Mega-sets

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barney
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Mega-sets

Post by barney » Sun Aug 03, 2008 7:09 pm

Forgive my temerity, as a brand new member for opening a new topic. It's related to some comments I saw a couple of weeks ago when reading but haven't been able to find again. I found them very interesting. I have just come across a 100-CD set of 50 great operas (no libretti, of course) put out by Universal (Decca) at super-budget prices. 100 CDs! Recently I bought the 70-CD set of all Callas's studio recordings for under $100,unimaginable riches. And the 33-CD set of Wagner from Bayreuth. The centrepiece of my collection, in terms of most treasured and most visited, is the 200-CD set of Great Pianists by Philips. But, in the thread I was reading, someone pointed out that these sets appeared and disappeared really quickly. I certainly neer got the chance to buy the Grumiaux collection on 75 or so CDs (it wasn't released in Australia).

That by way of prolegomena. What do people think of such sets? Who are they aimed at - collectors, beginners? Is it just a cheap way of renewing the catalogue for the big companies? Do you buy them? Why do they disappear so quickly, and if they do, what's the point? I'm attracted like a moth to a flame, provided I don't already have half of the versions in the collection.

slofstra
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Re: Mega-sets

Post by slofstra » Sun Aug 03, 2008 7:53 pm

What, Barney, no 70 CD Glenn Gould set?

I've posed the question myself as to whether a record company would make more selling that Gould set at $600 to a few listeners versus selling at $150 to many more. I'm sure glad they've chosen the latter approach.

The large sets come up in discussion quite often; if you search on 'Brilliant' you'll find quite a number of threads on their many 10 to 100 CD sets.

I've been looking at this for I don't know how long (100 CDs):

Image

Full track listing is here:

http://music.brilliantclassics.com/epag ... tInfo/8713

The problem is no longer money, but time. With sets still sitting on the shelf, only partially played - the Stravinsky set, a new Vaughan Williams set, a set from Harmoni Mundi, all with 30 or more CDs, and then various smaller boxes from the DG Original Masters series, I've stopped purchasing CDs for a while just to get through the backlog.

Image

I can't even begin to think about this one. :)

Werner
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Re: Mega-sets

Post by Werner » Sun Aug 03, 2008 7:56 pm

That's the problem I have with thinking about sets of that size, - and you're not even retired yet, are you?
Werner Isler

slofstra
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Re: Mega-sets

Post by slofstra » Sun Aug 03, 2008 8:12 pm

Werner wrote:That's the problem I have with thinking about sets of that size, - and you're not even retired yet, are you?
:lol: :lol:

Werner, if you're thinking that way, I better give up now. You've got a few years head start on me. No, I'm not retired but perhaps I should consider it so I can catch up on my listening.

Seriously, the unplayed CDs I have were almost beginning to discourage me somewhat. That's because I kept feeling like I had to play one of my new CDs and was neglecting to replay older favourites. So, I decided not to buy anything for a while, and I have made a pretty serious dent in the unplayed pile. Soon I'll be playing old favourites once more!

I think the concept of "owning" CDs will be obsolete before too long anyway. Why 'own' CDs when you can just order up what you want when you want for $X a month over the Internet.

CharmNewton
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Re: Mega-sets

Post by CharmNewton » Sun Aug 03, 2008 9:46 pm

I've picked up the 50 CD sets of Beethoven and Schubert issued by French EMI and love them. They are full of vintage EMI stereo recordings. I also purchased the Decca Vivaldi collection (40 CDs), the French HM 50th Anniversary set (30 CDs) and the Brilliant Classics Bach Edition (155 CDs), which filled a lot of holes in my collection on the vocal side of things.

I think they are targeted at collectors and the general listener. For the latter, they provide an inexpensive way to explore the music of a particular composer. A sort of one-stop shop, if you will. For the former (like me), they provide a wonderful oppurtunity to get acquainted (or re-acquainted) with artists in familiar repertoire for little more than the investmenty in time.

John

absinthe
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Re: Mega-sets

Post by absinthe » Mon Aug 04, 2008 1:43 am

The problem with sets of this size (for me, anything >3 in a box) is that one has to check them all fairly quickly because mis-presses, label errors and such do happen (and with increasing frequency - which in turn raises my doubts about the physical quality of super-cheap CDs). A faulty pressing usually means sending the entire set back - which means the replacement set has to be checked...ad naus.

