Almost four hours of music constitutes exceptional value especially when, tucked away among a selection of Mazurkas, is Chopin's early "Variations on a German National Air". Vásáry charms you into wondering why it is so rarely heard.
Russia is vast, and so is this 25-disc tribute to the great piano school of Russia-from the long-famous icons to the more recent inheritors of this ineffably proud tradition. Vladimir Horowitz, Sviatoslav Richter, Emil Gilels, Vladimir Ashkenazy, Lazar Berman and many others display their subtly various approaches to phrasing and timbre as they perform the great works of the Russian canon and composers across Europe.
Vladimir Sofronitsky was among the greatest Russian pianists of the twentieth century, and, while he had become a somewhat less prominent figure following his death, he must be still considered in the company of Richter, Gilels, and Yudina. In his time, Sofronitsky became widely recognized as the leading interpreter of and authority on the music of Scriabin in Eastern Europe. He was also highly praised for his interpretations of the piano works of Robert Schumann and he was a highly respected teacher.
To mark the 50th anniversary of the pianist’s death, EMI has brought out the largest and most comprehensive Cortot collection ever. The set offers nearly every commercial studio recording released under Cortot’s name on 78 shellac, vinyl LP, 45 rpm single, or compact disc, including unpublished takes already released on CD. To be sure, it is not quite “The Complete Cortot”. For example, the collection omits Cortot’s 1903 sessions accompanying soprano Felia Litvinne, plus a 1925 recording containing the second half only of Chopin’s First Ballade coupled on shellac with the same composer’s Second Impromptu. There is no broadcast material, either. However, we do get Cortot’s unpublished 1957 Chopin Preludes and Ballades, along with a few samples from the pianist’s long-rumored, unfinished Beethoven cycle recorded at the Ecole Normale in 1958/59
The box set comprised 100 volumes featuring 72 pianists of the 20th century, each volume with two CDs and a booklet about the life and work of the featured pianist. The set contains a variety of composers from different eras, from Baroque to Contemporary classical.
Phillips' Great Pianists of the 20th Century issue has gotten a lot of publicity in the ten or so years since it has been released. In a musical niche suffering from falling revenues, it was a decent seller. But it left many connoisseurs disappointed, as the quality was limited to the fancy packaging.