The world of classical music is one of beauty and wonder, despite the bad rap it gets for being inaccessible. If you’re new to classical music and want a good app for listening to it, consider one of these services.
If you never listened to classical music or played in an orchestra, you may (understandably) consider it a daunting world to approach. After all, it’s from another era and with its weird song names, super long run times, and frequent lack of lyrics. How do you really know where to begin? Don’t fret. You can easily step beyond the veil with the help of a dedicated classical music streaming service, like Idagio or Primephonic. They cut to the chase and take you directly to composers, instruments, and performers with curated playlists.
Music streaming apps like Spotify, YouTube Music, Apple Music, and Google Play Music all have classical music on them, but it’s evident that they don’t all really know what to do with it. They offer generic “Intro to Classical Music” playlists that are pleasant, albeit somewhat boring, but their tendency to throw in other instrumental music playlists (like “Piano Atmospheres”) only makes things more confusing for beginners.
Regular streaming apps also tend to classify music by recent standards, referring only to artist, song, or album. Classical music is different, with more information per track, including composer, conductor, (complicated) titles, what group is performing it, the name of that album, and so on, so it’s a little like fitting a square peg into a round hole.
Idagio and Primephonic are the best places to start for those new to classical music. Both apps are easy to use and have robust catalogs, helpful recommendations, high-quality recordings, and educational resources. And rest easy: these apps also have search capacities that are more capable of handling difficult title names and the other quirks found in classical music. So here’s a little more about both streaming services, along with why we like them.
Idagio (Free) is a beautiful app dedicated to streaming the best classical music out there. Its minimalistic interface is a pleasure to use, with a smart design, clean labeling, and powerful search function. As you listen to music, you can save pieces to your collection, and find them at any time from the sidebar, where Idagio breaks your collection down into tracks, recordings, playlists, albums, and artists. You can find these easily on Idagio’s web player, or in its iOS and Android apps.
When you first open the service, you’ll land on the Discover tab, where you’ll see options like “Featured New Albums,” “Playlists for Your Day,” “Composer Essentials,” “Critically Acclaimed Albums” and others worth exploring. These focused categories do an excellent job of breaking things down, making it easy for you to find something that piques your interest.
Clicking on an album takes you to a new page with the songs and a paragraph about the album, composer, or artist. These lovely writings are one of the things we like about Idagio over Spotify and Primephonic. Not only do they help you learn more about the music you’re listening to and form a better connection with it, they are exactly the kind of thing you need to fully immerse yourself within the classical music world.
The Browse tab is really where Idagio shines, and it is hands-down the best resource for anyone just starting to explore classical music. This beautiful tab demystifies and organizes classical music, making it easy to explore. It lays out composers, performers, musical periods, genres, and instruments by section, and clicking on any composer shows you all of their albums, playlists, works, and individual recordings. The same goes for performers and periods. In the genres section, you’ll see options like Opera, Orchestral, Concertos, Chamber, and so on, each with an explanatory passage about what that genre means, along with a few recommended works. This tab works wonders to help enlighten new listeners to the inner workings of classical music recordings.
The Mood tab gives you curated playlists based on your mood and, of course, the Recently Played tab stores your listening history. The free basic plan gives you access to over 2 million tracks, expert curation, radio play, along with AirPlay and Bluetooth connectivity. Subscribing to either of the Premium plans (starting at $9.99/month) not only lets you support the artists, but grants you amazing features like offline listening, high-quality audio, ad removal, additional connectivity options, and lossless audio. Overall, Idagio is a wonderful app that connects you directly to the best classical music, with educational resources and without any of the fuss.
Primephonic (starts at $9.99/month) offers the biggest catalog of the two streaming services, with over 3.5 million tracks (Idagio only clocks 2 million). It prides itself on not just having fan favorites and the latest releases, but also the most obscure recordings. The service makes it easy to discover tracks and albums, browse the catalog, and save your favorite tracks in one centralized place for future listening sessions. Primephonic works online and on its iOS and Android mobile apps, so you can jam with Beethoven anywhere.
Opening the app drops you right in. From here, you can peruse the latest album releases along with Primephonic’s curated mood playlists, artist playlists, daily rarities, national playlists from around the world, and Primephonic’s essential playlist recommendations. Clicking on an album takes you to a new page where you can immediately start listening to tracks and either add the album to your Favorites, or to a custom playlist.
Albums that contain pieces by more than one composer are broken down into sections for the sake of clarity. If you scroll down to the bottom of the page, you’ll see every composer and performer involved with the album, and clicking on them takes you to their dedicated page where you can see other recordings by them. This is a fantastic feature, as it makes it easy to quickly discover other works by a musician or composer you already know that you like.
The service does a stellar job organizing things in the Browse tab. On this page, all composers, conductors, ensembles, soloists, musical periods, playlists, and genres are listed out. Clicking on a composer shows you their most popular works, the latest albums they were featured on, as well as their biography and a few related composers (a stunning idea). This is pretty much also how things work when you click on a particular conductor, ensemble, or soloist.
Primephonic’s best feature? Its Composers Undiscovered playlists. These are absolute gems for even the most seasoned classical music fan. If you’ve ever wondered if there is more to Mozart than “Eine Kleine Nachtmusik” or to J.S. Bach than his “Well-Tempered Clavier,” rest assured that there is, and these playlists have proof. Click on any of the composers in this list to see a playlist full of beautiful pieces by them that you’ve probably never heard of, and that will most assuredly help you get a better understanding of who they were and what their music is all about. Overall, Primephonic is wonderful. Robust search options, powerful organization, and hidden gems of tracks (and playlist suggestions) make it an indispensable tool for all fans of classical music.