If the disc were faulty throughout a batch you may never get a complete set. (Happened with a Brilliant box of String Quartets which I returned twice, second time for a refund). I did recently buy the Busch/Beethoven late quartets on an EMI 3CD set and that was fine; but I sat there in dread of something going wrong and all the palaver of getting it replaced.

There can't be much worse than relaxing to play some item from a 100CD set maybe months, even a year after buying it only to find it doesn't work.

barney
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Re: Mega-sets

Post by barney » Mon Aug 04, 2008 2:18 am

Absinthe makes a good point. Like the good shepherd, you abandon the 99 to search for the missing (damaged) one. (Of course, the one is probably the one you most wanted to hear and helped you make up your mind to buy the set.)

Another virtue of big sets is that they take up comparatively little shelf space. I have 10-CD sets that take up less shelf space than old two-CD sets.

Often, though, I think they are aimed at obsessives like me, who want EVERY Mozart divertimento or concert aria, though several of them may be played only once. I like to know they are there in case - and it's surprising how often that case comes round that I'm glad I've got something.

Ken
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Re: Mega-sets

Post by Ken » Mon Aug 04, 2008 6:26 am

I'm relatively new to this game, and I've a lot of holes in my collection that I would like to address. However, I've never been too attracted to large box sets, despite their overall affordability. There's something inexplicably satisfying about filling out a composer's catalogue in a piecemeal fashion (perhaps it is because I have time to 'ruminate' over every new discovery). I also feel that large box sets with various artists would feel a bit disorienting, what, with all those different ensembles and their different approaches to the music.

Single-artist box sets, on the other hand, have at times piqued my interest. Henry, your 150-disc Glenn Gould set is a good example of this; I had at one time considered purchasing it, but didn't have the money at the time and probably will not want to save up for it at any point in the near future. Besides, what if, after a few dozen of his recordings, I find out that I don't much like him after all? (...Unlikely!)

The largest box sets that I own right now are the 14-disc Complete Piano Sonatas and Concertos of Beethoven by Claudio Arrau and the 13-disc Complete Solo Piano Works of Robert Schumann by Jörg Demus. I have been pleasantly surprised by both of them -- Demus's approach to Schumann is very academic (e.g., giving special care to the points of irony, key changes, and latent counterpoint) and occasionally subdued, and I've found this style of Schumann at times very appealing.

Which 'single-artist mega sets' would you folks recommend?
Du sollst schlechte Compositionen weder spielen, noch, wenn du nicht dazu gezwungen bist, sie anhören.

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Re: Mega-sets

Post by slofstra » Mon Aug 04, 2008 8:18 am

keninottawa wrote:I'm relatively new to this game, and I've a lot of holes in my collection that I would like to address. However, I've never been too attracted to large box sets, despite their overall affordability. There's something inexplicably satisfying about filling out a composer's catalogue in a piecemeal fashion (perhaps it is because I have time to 'ruminate' over every new discovery). I also feel that large box sets with various artists would feel a bit disorienting, what, with all those different ensembles and their different approaches to the music.

Single-artist box sets, on the other hand, have at times piqued my interest. Henry, your 150-disc Glenn Gould set is a good example of this; I had at one time considered purchasing it, but didn't have the money at the time and probably will not want to save up for it at any point in the near future. Besides, what if, after a few dozen of his recordings, I find out that I don't much like him after all? (...Unlikely!)

The largest box sets that I own right now are the 14-disc Complete Piano Sonatas and Concertos of Beethoven by Claudio Arrau and the 13-disc Complete Solo Piano Works of Robert Schumann by Jörg Demus. I have been pleasantly surprised by both of them -- Demus's approach to Schumann is very academic (e.g., giving special care to the points of irony, key changes, and latent counterpoint) and occasionally subdued, and I've found this style of Schumann at times very appealing.

Which 'single-artist mega sets' would you folks recommend?
You've hit on the reason I've not yet purchased 'Russian Legends'. It's just too much of a good thing. I'd rather graze in many pastures and be selective about the ones I revisit again and again. So bring on the Beethoven piano sonata and symphony sets.

