The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: NPR weighs in with its recommendations for box sets of classical CDs for holiday gift-giving. | December 12, 2013

By Jacob Stockinger

This holiday season seems like it is shaping up as a time to consider bigger and more expensive gifts such as complete box sets of recordings of certain performers, composers and institutions.

Could it be because their volume makes them less downloadable? Or does their appeal have to do with the novelty of having the complete collection of something — you know, the desire for total possession of beauty as well as convenience?

True, the box sets, which often run into dozens of CDs, have their own scale of economy that brings the per disc price down to as low as $5 or less.

But more importantly, the sets also feature reissues of historical recordings by major artists that have not generally been available singly — or at all! You can hear the complete Van Cliburn; the legendary pianist Vladimir Horowitz playing live at Carnegie Hall between 1943 and 1973 in recently discovered recordings (a sneak peek sampler is in a YouTube video at the bottom)  the world’s great singers doing Giuseppe Verdi and Richard Wagner at the Metropolitan Opera; conductor Fritz Reiner with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra; conductor Carlo Maria Giulini and several orchestras; and former superstar pianists Gary Graffman and Leon Fleisher whose early careers later got sidetracked by injuries.

NPR boxed CD sets

Here is what the critics for The New York Times recommended a few weeks back:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2013/11/29/classical-music-as-we-head-into-black-friday-small-business-saturday-and-cyber-monday-how-appealing-as-holiday-gifts-are-complete-cd-boxed-sets/

And here is what “Deceptive Cadence,” the terrific classical blog on NPR, recommends in the way of boxed sets.

In addition, NPR also provides audio samples from many of the sets to whet your appetite and help you decide, so if you can listen to it – don’t just read it.

They also provide links to other stories and blog postings that NPR has done about the major artists.

Here is a link to the story by Tom Huizenga and Anastasia Tsioulcas:

http://www.npr.org/blogs/deceptivecadence/2013/12/04/248792687/a-bumper-crop-of-classical-boxed-sets

It seems to me, comparing the two stories, that both The New York Times and NPR agree on a lot of the boxed sets – a good sign, don’t you think?

Do any of you have personal experiences and opinions about the various boxed sets? Let us know in the COMMENTS section.

Happy shopping.

Happy giving.

Happy receiving.


1 Comment »

  1. I want the box set of the Deborah Vogt-Bryn Terfal Ring cycle from the Met that was on public television, the one with the groovy rotating multi-lever set.
    http://www.amazon.com/Wagner-Ring-Nibelungen-Metropolitan-Opera/dp/B008ER9QKG/ref=sr_1_2?s=movies-tv&ie=UTF8&qid=1386830054&sr=1-2&keywords=met+ring+cycle

    MBB

    Comment by Michael BB — December 12, 2013 @ 12:36 am


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