I definitely agree that live performances are most exciting and musical. The point was brought up that large scale symphonic works, while terrific, are often boring to new listeners, which is true. To get started on symphonies, try some with a bit more foreground material such as:
Berlioz, Symphonie Fantastique
Beethoven, 5 and 7
Dvorak 5 (9) New World
Schumann 1 and/or 2
If you’re ambitious, Mahler 1 or maybe even 5, or Hindemith’s Mathis der Maler. If you’re interested in large-scale classical works Brahms 4’s 4th movement might be a good place to start.
Also on this topic, and don’t answer if you have perfect pitch:
In large scale works based on classical forms (eg Brahms symphonies), how much does modulation effect how you hear the piece?
2 A little
3 Modulation is a major cause of musical tension and resolution.
My music theory class was trying to decide whether tension caused by tonal shifts is apparent to everyone on a subconscious, primal level, or if we only hear it once we’re trained to.