As far as performer sets I've really liked the DG Original Masters series which I've purchased. The link takes you to the web site.
This series is performer-centric and there is a companion series that is composer-centric.
Lance gave me some valuable advice on my purchases, and I previewed here and there as well. I've been really satisfied. I've bought and enjoyed the Geza Anda set, Frederic Fricsay set, Rita Streich, also Jochum late Haydn symponies.
I've also got a Hindemith set and a Schubert symphonies set mostly unplayed at this point.
I've noticed that the availability of some of these sets is diminishing.

Here is the link to the other series:
DG Collectors Edition

I shouldn't even look though. I just see more sets I would like to get. Once the 'unplayed' stack gets down further, I'm going to take stock and prioritize my purchases. (I think some people call that shopping).

barney
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Re: Mega-sets

Post by barney » Mon Aug 04, 2008 8:33 am

You have to be extra keen to buy a mega-set of a single performer. Grumiaux is probably my all-time violin hero because of his beauty, purity, seamless sound and consistent musical sensitivity in everything he approached, but if you had bought his collection of 75-odd CDs in the 11 seconds it was on the catalogue you would have got multiple recordings of the same work, such as the Beethoven concerto, without a great deal of difference between the interpretations. But the 100-volume, 200-CD Philips Great Pianists of the 20th Century set featured some 70 pianists (some had 2 or 3 volumes), covering a colossal range. I thought this the greatest triumph of the compiler's art. Alfred Brendel picked all the music for all six CDs of Wilhelm Kempff. You got to track musical styles back through history. In fact, I wrote about it in 2000 in my newspaper, and take the liberty of reproducing it here: Warning, it's long, and no one is expected to get to the end. On the other hand, if there were ever a readership with the stamina to do so, it's probably here....

Article begins

AMBROSE BIERCE in The Devil's Dictionary (1906) defined piano as: "a parlor utensil for subduing the impenitent visitor. It is operated by depressing the keys of the machine and the spirits of the audience."

Little did Bierce know how quickly his aphorism would become redundant. In the 19th century the piano was the most important means for the burgeoning middle class to enjoy music - American piano companies paid virtuosi vast sums to tour the continent playing their instruments, and George Bernard Shaw said its invention was to music what the printing press was to poetry. It was adopted early by the middle class, especially by ladies (as viewers of the various Jane Austen mini-series would have noted) because - unlike the cello or lute - it allowed a seemly posture, with the knees together.

The 20th century, however, was to find recorded sound much more accessible. Instead of listening to the daughter of the house butcher Beethoven or Bach it became increasingly easy to enjoy greats from the "golden age of pianism" in the first part of the century.

To us, entering the 21st century, many of these names have an almost mythical status: Paderewski, Horowitz, Cortot, Rachmaninov, Hofmann. How do they compare with the great names of the post-war period such as Gilels, Richter, Arrau, Fischer and Michelangeli, or such modern heroes as Argerich, Brendel, Pollini, Schiff and Perahia?

Thanks to the largest recording project in history - listed in the Guinness Book of Records - it is at least possible to attempt an answer. Philips has completed its survey of the great pianists of the 20th century, a towering 200-CD monument to the past century and even the 19th. The CDs are available separately in 100 mid-priced, two-CD volumes.

It is a fascinating and colossal achievement, not only for the wealth of music and styles it reveals, but because by it we can trace the various family trees back to the earliest days of pianoforte. For example, the sublimely poetic Wilhelm Kempff - a particular hero of mine - was taught by Heinrich Barth, the pupil of von Bulow, who was taught both by Liszt and by Czerny, the disciple and friend of Beethoven.

And it is with Beethoven, who began composing in the 1790s, that the modern piano really begins (though the modern Steinway grand did not appear until 1859), with the full development of the pedals and a sizeable sound. Mozart wrote for an inferior instrument, and earlier composers for the harpsichord or clavier, which lacked power, range and dynamics.

Through Robert Casadesus we can hear Ravel, with whom he played piano duets. Alfred Cortot was taught by a pupil of Chopin. Josef Hofmann studied with Anton Rubinstein, the Russian who was the 19th century's second-most famous pianist after Liszt. Many pianists in the series - especially Ignaz Paderewski - studied with Leschitizsky, perhaps the most admired teacher of all, and, via Czerny, a descendant of Beethoven.

