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Brahms: Complete Edition Box set, Limited Edition

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Product details

  • Audio CD (1 Jun. 2009)
  • Number of Discs: 46
  • Format: Box set, Limited Edition
  • Label: Decca (UMO)
  • ASIN: B001TH28EO
  • Other Editions: MP3 Download
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 50,035 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Product Description

46 CD box set containing the complete works of Johannes Brahms. It includes 'Symphony No. 3 in F Major, Op. 90', 'Serenade No. 2 in A Major, op. 16', 'Tragic Overture, Op. 81', 'Academic Festival Overture, Op. 80', 'Hungarian Dance No. 2 in D Minor' and 'Concerto for Violin and Cello in A Minor, Op. 102', amongst others.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

39 of 39 people found the following review helpful By J. Gibbons TOP 500 REVIEWER on 7 Jan. 2010
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
This is a splendid and economical way of of obtaining an almost complete collection of Brahms' works. There are a few omissions. For example some 'WOo' piano and vocal works are missing and, where alternative versions arranged by Brahms exist generally only one is included. Most of the omitted items are readily available on other issues so this not a great loss but, really, the issue should not have been descibed by DG as 'complete'.

But what of the performances? They are all excellent and, in some cases, outstanding.

The orchestral works include Karajan's digital symphony cycle and Abbado's serenades and Hungarian Dances. All are very good indeed and give great plasure.

The Piano Concertos are Pollini's earlier set and the Violin and Double concertos Mutter's with Karajan. Possibly not the finest in the catalogue but still excellent.

The Chamber Music is played by a variety of performers all of which are excellent and a few outstanding (Zukerman and Barenboim in the violin sonatas and Rostropovich and Serkin in those for cello for example). I also especially enjoyed the Lasalle Quartet in the String Quartets.

The Piano Music is well played by Ugorski, Kempff, Vasary and Barenboim and thoroughly enjoyable.

The Lieder by Fischer-Dieskau, Norman and Barenboim are one of the jewels of this set. Quite ravishing performances, beautifully recorded.

The works for vocal ensemble receive fine performances as do the choral works. These are beautiful works and should be better known.

The final discs contain Brahms' works for chorus and orchestra and include an excellent performance of the Requiem conducted by Giulini and the others by Sinopoli which remain among the very best in the catalogue.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 10 reviews
81 of 83 people found the following review helpful
what a deal for one-stop shopping for all your Brahms music 20 July 2009
By Daniel Fowler - Published on
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
I bought this 46-cd set when it first became available for $80. That's less than 2$ per disk! I would have gladly paid that much just for some of the individual sections. Of course, if the performances were terrible, or even mediocre, I would have been much better off seeking out individual performances or competing box sets like Brilliant Classic's collection of complete Brahms works. But I already had a couple of the individual works (portions of the symphonies conducted by Karajan and performed by the Berlin Philharmonic from their digital 1980s recordings, for example)and knew that they were outstanding performances. And the roster of performing artists was a who's who of the classical recording industry: Daniel Barenboim, Wilhelm Kempff, Anne-Sophie Mutter, Maurizio Pollini, and countless others. Even though I had a good assortment of Brahms recordings, I felt this was an excellent way to fill in some of the gaps and introduce myself especially to some of the choral works and lieder that were unfamiliar to me. I haven't listened to everything yet, but I've listened a good deal to the orchestral works (cds 1-5), concertos( cds 6-8), chamber works (cds 9-19 - and wow is that clarinet trio with Karl Leister awesome!), and the German Requiem (Giulini, Vienna Philharmonic, Schmidt and Bonney) and Alto Rhapsodie (Sinopoli, Czech Philharmonic, Brigitte Fassbaender contralto). Everything has been a first-rank performance, if not an out and out first choice, with very good recorded sound as well. I haven't begun to listen to the choral works or the solo piano recordings, and I am already blissfully content with my purchase.

The product description offers pretty good details about the set. Here is some additional information:

CDs 1-5 offer the orchestral works. Symphonies 1-4 are conducted by Herbert von Karajan and the Berlin Philharmonic (according to the booklet the performances were recorded in 1986-1988, not the 1970s cycle). I've long enjoyed Karajan's 70s rendition of the symphonies, and these seem very similar but in digital sound. Karajan and the Berlin Philharmonic also perform the Haydn Variations and Tragic Overture. Serenades 1 & 2 and the Academic Festival Overture are ably performed by Claudio Abbado and the Berlin Philharmonic. Abbado also leads the Vienna Philharmonic in a sprightly version of the Hungarian Dances.

The concertos occupy CDs 6-8. Maurizio Pollini performs in the two piano concertos. The first is conducted by Karl Bohm leading the Vienna Philharmonic. The second is also by the Vienna Philharmonic, this time conducted by Claudio Abbado. The performances are very nice but won't displace my favorites (Gilels/Jochum, Fleisher/Szell). I have not yet heard Pollini's later collaboration with Abbado and the Berlin Philharmonic but will seek them out based on his playing on these recordings. The violin concerto and double concerto are conducted by Karajan and played by the Berlin Philharmonic. Soloists are Anne-Sophie Mutter on violin and Antonio Meneses on cello.

