I recently received this as a present but I was already familiar with many of these recordings, having owned the complete versions of the works presented. Yes, these are great recordings but if you settle for this compilation you will be missing out big time on great music. I own Fennell's recording on the Holst suite--while the March from the suite is very good, you will miss out on the beautiful 'Song Without Words' and the 'Fantasia on the Dargason,' which are the seond and fourth movements of the suite, respectively. If you get the original CD from which this movement was taken you will be able to enjoy the wonderful playing of members of the Cleveland Orchsestra as they play Holst's First suite and a wonderful rendition of Handel's Fireworks Music.
Maazel's Pictures at an Exhibition is excellnt, precise with excellent blends and fantastic orchestral playing, but you can hardly feel the power of the Great Gate of Kiev without the promenades and pictures that preceed it--you loose the whole sense of climax and fulfillment following the half hour of difficult music that preceeds the Great Gate. Beethoven's Emperor concerto is top-notch music but I think you might rather hear the second movement between the first and third movements which are full of powerful orchestral playing and keyboard virtuosity. Robert Spano's recording of Scheherazade that was released just a few months ago is brilliant. It's his first recording with the Atlanta Symphony and it's great--and you should own the complete thing which comes on a CD with the beuatiful Russian Easter Overture.
Spend some time looking for these complete recordings and you will be rewarded. What makes the compilation even worse is that in many cases the CD does not even present a full movement but just a part of a movement.
As I said, I own many of these individual recordings and they are all great: Telarc captures the best musicians at their best. Having two or three CDs from which these excerpts were taken is much better than owning this compilation. I highly recommend Fennell's Holst (Telarc - #80038), Maazel's Pictures (Telarc - #80042), and Spano's Scheherazade (Telarc - #80568), instead of this disc. Rachmaninoff's Second Sonata and Sibelius' Second Symphony are great but these are not my preferred recordings (find Van Cliburn's Rachmaninoff and Maazel's Sibelius), and you can do better by swapping some other performers as well.