The great pianists series involved unprecedented cooperation between 28 recording companies who held the licences of the recordings by 74 pianists featured. Tom Deacon, now international vice-president of Universal Classics, is the head and heart behind the series. Formerly a broadcaster on CBC radio in his native Canada, he came to Amsterdam as head of catalogue for Philips, where he conceived and realised Great Pianists of the 20th Century.

The oldest pianist is Paderewski (1860-1941), the youngest the prodigious Russian Evgeny Kissin (born 1971).

Paderewski was to the turn of the century what Lord Byron was to an earlier era and Valentino to a later, the personification of artistic beauty in the form of what one commentator called the dreamer-troubador, crowned by a halo of golden hair. He became the box-office attraction of the age, the most lionised since Liszt, with an enormous but tender presence. A great-hearted patriot, he served two years as president of Poland from 1919 - his signature is on the treaty of Versailles - and starred in the Hollywood film Moonlight Sonata. He gave away his millions to various causes, dying almost in penury.

Although, like all great artists, he made his task look effortless, Paderewski's success was the result of an indomitable will and colossal capacity for hard work. Leschitizsky nearly turned him away at 24, telling him it was too late, he had wasted his time on more pleasant things such as composition. Paderewski's epigram on diligence was that if he failed to practise for a day, he could tell; if he failed for two days the critics could tell; and if he did not practise for three days the audience could tell.

The oldest recording in the series dates back to 1903: Hofmann playing Schubert. It could have been older still: Hofmann - a marvellous inventor, who is reputed to have been inspired by the action of the metronome to design the windscreen wiper, and who registered 60 patents - toured America in 1887 as a child prodigy. He was taken to meet Thomas Edison, and recorded several cylinders on Edison's new recording machine. These, the first music recordings in history, are, alas, lost.

That tour was ended by the intervention of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children in a test case, and Hofmann "retired" until he was 18, helped by a gift of $50,000 from a wealthy New York arts patron.

The most recent recording was done two years ago for the series by Japanese virtuoso Mitsuko Uchida, one of only nine women.

Styles of interpretation have waxed and waned across the century. The earlier recordings are much less concerned with accuracy. The modern obsession with exactitude dates back a mere 30 or 40 years to what Cyrus Meher-Homji of Universal Music calls the tyranny of piano competitions. It tends to lead to the search for technical perfection at the expense of communication.

With Cortot (1877-1962), for example, wrong notes abound, but it was observed of him that this did not matter because his right notes were so much better than anyone else's. When a pupil complained to Godowsky (1870-1938), himself a wonderful pianist represented in the series, about the wrong notes in a Hofmann recital, Godowsky replied: "Why look for spots on the sun?"

Godowsky was also a noted wit, responsible for one of music's most famous one-liners. The occasion was the brilliant 1917 debut of violinist Jascha Heifetz, which Godowsky attended with violinists Mischa Elman and Frederic Fradkin. At the interval Elman wiped his brow and observed that it was awfully hot. "Not for pianists," said Godowsky.

Performances from a century ago can sound idiosyncratic today. The emphasis was more on artist than composer, and interpreters allowed themselves liberties that can now sound wilful. Excesses of tempi and phrasing, at the expense of the structure and balance of the work as a whole, were accepted. Where they stand out, over contemporary pianists especially, is the freedom and spirit, and sometimes wonderful insights.

A limitation of early recording was that the wax cylinders could only hold just over four minutes of music, which accounts for some very rapid tempi. Gerald Moore, the noted accompanist, recalls enjoying some heavyweight clashes as singers tried to manoeuvre to get their heads right over the horn, while the pianist had to play every note at double forte to be heard. The microphone revolutionised recording.

Though it may sound wilful to modern ears, the "new school" at the turn of the century, exemplified by the likes of Hofmann (1876-1957) and Sergei Rachmaninov (1873-1943), was at first considered more intellectual and less attractive than the Leschitizsky approach.

Hofmann had hands so small they could barely span an octave, yet he achieved unparalleled technical perfection, whereas Rachmaninov had enormous hands which could reach an octave and a half. Better known today as a composer, he fled to America after the Russian revolution in which his family lost everything, and spent seven months a year in the concert hall to support five months' writing. A towering, brooding presence, he was described by Stravinsky as "a six-and-a-half-foot-tall scowl".