CDs 9-19 feature chamber music. Barenboim and Zukerman play the violin sonatas, Serkin and Rostropovich the cello sonatas, Karl Leister and Jorg Demus the clarinet sonatas. The clarinet trio (did I mention this was a stunning performance) is played by Leister, Tamas Vasery, and Ottomar Borwitzky. Vasery and Borwitzky are joined by Thomas Brandis and Worfram Christ on the other piano trios and quartets. String Quartets are played by the LaSalle Quartet. The Quartetto Italiano joins Pollini in the Piano Quintet in F minor, and the Amadeus Quartet participates in the other quintets and sextets.

CDs 20-28 feature piano and organ works. Anatol Ugorski plays the 3 piano sonatas. Wilhelm Kempff plays the scherzo, 4 Ballades, and assorted Klavierstucke and Fantasias. Daniel Barenboim and Tamas Vasery play the variations. Alfons and Aloys Kontarsky play the works for two pianos (great set of Hungarian Dances!). Peter Planyavsky plays the organ works.

CD 29-35 offer Lieder, 36-39 vocal ensembles, 40-43 choral works, and 44-46 works for chorus and orchestra. I'll leave others to comment on these performances as I have yet to explore their magic (except for the outstanding performances of the German Requiem and Alto-Rhapsodie mentioned earlier).

I'll be enjoying these recordings for many years to come.
30 of 31 people found the following review helpful
Brahms Edition (complete?) 26 Aug. 2009
By M. Xu - Published on
Format: Audio CD
This 46CD-set is a reissue of the complete Brahms edition that was released in 1996 to commemorate the centenary of the composer's death. The original edition was divided into eight lavishly designed boxes and the liner notes contained well-researched essays on Brahms the composer and the man as well as a wealth of historical photos. As such, it was a highly valuable collection both artistically and informatively. Unfortunately, that edition has long been out of print.

The current reissue cannot compare with the original edition in two very important ways. First of all, it does not have any liner notes or any form of literature. No documentation, no photos. In the booklet you get nothing except the track listing. Secondly, it does not provide any texts to the lieder and the choral works. This can be a major drawback for people who are serious about the lieder. So, unless you already have another collection of Brahms lieder with all the texts, you might not want to consider this set as your only choice in this repertoire. Other than that, this reissue is a wonderful comeback to the catalogue. At the price being asked, I don't see why a Brahms lover should pass it up. Even if you are only marginally interested in this composer, this set will provide you with endless joy of getting to know one of the profoundest musical outputs by any person in history. :D

As the other reviewers have commented, this collection is indeed a mixed bag. The performance quality ranges from okay to excellent. It has some award-winning performances as well as mediocre ones.

CD 1-5: Orchestral Works. All four symphonies are played BPO under Karajan in early digital sound. These are Okay performances in my opinion. Abbado conducts the two serenades. The orchestral performance of the complete Hungarian dances by Abbado and VPO is excellent.

CD 6-8: Concertos. For the piano concertos DG used the Pollini/Bohm/Abbado recordings, previously available as a 2CD. The violin concerto is done by Mutter, Karajan and BPO, and the double concerto features the same combination plus Meneses at the cello. This recording was previously available in the Karajan Gold series.

CD 9-19: Chamber Music. In my opinion this part of the collection is a gem. The performances are excellent overall. The cello sonatas by Rostropovich and Serkin are highly acclaimed. The piano quintet by Pollini and Quartetto Italiano won that year's Grammophone award. The piano trios and piano quartets feature Tamas Vasary, a wonderful pianist who has been underrepresented on CDs. The Lasalle Quartett plays the string quartets, while the Amadeus Quartett together with Aronowitz and Pleeth play the string quintets and sextets. Karl Leister plays clarinet in the sonatas accompanied by Jorg Demus. In the clarinet quintet Leister plays with Amadeus Quartett. The various quartets, quintets and sextets were previously available in a Collector's Edition box. Zukerman and Barenboim play the violin sonatas. DG omits the viola sonatas because these are the same materials transcribed from the clarinet sonatas. Nevertheless, the viola is nice to hear, and I recommend this recording of Brahms: Viola Works.

CD 20-28: Piano and Organ Works. The piano performances are good in general. Op.10, 79, 116-119 are played by Kempff. These recordings have won numerous awards, although they are not my favorites (Check out Afanassiev Late Piano Works on Denon). Vasary plays Klavierstucke Op.76 and the Paganini Variations. Ugorski plays the three piano sonatas. Barenboim plays the Schumann Variations and the Handel Variations. The Kontarsky brothers play all the works for piano four hands and piano duet. These include the Op.39 waltzes, the Hungarian Dances, and the Haydn Variations for two pianos among other things. Hearing the Sonata in F minor (transcribed from the piano quintet Op.34) played on two pianos is a revelation! Peter Planyavsky plays all the organ works. This is interesting music totally worthy of investigation.

