OK, as a librarian, I can't resist engaging with this topic. Despite my professional prejudices, I use iTunes, since I haven't found anything that does the job more satisfactorily at this stage, and which accords with the way in which I listen to my music (more at the end on this). Proper use of iTunes with classical music demands a fair amount of retagging, best achieved by using programs that sit outside iTunes. I use a Mac and find MediaRage indispensable for a whole range of tasks.
My broad approach in cataloguing in iTunes is:
For multi-movement/part works the work is identified in the album field, with sufficient information to distinguish one recording from another (35 Beethoven VCs and counting)
Beethoven: Violin Concerto in D major, Op. 61 [Faust, 2007]
Mozart: Don Giovanni, K527 [Giulini, 1960]
Where an album is a compilation, I tend to leave it well alone
Wagner: Orchestral Music [Karajan]
Rosso: Italian Baroque Arias
The artist is presented as soloist 1 / soloist 2 / chorus / orchestra / conductor
Isabelle Faust / Prague Philharmonia / Jiří Bělohlávek
The 'song' represents each movement of the work:
III. Rondo. Allegro
or each part of an opera, cantata etc
If a CD contains two separate works (eg two Mozart symphonies) I use an applescript (from Doug's Applescripts) to albumise each - this resets the track listing to begin at number 1 for each new work.
I note the details of the source CD (including ASIN) in the grouping field.
The composer's name goes, well, in the composer field:
Surname, first name (dates)
Beethoven, Ludwig van (1770-1827)
I also use the genre tag as a way of improving browsing - I use this at a fairly granular level - either for series (Hyperion Romantic Piano Concerto) or themes (Early French Polyphony)
This whole system has served me well, but it does have limitations - a large database (mine has 100,000 'songs' and is rapidly approaching 2TB in size) isn't portable - so if I ever manage to find a record store, I can't guarantee having access to my database to check whether I already own a particular disc. I do think there is a market for an app which allows the index from iTunes to be exported to an iPhone/iPod without the music files. I know I can export a flat listing of files, but I'd like to keep the artwork as that represents my principal form of recall.
I also debate from time to time what to do with my growing collection of FLACs: should I convert them to the least space intensive MP3 format and import them into iTunes, simply to have them catalogued alongside everything else? Or should I convert them to Apple lossless and treat them in the same way as the files I rip from CDs? The jury is still out.
There have been a number of interesting posts in recent years about tagging classical music - some of the most useful ones I have found are:http://oakroadsystems.com/genl/itunes.htmhttp://www.ilounge.com/index.php/articles/comments/the-complete-guide-to-album-tagging-art-and-playlists-in-itunes/http://charuzu.wordpress.com/2011/02/05/managing-classical-music-itunes/http://www.scene24.net/1203.html
Of course, my system is shaped by the way in which I access music - which can be a different location from one day to the next. Rather than carrying (and risking loss or damage) CDs around the world with me, I take an external drive with a copy of my library - this allows me to listen to my music at CD quality wherever I am. If I sought a system which essentially catalogued a physical CD collection, and for which I had no need to rip CDs, I would look for something very different. There are a number of very cheap library catalogue systems which would do a much better job than Excel or Access. If anyone is interested, I'll dig out some details.