Vladimir Horowitz (1903-1989), their spiritual heir, was first considered the epitome of modernism but died as "the last romantic", a similar fate to composer Richard Strauss, whose vision stayed largely rooted as the musical world revolved.

The next generation considered the composer more important than the interpreter, and scaled back some of the stylistic excesses. More reticent personalities, such as Kempff (1895-1991), Edwin Fischer (1886-1960), Solomon (1902-1988), Emil Gilels (1916-1985) and Dinu Lipatti (1917-1950) began to highlight the composer's intentions.

Their heirs are such thoughtful and poetic pianists as Alfred Brendel (born 1931), Andras Schiff (born 1954) and the eccentric Canadian Glenn Gould (1932-1982), who can be heard accompanying himself in tuneless song on nearly every recording. At 31, Gould turned his back on the concert hall, devoting himself solely to recording, where he could exercise complete control.

But one cannot define approaches too precisely. For example, the tempestuous and eccentric Martha Argerich, who is also capable of the deepest poetry and intelligence, can seem an electrifying reincarnation of the likes of Hofmann and Horowitz; and the Russians Andrei Gavrilov (born 1955) and Kissin (who at a 1993 concert had to give 13 encores, the performance ending at 12.30am when the stagehands put the lights out) are as volatile as any.

One of the most popular pianists - a household name in America - was the Polish playboy Artur Rubinstein (1887-1982). Many of his contemporaries thought him a charlatan and, by his own admission, his playing would plod along until some climax arrived that he could milk for effect. However, half way through his career he withdrew from the concert hall and really worked for the first time, emerging the best part of a decade later a wonderful, daring and meltingly beautiful pianist.

His engaging autobiographies - regarded as highly fanciful by old friends - portray a bon vivant and libertine who became a giant almost despite himself. Like his great compatriot Paderewski, he was most-loved in America and adopted by the media as an artist absolutely right for the times.

A colossus of an entirely different sort was Russia's Sviatoslav Richter (1915-1997) - Sparta to Rubinstein's Corinth. A pianist of utter integrity - though sufficiently wise in showmanship to insist on playing in a pitch-dark hall with a spotlight on him, on the grounds that it would aid the listeners' concentration - Richter boasted astonishing control and subtlety, combined with the huge sound characteristic of Russian pianists.

The first Richter CD is one of the gems of the series: the entire 1958 recital in Sofia through which the West learnt not only that a supernova had joined the firmament but that Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition was a great piano work. Along with violinist David Oistrakh and cellist Mstislav Rostropovich, Richter was largely responsible for the Soviet-American cultural exchanges in the early 1970s that helped lead to detente.

Another figure who achieved great political significance was Van Cliburn, the American who set the world agog when he went to Moscow in 1958, at the height of the Cold War, and won the first International Tchaikovsky competition. In 1961 his Tchaikovsky piano concerto with Russian orchestra and conductor became classical music's first million-seller.

Another deeply enigmatic pianist is Martha Argerich, one of many who survived being a child prodigy, though not without pain. Beautiful and enormously gifted, she is at once incandescent and poignantly vulnerable. Liable to cancel concerts, she has recorded surprisingly little. One of her recordings included in the series is an electrifying account of the third Rachmaninov piano concerto that for years was available only in rare pirated versions.

Then there is Leon Fleisher (born 1928), the American virtuoso who lost the use of his right hand and eventually forged a second career using only his left; Jorge Bolet (1914-1990), the Cuban who became famous only in his '60s yet did more than most to popularise Liszt this century, as Artur Schnabel popularised Schubert's sonatas in the 1920s. Every pianist has a fascinating story.

So in such a pantheon of pianists, is it possible to nominate a favorite? Certainly: it's whoever I'm listening to at the time. Great Pianists of the 20th Century is a landmark in the history of recorded sound. Start collecting.

