Unlike many budget compilations that offer only selected movements or brief excerpts, Decca's Ultimate Piano Concertos: The Essential Masterpieces presents 10 masterworks in their entirety on five CDs, giving concerto fans a satisfying listening experience. Granted, these reissues are not audiophile recordings, nor are the performers familiar in every case; but for analog recordings from the 1950s to the 1970s, and digital recordings from the 1980s, the sound is quite good, and the performers are never less than fine, though in many instances, they are indeed exceptional. These concertos are at the top of most virtuoso pianists' lists, and though fashions change, all of these concertos have staying power and are regularly played in competitions around the world.
Decca's Ultimate Ballet: The Essential Masterpieces is a budget box set of five discs covering the major dance works in the classical repertoire; newcomers to the genre can quickly pick up the basics from this generous collection. One can argue that Tchaikovsky should have been allotted greater space and that at least one of his ballets should have been presented in its entirety, rather than all three represented as suites and squeezed together on disc 1 to make room for Delibes' complete Coppélia. The Nutcracker, for example, could have fit nicely on a single CD, or an extra disc could have been provided to accommodate either a complete Swan Lake or Sleeping Beauty.