CD 29-43: Lieder, Vocal Ensembles and Choral Works. The lieder performances feature two of the best vocalists in DG's roster, Fischer-Dieskau and Norman. The accompanist in all of the songs is Barenboim. In the vocal works for multiple voices we have Edith Mathis, Brigitte Fassbaender and Peter Schreier, all accomplished singers, joining forces with Karl Engel and Wolfgang Sawallisch at the piano. In the choral works there is North German Radio Chorus.

CD 44-46: Works for Chorus and Orchestra. The German Requiem is from a 1987 live recording conducted by Giulini and performed by VPO and the Vienna State Opera Chorus. The soloists are Andreas Schmidt and Barbara Bonney. The Alto-Rhapsodie is sung by Fassbaender, accompanied by Tschechische Philharmonie under Sinopoli.

As my title suggests, this edition may not be truly complete. The Brilliant Classics box has 60 CDs compared to 46 here. So there has gotta be some omissions in this box (e.g. the viola sonatas). Perhaps someone who has acquired both sets can enlighten us with more information.
52 of 57 people found the following review helpful
Somewhat of a mixed bag... 30 July 2009
By Peter - Published on
Format: Audio CD
There are some excellent recordings in this set - but there are some rather mediocre too. The sound quality of some DG recordings from the 80ies leaves much to be desired. Especially in orchestral music, the sound can be congested and you can't hear details. To begin with, the symphonies, featuring Karajan and the Berliners, are recorded 1986-88, and it's not his best set (which likely would be his readings from 1978). The serenades and the Hungarian dances with Abbado, other the other hand, are excellent. It's a pity that DG chose the Pollini / Böhm team for the piano concertos, and not the classic account of Gilels / Jochums. The violin concerto with Mutter and the double concerto with Mutter / Meneses are fresh. The chamber music discs are good throughout, but I would rather prefer the complete set of Philips if I had to choose. The keyboard works are probably the most uneven of the whole collection. The songs, on the other hand, featuring Fischer-Dieskau and Jessye Norman, are recommendable, as are the vocal ensembles. There are better recordings today of the a cappella choral works. I refer to the excellent recordings of Chamber Choir of Europe on Brilliant Classics. The same goes for at last some of the works for chorus and orchestra. Especially Ein deutsches Requiem, accounted here for by Giulini, which definitely is available in fresher versions.

The documentation, which in the original CD-release consisted of some twenty essays by well-known scholars, along with over hundred pictures, seems to have been excluded from this release. The description states that the included booklet only provides "the complete and detailed track listing". This is a great shame, because these essays and pictures were really excellent.

For completists: The DG edition may be called "complete", but the Brilliant BRAHMS: Edition - Complete Works is even more complete, featuring 60 CD:s instead of DG:s 46. Some of the a cappella choral works seems to be missing from the DG edition compared to the Brilliant one.
20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
One complaint... 27 Aug. 2009
By A. Roth - Published on
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
On the whole, I am delighted with this purchase. I will leave reviewing the quality of the recordings (though I am pleased) Instead, I will focus on packaging, since I am always curious about it and very few reviews deal with it.

The box is the size of a jewel box cubed, so, quite small. The discs are stacked vertically in the box and each disc is house in amedium thickness cardboard envelope with the disc number in the upper right so that they can be browsed through with ease. The booklet lies on top of the discs under the flip top lid.

My biggest complaint is that the set does not include the text of the lieder and vocal works. I would have loved a CD ROM with those. I do not speak German and frankly, with Schubert's lieder too, I find that knowing what the words mean greatly enhances my enjoyment.
There is a book by Sams, The Songs of Brahms, that has the texts, but it is an expensive book...

All told, no regrets, especially at this bargain price, but having the texts would have made this an out of the park set...
7 of 11 people found the following review helpful
No Comparison - Beats Brilliant 13 April 2010
By J. A. Van Sant - Published on
Format: Audio CD
If you want to have your music and listen to it, too, then this one is far, far superior to Brilliant's complete set. Every CD, every piece, every performance is excellent.

Look, there is only one Op 40 Horn Trio, there is only one Op 80 Academic Festival Overture, etc.... So why own a performance that is not world-class when you can have one that is world-class?

I am not being a snob - I am saying that some performances are more enjoyable than others, some are done better than others. That why you are reading these reviews.

Another point of view: I got the Brilliant Beethoven, but added critical sets from excellent performers: Arrau Sonatas, Guarneri String Quartets and van Karajan Symphonies. That is to say, the stuff that really matters needs to be right.

Brahms has got to be the most clunker-free major composer - it ALL really matters. Nothing here needs to be improved upon - there are no weak points in the performances, just like there are no weak points in the compositions.
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