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Re: Mega-sets

Post by Ralph » Mon Aug 04, 2008 9:02 am

Some mega-sets are put out by labels of questionable quality. I do buy Brilliant mega-sets including Beethoven, Bach and Mozart. Why? I have virtually all the important works on (multiple) individual CDs. I suppose the is some "completist" allure in having these big boxes and I do find works with which I am unfamiliar and which aren't represented in my obscenely large collection. And as I've explained to more than one female friend, "So, what's the harm?" :)
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slofstra
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Re: Mega-sets

Post by slofstra » Mon Aug 04, 2008 9:47 am

And as I've explained to more than one female friend, "So, what's the harm?"
Umm, this is when you were talking about CDs?

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Re: Mega-sets

Post by Corlyss_D » Mon Aug 04, 2008 2:08 pm

slofstra wrote:
Ralph wrote:And as I've explained to more than one female friend, "So, what's the harm?"
Umm, this is when you were talking about CDs?
:lol: I wondered too, particularly with the intriguing juxtaposition of "obscenely large" and the rhetorical question.
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Re: Mega-sets

Post by Ralph » Mon Aug 04, 2008 3:52 pm

slofstra wrote:
And as I've explained to more than one female friend, "So, what's the harm?"
Umm, this is when you were talking about CDs?
*****

What else?
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Re: Mega-sets

Post by Ralph » Mon Aug 04, 2008 3:53 pm

Corlyss_D wrote:
slofstra wrote:
Ralph wrote:And as I've explained to more than one female friend, "So, what's the harm?"
Umm, this is when you were talking about CDs?
:lol: I wondered too, particularly with the intriguing juxtaposition of "obscenely large" and the rhetorical question.
*****

Time for a cold shower out there in Utah! :)
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premont
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Re: Mega-sets

Post by premont » Mon Aug 04, 2008 4:02 pm

Ralph wrote:... my obscenely large collection.
Even I wondered about the use of this word in this context. I think (and of course I may be wrong), that you subconsciously realize, that Dittersdorf is overrepresented beyond any decency in you collection.

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Re: Mega-sets

Post by Ralph » Mon Aug 04, 2008 4:18 pm

premont wrote:
Ralph wrote:... my obscenely large collection.
Even I wondered about the use of this word in this context. I think (and of course I may be wrong), that you subconsciously realize, that Dittersdorf is overrepresented beyond any decency in you collection.
*****

There can never be too many Dittersdorf CDs. I eagerly await the announced release of the 573 disc Dittersdorf master set.
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Re: Mega-sets

Post by slofstra » Mon Aug 04, 2008 6:52 pm

barney wrote:You have to be extra keen to buy a mega-set of a single performer. Grumiaux is probably my all-time violin hero because of his beauty, purity, seamless sound and consistent musical sensitivity in everything he approached, but if you had bought his collection of 75-odd CDs in the 11 seconds it was on the catalogue you would have got multiple recordings of the same work, such as the Beethoven concerto, without a great deal of difference between the interpretations. But the 100-volume, 200-CD Philips Great Pianists of the 20th Century set featured some 70 pianists (some had 2 or 3 volumes), covering a colossal range. I thought this the greatest triumph of the compiler's art. Alfred Brendel picked all the music for all six CDs of Wilhelm Kempff. You got to track musical styles back through history. In fact, I wrote about it in 2000 in my newspaper, and take the liberty of reproducing it here: Warning, it's long, and no one is expected to get to the end. On the other hand, if there were ever a readership with the stamina to do so, it's probably here....

Article begins

AMBROSE BIERCE in The Devil's Dictionary (1906) defined piano as: "a parlor utensil for subduing the impenitent visitor. It is operated by depressing the keys of the machine and the spirits of the audience."

....(See above)
Nice!!

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Re: Mega-sets

Post by CharmNewton » Mon Aug 04, 2008 9:01 pm

slofstra wrote: I've been looking at this for I don't know how long (100 CDs):

Image

Full track listing is here:

http://music.brilliantclassics.com/epag ... tInfo/8713
I've seen this set available in Germany and France. Are you seeing it on this side of the pond?

John

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Re: Mega-sets

Post by barney » Mon Aug 04, 2008 9:09 pm

On Lance's recommendation, I checked and it is available in Melbourne, the far side of the globe. So it is surely available where you are.

CharmNewton
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Re: Mega-sets

Post by CharmNewton » Mon Aug 04, 2008 9:23 pm

barney wrote:On Lance's recommendation, I checked and it is available in Melbourne, the far side of the globe. So it is surely available where you are.
This set doesn't look to be distributed in the U.S. or Canada, perhaps due to licensing restrictions. Right now, I'm hoping that Amazon.com (U.S. or Canada) will carry the set, or one of the marketplace vendors.

