Bearing Birthday Gifts

Have you been wondering what to get for those big composer birthdays this year? It’s the 200th for Wagner and Verdi, and the 100th for Britten and Lutoslawski, certainly their equals in quality and importance. The big labels have big boxes of all of them just for you! EMI and DG have competing boxes at good prices. There are two main differences: DG has the better Ring if that matters to you (it no longer matters much to me) and early works like Die Feen which no one wants to listen to, while EMI has much better casts and recordings of all the other operas.

Decca has produced Britten: The Complete Works, in an edition of 3,000 sets. It’s $300, but also contains 65 CDs, a 200 page book and other perks. Special, but expensive. If you don’t want everything, there are affordable and excellent alternatives from the same archives, the operas and orchestral music, all conducted by the composer, and EMI also has a quality box. And while you’re listening, you can read this new biography.
For the great Verdi, look no further than EMI. Their archives are packed with the greatest Verdi performances on record, and this bargain box has the best from the best, La Traviata, Otello, Falstaff, Don Carlo and more. There is no other choice.

And Lutoslawski, the greatest composer you never heard, a true giant of 20th Century music. He was fortunate to have numerous recordings — he conducted and musicians loved his music — and some of the best have been collected by Naxos in a complete edition. Ten CDs of exceptional music for about $50, it’s a must for collectors and the curious.

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Author: gtra1n

I'm a composer and musician, and I write about music—I do that here, for the New York Classical Review, at the Brooklyn Rail (I edit the music section there) and any place else that will have me, like New Music Box and Music & Literature. I also wrote the Miles Davis' Bitches Brew book in the 33 1/3 series.