DECCA 478 5437 - 50 DISKS

This is one of the most exacting multi-disk sets one will ever experience. Decca previously issued a 53 CD set of selected monophonic recordings made 1955-1956 going deep into their vaults to restore many historic early ffrr (full frequency range records) many of which had never appeared on CD, all magically remastered with the latest digital technology (REVIEW). Now we have this extension of the series as mentioned made in earlier years of stereo—the first in 1954. Of course the Decca catalog is so grandiose that this set could not be comprehensive. Many ffss recordings are included in the massive Vienna Philharmonic set (soon to be reviewed on this site). But we can be thankful for the many treasures here. I owned most of these recordings when originally issued, and there is no question that the superb original recordings now sound better than ever in their digital remastering. All of these big sets are "limited editions" and it is suggested that the serious collector acquire them before they disappear.

While collectors will welcome all of these, sometimes the choice seems a bit odd. Surprisingly there is no music of Richard Strauss—I would have thought they would have included Zubin Mehta's Los Angeles recordings of either Also sprach Zarathustra or An Alpine Symphony. Sir George Solti's Chicago Rite of Spring is here, but why not his Amsterdam Mahler Symphony 4 recorded in 1961, one of the sonic wonders of its time—I prefer it to his Chicago Symphony recording two decades later. Fortunately we do ave Fistoulari's Concertgebouw Swan Lake excerpts rrecorded at the time time as Solti's Mahler 4. Also surprising, there is no Wagner; perhaps producers felt that composer's music was already well documented on CD (and it surely is!).

The many stereo recordings of the Suisse Romande Orchestra under various conductors are welcome, but it is a fact that the Swiss ensemble at the time was not in the top echelon of orchestras. We do have two complete operas Le Bohème and Otello, famous performances beautifully engineered ; no librettos—that would be asking too much. From the complete Shostakovich symphony cycle with Haitink and the London Philharmonic producers have selected Symphony 4, and from the Maazel/Vienna Philharmonic Sibelius cycle, we have Nos. 1 and 4. It is obvious that Decca easily could issue several more multi-disk sets of repertory of great interest for collectors. We can hope!

Each disk has its own jacket usually with the original LP cover illustrations .A 200 page booklet contains total information about each recording and often there are photos taken during recording sessions. It does seem rather strange that one of the recording session photographs is of the Mahler 4 with Solti, showing the orchestra on the main floor of the Concertgebouw instead of on stage—odd as that recording, as mentioned above, isn't included.

No question, this is an essential set for collectors. Get this limited edition while you can. And thank you DECCA!!!! You can find a complete list of contents HERE.

R.E.B. (May 2015)