John

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Re: Mega-sets

Post by slofstra » Mon Aug 04, 2008 10:24 pm

It comes up fairly frequently on Ebay. Shipped from Europe though. Search in Music on "Russian Legends".

barney
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Re: Mega-sets

Post by barney » Sun Aug 10, 2008 7:49 pm

Sorry to revive this topic, but I'm planning to write about it next week, and some of my key questions weren't addressed. I'm reminded of the legendary Lunchtime O'Booze in English satirical magazine Private Eye who used to offer a bottle of scotch to anyone who would write his next column for him.

So can I just try once more: who do you think the record companies are targeting? Do they put these out because they are doing so few new recordings now and raiding the archives is cheap? Why don't they stay long in the catalogue before being deleted? Obviously they bring down the cost per CD, but they can still be expensive - how does that affect your thinking? They are shelf-space efficient - does that matter to anyone besides me? Any other thoughts on mega-sets?

CharmNewton
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Re: Mega-sets

Post by CharmNewton » Sun Aug 10, 2008 10:57 pm

barney wrote:Sorry to revive this topic, but I'm planning to write about it next week, and some of my key questions weren't addressed. I'm reminded of the legendary Lunchtime O'Booze in English satirical magazine Private Eye who used to offer a bottle of scotch to anyone who would write his next column for him.
Hey, no need to apologize. I missed most of your questions first time through. I don't work in the record business, but have thought about some of these questions.
barney wrote: So can I just try once more: who do you think the record companies are targeting?
People who would find their offers attractive. :) That would be collectors like me, but would also include the download crowd who like their music free. Given the low cost, some might find it easier just to buy the CDs rather than take the time to download, organize and burn them.
barney wrote: Do they put these out because they are doing so few new recordings now and raiding the archives is cheap?
I think this is a complicated business question. It costs a great deal of money to record world-class orchestras and soloists and they are no longer able to operate on a model that allows them to recover costs over many years (the model that has now made it possible to create all these low-cost mega-sets) as Classical divisions are held to the same standards as pop divisions. We are also at a point where the sonic improvements of new recordings are not nearly as great as they once were. So when you have a number of recordings already mastered for CD and issuing them can do a lot to improve your short-term bottom line, do it.

Going against the mega-set model, recordings may also get a greater return in pieces than as a whole. For example, Andre Previn recorded the Beethoven 5th with the RPO. If Sony/BMG re-issued that recording, presumably suitably coupled, how many copies do you think they would sell? Now, let's say Sony?BMG are planning a new collection series based on meals with Beethoven's music. There's Breakfast with Beethoven, Lunch with Beethoven, Dinner with Beethoven and Late-Night Snack with Beethoven. Now each of those collections contains a movement from Previn's recording. Which of these do you think will get a better return on Previn's Beethoven?
barney wrote: Why don't they stay long in the catalogue before being deleted?
Because carrying unsold inventory costs money, both as an actual cost and as an opportunity cost. The companies have a great deal of sales data and have a pretty good idea of how many units they can sell. The vast majority of recordings sell well when new and then tend to trail off.

Which leads me to something I recall from reading Gramophone magazine. European companies frequently re-issued material and deleted it quickly. The initial burst of advertising and reviews got my attention. European companies were able to re-generate interest in older recordings. American companies, on the other hand, tended to keep a sizable portion of their catalog in print and depended retailers keeping the recordings in stock or using resources like the Schwann Record Catalog to locate tem.
barney wrote: Obviously they bring down the cost per CD, but they can still be expensive - how does that affect your thinking?
I try to avoid lots of duplication. I passed on the Sony/BMG Beethoven box because I already had about 50% of the set in other editions, although I saw it priced very attractively even with the duplications.
barney wrote: They are shelf-space efficient - does that matter to anyone besides me? Any other thoughts on mega-sets?
It matters to me to. Some of the newer boxes are very nicely done.

John

barney
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Re: Mega-sets

Post by barney » Sun Aug 10, 2008 11:54 pm

Many thanks, John. You raise some really interesting points. I never thought of the download crowd, for example, or the differences between the main two markets, Europe and the US.

