Listening to Classical Music

Often times it is overwhelming to think about classical music. It is often difficult to know where to start.  Here are two good suggestions, on where to begin.

Pick a style of music below that you might like (for example, if you like vocal music you may pick madrigal or cantata, if you like flute, you might choose a flute concerto):

Canon - A melody played by different groups of instruments throughout a piece of music.
Cantata - A piece of vocal music for solo or Choir
Chamber Music - one person playing each part (like a trio or octet)
Concerto - A soloist (or small group) accompanied by an orchestra
Fugue - Two or more parts playing a melody. they mimic (or answer) each other.
Lieder - Soloist with piano accompaniment (Mainly songs of the 1800's)
Madrigal - Song for two to six singers without accompaniment,
Opera - A drama, either comic or tragic, that is sung throughout. The Arias in an opera are the vocal solos )or, the "main" songs), the recitatives are the songs where the story continues, designed to accentuate inflections of speech.
Overture - A piece that opens an opera, oratorio, play, etc.
Passion - A musical setting using the text of Matthew, Mark Luke or John
Serenade - Evening music, (vocal serenade is used in opera and the instrumental is a piece like a sonata or Symphony.
Sonata - Three or four movements put together. Most Sonatas are for a small group of instruments.
Suite - A group of movements played in sequence, often used in ballet.
Symphony - A sonata for a big group of instruments.
Toccata - A keyboard composition (organ, piano, harpsichord)

Buy (or get from the library) a few CD's in the style you like, try the same style with different composers, ( you might like symphony from Beethoven and not from Stravinsky, etc.) then try some other styles. 

The second way to start listening to classical music is by composer.

Research different composers to find out which one might write in the style you like. Many composers are known for certain things (although many of these composers wrote in all different forms). For example:

Bach - Complex writer, wrote many organ pieces. check out his St Matthews passion also).
Handel - Wrote simpler pieces than back. Wrote for the masses, so everyone could enjoy them.
Chopin - Piano
Strauss - Waltzes
Wagner - Heavy Opera
Stravinsky - Modern

These are only a few examples. There are so many other great composers, Mozart, Tchaikovsky, Haydn, etc. Learning about their lives helps to understand the music they wrote. Once you found one whose music you may like, get your hands on some of their most popular, and not so popular pieces.