Autumn approaches, and this is the time when classical labels release bargain-priced box sets for the Christmas season. I often take advantage of this season to buy some sets of music that I’m not familiar with, or by favorite performers, or just to fill in gaps in my collection. For example, last year, I bought three such sets: Yo-Yo Ma: 30 Years Outside the Box, Murray Perahia, the first 40 years, and the Glenn Gould Complete Bach Edition.
I haven’t made many purchases this year, as I moved from France to England, and much of my stuff is still in storage. But I’ve got my eyes on a few sets for this holiday season. Here’s what I’ve spotted in recently released or soon to be released box sets.
Opera Baroque is a 42-disc set from Harmonia Mundi. (Amazon UK) For now, this set is only listed on Amazon UK, but it contains 17 complete operas, including 2 on DVD, and a CD-Rom with full booklets. It looks as though it’s only going to be available in Europe, but it’s too soon to tell; Harmonia Mundi does sometimes issue sets like this in limited markets.
Julian Bream, Classical Guitar Anthology (Amazon UK, Amazon FR) is a 43-disc set of recordings by one of the greatest classical guitarists of all time. I used to dabble with classical guitar, and an early Julian Bream LP introduced me to some wonderful 20th century music, such as Benjamin Britten’s great Nocturnal, and a bit of Takemitsu, from the same album. I’ll certainly be getting this one. This set is currently listed on Amazon UK and Amazon FR, but not in the US.
Vladimir Horowitz played a number of concerts at Carnegie Hall, and the Vladimir Horowitz at Carnegie Hall set (Amazon.com, Amazon UK, Amazon FR) contains 41 discs and one DVD of concerts from 1943 to 1976. Horowitz was a great pianist, and this set, which includes “the complete RCA and Columbia recitals that the legendary pianist recorded live at Carnegie Hall between 1951 and 1978 – including eight previously unreleased complete concerts, as well as 48 works in previously unreleased recordings,” certainly highlights his varied performances. I’m not a big fan of Horowitz, but it’s tempting about about $3 per CD.
“Perfected with the birth of stereo in the mid-1950s, Decca s Full Frequency Stereophonic Sound became a worldwide hallmark of sonic excellence and a golden age of classical recorded music was born. THE ANALOGUE YEARS presents a 50-Album overview across 54 CDs, in original jackets, of the celebrated international recordings that emerged from the London-based record label in that pre-digital era.”
Only listed on Amazon UK and Amazon FR for now, it should be available in the US as well.
Sony Classics has a similar set that was recently released, the Masterworks Heritage Collection (Amazon.com, Amazon UK, Amazon FR) . Containing 28 discs, from 1912 to 1965, this set contains a number of classic recordings that many people may have been seeking for their collections. Personally, I’m not a historic recording buff, but if you are, this set, at aloud $65, is great value.
The Karajan 1970s set (Amazon.com, Amazon UK, Amazon FR) follows up on an earlier release of Karajan’s DG recordings from the 1960s (Amazon.com, Amazon UK, Amazon FR). The 1960s set was 82 discs, and the 1970s set contains the same number. (Interesting how he recorded the exact same number of discs for DG in two decades…) These sets are relatively cheap, per disc, and there’s a lot in them. If you’re a fan, and already have the two big EMI box sets, you’ll probably want these. But I think there’s an overdose of Karajan here.
Finally, while it’s not “classical music,” it certainly “classical” music. Here are two sets from great rock bands that will soon be out.
First comes The Clash, Sound System (Amazon.com, Amazon UK, Amazon FR), a remastered set of 13 discs, containing all of the band’s recordings. It has all five studio albums, plus discs of singles, b-sides and rarities. There’s also a DVD with unseen footage, and some books and tchotchkes. This one’s on my list.
If you like King Crimson, you may feel, as I do, that Red was their best album. Robert Fripp’s label Discipline is releasing a 24-disc set documenting the Red tour, The Road to Red. (Amazon.com, Amazon UK, Amazon FR) Here’s a description of the set:
“Now The Road To Red offers a comprehensive overview of this final tour and at last does justice to a group who were operating at the very height of their powers. Every soundboard quality recording known to exist is presented with audio fully restored, all released on CD for the first time. There are also five complete concerts, drawn from multi-track recordings, alongside the restored audio bootleg of the band’s final show from New York and a new stereo mix of Red by Robert Fripp and Steven Wilson undertaken in 2012. A total of 16 concerts are featured across 20 discs, with the studio Red as the 21st CD. The set also features: A DVD containing a high resolution stereo presentation of USA (in all mixes) and the new stereo mix of Red 2 Blu-Ray discs containing the five full length multi-track concert recordings (newly transferred at the highest resolution available from the original analogue Dolby SR source mix-down tapes & presented in 24/192 DTS-HD master sound), new & original stereo versions of Red and the existing 5.1 multi-channel mixes of the album presented in 24/96 DTS-HD also feature on Blu-Ray.”
Yes, this is for completists. I don’t think I’ll be getting this one, but I’d like to see a smaller set with highlights.
Last but not least is Sunshine Daydream, a recording and DVD of the Grateful Dead’s excellent 8/27/72 concert in Veneta, Oregon. (Amazon.com, Amazon UK, Amazon FR) If you’re a Deadhead, you know why you have to own this; if not, trust me: it’s one of the best Grateful Dead concerts ever.