CharmNewton
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Re: Mega-sets

Post by CharmNewton » Mon Aug 11, 2008 12:32 am

barney wrote:Many thanks, John. You raise some really interesting points. I never thought of the download crowd, for example, or the differences between the main two markets, Europe and the US.
I would also count the Asian market as a major one (I even order CDs from Japan). I'd be curious to see the sales figures for Japan, Korea (a copy of the Heifetz Collection and a rare Krystian Zimerman set were recently sold on E-Bay from Korea) and China.

John

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Re: Mega-sets

Post by slofstra » Mon Aug 11, 2008 8:47 am

I'll take a crack at it, Barney.
barney wrote:Sorry to revive this topic, but I'm planning to write about it next week, and some of my key questions weren't addressed. I'm reminded of the legendary Lunchtime O'Booze in English satirical magazine Private Eye who used to offer a bottle of scotch to anyone who would write his next column for him.

So can I just try once more: who do you think the record companies are targeting?
Mostly pack rat music-loving males, ages 45 and older, with disposable income and discretionary time.
Do they put these out because they are doing so few new recordings now and raiding the archives is cheap?
The impetus in new recordings is with self-producing (Phil.Orchestra/ Odine), boutique labels,and downloading. This is not a mass market but a specialty and also more provincial market. Almost the only mass market that exists is Bond, Potts, etc. The big powerhouses can only afford to groom a few mega-stars. Why groom 10 megastars selling a million each, when you can groom one selling 10 million.
Why don't they stay long in the catalogue before being deleted?
The market itself is quite limited (see my demographic above). So they would do a fixed run and push this to the distribution outlets. Once the run is gone they're taking quite a risk pressing another lot since most of their market has their ears pretty close to the ground for these releases and will already have purchased the product. Something like the Gould or Callas set might have more legs. Also the VW set is selling impressively well. Incidentally, I am making all this up based on very actual info.
Obviously they bring down the cost per CD, but they can still be expensive - how does that affect your thinking?
Price is not a key consideration. What I mean by that is I like to feel it's a good deal, but the total out of pocket cost is not that big a consideration. Shelf space and listening time and the desirability and quality of the set are greater considerations for me personally.
They are shelf-space efficient - does that matter to anyone besides me? Any other thoughts on mega-sets?
Absolutely. I would like someone to invent a CD case which could hold a standard size booklet and rear inlay but reduce the thickness. I would buy a couple hundred in a second.
I wonder how many of these sets are purchased and barely listened to.
The Gould set is really attractively done. I like good collateral materials, booklets, editorial and so on but this does increase the cost.

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Re: Mega-sets

Post by barney » Tue Aug 12, 2008 9:16 am

Hi Henry, I just noticed your long and thoughtful reply. Thanks for sharing that.

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Re: Mega-sets

Post by slofstra » Tue Aug 12, 2008 12:37 pm

barney wrote:Hi Henry, I just noticed your long and thoughtful reply. Thanks for sharing that.
You might want to consider my comment that I am making this up.

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Re: Mega-sets

Post by karlhenning » Tue Aug 12, 2008 12:48 pm

SSSSSHHHHHH!

Cheers,
~Karl
Karl Henning, PhD
Composer & Clarinetist
Boston, Massachusetts
http://members.tripod.com/~Karl_P_Henning/
http://henningmusick.blogspot.com/
Published by Lux Nova Press
http://www.luxnova.com/

slofstra
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Re: Mega-sets

Post by slofstra » Tue Aug 12, 2008 1:41 pm

karlhenning wrote:SSSSSHHHHHH!

Cheers,
~Karl
If Barney is a columnist worth his salt, and to all appearances he is, that shouldn't be much of an issue. :)

barney
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Re: Mega-sets

Post by barney » Fri Aug 15, 2008 9:24 am

slofstra wrote:
karlhenning wrote:SSSSSHHHHHH!

Cheers,
~Karl
If Barney is a columnist worth his salt, and to all appearances he is, that shouldn't be much of an issue. :)
Yes. In the finest traditions of my profession, I will grab that bit that supports what I want to say and exaggerate it, while utterly ignoring anything else. If it's a good idea I won't acknowledge the source,but if it's dubious I'll attribute it. You know how it works...

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