A retail price of $1,600 for a box set? Granted, it's not something most of us can afford. But, for piano buffs and fans of Artur Rubinstein, this mammoth limited-edition 94-CD set might be an investment to consider. For starters, BMG has collected all of the approved studio recordings of Rubinstein (including 200 or so that have never been on CD) and added a handful of previously unreleased recordings and some interviews. The lot has been remastered for this collection using the latest technology (RCA's disc-and-a-half Highlights sampler actually showcases some of the more dramatic remasterings)--a good thing, when you consider that many of these master tapes have a lifetime's worth of surface noise. You get a lavishly illustrated book with essays and photographs and a nice case to store the works; everything but the credit plan is included, really. Of course, it's up to you to decide whether you want 706 recordings of 347 pieces played by the same great pianist. And, though owning Rubinstein's three complete cycles of Beethoven's concertos might sound tempting, will you really listen to each of them? Probably not, but if you need 'em, here they are. (His Chopin cycles, on the other hand, you will listen to repeatedly!) It's easily one of the most impressive and comprehensive box sets that classical music has seen: a true career overview with excellent remastering and handsome packaging that reflects the collection's price tag (unlike some box sets that are just that: CDs in boxes). Do you need it? Probably not. Will you want it? You bet. --Jason Verlinde
Beethoven;Symphonies Nos,5 & 7 [CD] Ludwig van Beethoven、 Arturo Toscanini; N...
In his early career, Toscanini was put off recording by a few unfortunate experiences. So thank goodness that Toscanini's admirers kept hold of these archive tapes of live performances and radio broadcasts, and our knowledge of the great conductor's early output can be that little bit more complete. The downside first. One has to listen with historically adjusted ears to orchestral playing which would simply not be permitted now--some dodgy wind tuning for example--and to a rather one dimensional recording level. The acoustic too is rather dry (though it shows off some spectacularly precise lower string playing.) Ania Dorfmann must also be one of the worst pianists on record! The upside. Toscanini was one of the greatest--some would say the greatest--maestros of the century, and here is a chance to see why. A total sense of structure, a fidelity to the truth of the moment, a perfect sense of what should be foregrounded and what held back, and a sure control of tempi. This is exciting, passionate playing and brilliant value on Naxos' budget label. --Warwick Thompson