectively.
This is a fantastic resource to discover classical music as such. Alternatively, it can be used to occasionally refresh the background music for a waiting room or office.
This Wikipedia site is a huge repository of free classical music.
All downloads are in .ogg format. In case your hardware or software does not support .ogg files, check this Wikipedia article for information about .ogg. Alternatively, you can convert .ogg files to MP3 using FreeRIP Basic. Unfortunately, this conversion will decrease your audio quality.
Each column can be sorted alphabetically. To search a specific piece, you’d best use your browser’s inbuilt search tool. In Firefox, Internet Explorer, and Chrome click [Ctrl] + [F] to launch the search tool.
Classic Cat is the Google of classical music. The index of this classical catalog comprises over 5000 free to download pieces.
The site can be browsed by instrument, composer, performer, genre or Top X lists. Classic Cat’s top lists include “Yesterday’s Top 10″, “Classical music Top 150″, and “Top 100 Classical composers”.
Classic Cat itself does not provide the music downloads. Being a catalog, it links directly to the source, i.e. the page from which the music can be downloaded. Some pages, however, require a registration. To qualify for being listed on Classic Cat, the music has to pass some quality standards. For example, the minimum sound quality accepted is 128 kbps.
Besides audio files, you will also find sheet music, lyrics, midi, and video files.
Another music library that provides public domain classical music is Musopen. It has been profiled in our directory and I also mentioned it in my article about 3 More Exciting Ways to Discover Free Music.
Interestingly, Musopen is based on an idea from Beethoven:
There ought to be but one large art warehouse in the world, to which the artist could carry his art-works and from which he could carry away whatever he needed…
With the creation of the internet, haven’t we reached this goal already?
For what occasions do you enjoy listening to classical music? Do you have any other sources that should be listed as one of the best classical music download sites?
Image credits: jaylopez