1. Philips Great Pianists of the 20th Century: This is one of the best compilation albums ever produced. It is an attempt to present the most iconic performances by the great pianists of the 20th century. Philips did a commendable job in selecting 72 best pianists of the 20th century and their best compositions (though, arguably there are some misses). Producing the album was a major headache for Philips considering the mammoth amount of work it has taken into its hands and the collaborative efforts it had to put up. Luckily, EMI Classics, Warner Classics and Sony Classics allowed Philips to use their recordings of some of the pianists. What jars the experience is the slipshod documentation. Some glaring errors in attribution do leave a bad taste in mouth, especially in Liszt section. You can buy it from here: P
2. EMI Great Recordings of the Century: EMI was the big daddy of all the labels producing WCM. It has an enormous and matchless catalogue of the finest recordings ever made and almost all of the prominent musicians were on its roster. In 1998, EMI decided to dredge its vast catalogue to produce a series of the finest pieces in the history of recorded music, recordings which were of great historical and musical importance. All the recordings were remastered using the latest technology available at that time. The series contains many of the definitive versions of the greatest orchestral, opera, chamber music and vocal works. What I absolutely loved about this series was the glorious documentation accompanying it. Full recording information, full texts, brilliant essays by some of the finest music critics and rare photographs of the original recording sessions make it a treasure trove for a history buffs. The series contains following recordings: R and you can buy it from here: E
3. Berliner Philharmoniker — Centenary Edition: Deutsche Grammophon brought this series to celebrate 100 years of Berlin Philharmonic exhaustive recording career. They ran a poll to select the recordings for this set and it has turned out to be an inspired decision. As Karajan was the director for 35 long years, it is natural that the core of the set is him. 15 CDs are of recordings conducted by Karajan. One thing which I found a bit odd was the glaring omission of Celibidache who served the Philharmonic for 8 years with distinction. Apparently, the reason was that Celibidache never recorded for DG and DG did not put efforts to collaborate with other labels to include his recordings in this centenary edition. The artwork and the documentation is top notch and collectible. You can buy it from here: C
4. Bach Masterworks: Deutsch Grammophon: Johann Nicolaus Forkel wrote,” No language in the world is rich enough to express all that might and should be said of the astonishing extent of Bach’s genius. The more intimately we are acquainted with it, the more does our admiration increase.” and he was absolutely spot on. Bach had a very large output and this series is an attempt to present his great works. It contains Cantatas, Organ works, Keyboard works, Chamber music, concertos and orchestral pieces. Heck, it even contains Lute suite and sacred songs. The recordings have very high sound quality. My favorite is Pierre Fournier playing Bach’’s cello suites. DG hired noted Bach specialist Dorothea Schröder to write the introduction and she has done a fabulous job. Artwork is topnotch and slick. You can buy it from here: B
5. The Complete Mozart Edition: Philips: The sales pitch for this series by Philips was,”After the complete Shakespeare, the complete Goethe, or the complete Moliere in the book form, here is the complete Mozart on disks”. But it is much more than that. Not only does it contains Mozart’s entire output (it even contains Bastien und Bastienne which he wrote at 12 years of age), all compositions were recorded by the great masters of 20th century. Arthur Grumiaux, Mitsuko Uchida, Neville Marriner, Dietrich Fischer Dieskau and other great masters were associated with this project. All the compositions were digitally recorded and are of great audio quality. A well produced, detailed booklet accompanies the series which provides detailed information about each of the compositions. Truly a collector’s delight. You can buy it from here: M