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46 of 48 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The benefits of collaboration
This is a huge collaborative effort, between 20 or so labels, in service of one of the greatest composers of the twentieth century. At far as absolute completeness is concerned, this isn't quite achieved. There are lots of very early pieces included, but there are lots of bits of juvenilia yet to be recorded. Also, the Purcell Realisations aren't here, and neither are the...
Published 13 months ago by R. Yeatman

versus
4 of 57 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars SHAME TO DECCA HIGH FLER
This box set that should be an essential collection to all Britten fan has been let down by profit grabbing by Decca by proving libretto and translation but not work in the english language and what about those who do not speak english. Some of the opera that sung in English is difficult to understand as it might be well sung in Italian,even ENO proveide subtitle for...
Published 10 months ago by Mr. M. Beebeejaun


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46 of 48 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The benefits of collaboration, 19 Jun 2013
By 
R. Yeatman (Bath) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Britten: The Complete Works (Decca box set) (Audio CD)
This is a huge collaborative effort, between 20 or so labels, in service of one of the greatest composers of the twentieth century. At far as absolute completeness is concerned, this isn't quite achieved. There are lots of very early pieces included, but there are lots of bits of juvenilia yet to be recorded. Also, the Purcell Realisations aren't here, and neither are the incidental music scores for King Arthur / The World of the Spirit (available from Hyperion and Chandos respectively). But the point is we aren't likely to see anything as comprehensive as this again.

It's very nicely put together. The main 200 page book (all in English) contains an introduction and a few memoirs of life with Britten, followed by a gallery of original LP designs and relevant pictures and bits of memorabilia - a visual history of Britten's recording career. For me, the more interesting notes come in the individual booklets accompanying the various sections. These are newly written by Andrew Huth, and are well worth reading. There are no texts except where the language set is not English (or Latin), where original texts and translations are provided. I've no idea why, in a set of this scope, the words could not have been included on PDF files.

And the music is wonderful, of course. Obviously no-one considering this box is likely to be unfamiliar with Britten's uniquely compelling sound world. Where possible, Britten's own recordings have been used, which is a very important point. He wrote with the voices, skills and particular humanity of his interpreters in mind. However you may feel about the voice of Peter Pears, for example, he always sounds absolutely right in this music. This hasn't been blindly applied for every piece however. For example, the early song cycle 'Our Hunting Fathers' is included in a later recording by Elizabeth Söderström, justified by a quote from Britten wondering if she wouild available for his recording, as the cycle really works better with a soprano. Even here, Britten's recording with Pears is included on one of the supplementary disks. There has been some real thought and care taken over this set. It is rounded off by four disks, including an aural documentary, the War Requiem rehearsal sequences and other performances (historic and otherwise) which add value to the whole endeavour.

So, really, this is a rare opportunity for those who love this composer to own a definitive document of his musical life.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fitting tribute, 10 Dec 2013
By 
Mason Taylor (Carnoustie, Scotland) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Britten: The Complete Works (Decca box set) (Audio CD)
I pondered long and hard before taking the plunge with this, though not due to any personal doubts over Britten's music - it's been a central part of my life ever since the Concertgebouw/van Beinum 'Young Person's Guide' and 'Four Sea Interludes and Passacaglia' became one of the first LPs to grace the turntable of our brand-new radiogram in my pre-school days nearly sixty years ago. The issue lay mainly with the fact that I've already possessed the majority of its recordings in several previous incarnations; as mono, then stereo, LPs, followed by their CD reissues and more recently the four box Decca and big EMI compendia. There were just a few things in this set I didn't already have, and several of those were on the supplementary discs which it seems will not not reappear once 'The Complete Works' is split up and reissued as four separate boxes, so in the end, I felt I should do it.

Decca have had a busy year with anniversary sets, with Wagner and Verdi and "Le Sacre du Printemps" as well as Britten well served - indeed, I've already commented here on the Stravinsky set (which again inveigled me into duplicating quite a few performances) that it was done out of love, rather than out of duty, when compared to Sony's parallel edition. Upon opening it, it was immediately apparent that Decca's Britten box goes further still - it's a labour of devotion. Gaining the cooperation of other labels to fill in the gaps in their own catalogue must have been a herculean task, and even if there are one or two cases where I wish they'd managed to obtain clearance for other available versions, there's little to quibble about.

Although there are a few early mono releases, the majority of Decca's own Britten discs date from what is generally seen as the company's golden age, and most still sound very impressive; the performers and usually even the recording team would be his personal choice, and so the performances can be seen substantially as what he wanted (which is not to say that alternative interpretations might not be equally valid). There are some recording legends - the 'Peter Grimes' and 'War Requiem' among the most obvious (though I'd personally nominate the "Noye's Fludde' as one of the most convincing representations of an as-live performance in a clearly defined environment ever), and a goodly gathering of the second half of the twentieth century's finest musicians. The presentation is superb, with the accompanying book worthy of an award by itself.

I'm really glad I did take the plunge with this, and would urge anybody else still contemplating to so the same while there are still some left. (Not that it's the end of the story: I'm sure I'll have to have that Blu-ray 'War Requiem' transfer (another duplication!) sooner or later, and then there's that new NMC disc of Britten to America to think about...)
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Now available in 4 parts, 22 Nov 2013
This review is from: Britten: The Complete Works (Decca box set) (Audio CD)
Having listened to a number of the Decca and other recordings included in this box, I have no doubt that it is a very fine box indeed. However, if anyone is thinking about buying this box, I should point out that Decca brought out what looks to be exactly the same thing but in 4 parts on November 4 this year - minus the 200-page book obviously and the final few extra discs. The advantages of this for the buyer are 1/ you only need purchase the box(es) you're interested in and 2/ even when buying all 4 parts there is a considerable saving. I found I didn't need the opera box, for example. Contents of each part are listed on Decca's website - I typed in 'Decca Britten Edition 4th November 2013'. As a previous reviewer has mentioned, 'King Arthur' and 'World of the Spirit' are omitted - these can be found together on the same Chandos disc.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars an amazing, historic set of music, 18 July 2013
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Brilliant value and quality; just what it said on the label and the Radio 3 review!
It will become a collectors item.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Britain's greatest composer was Benjamin Britten., 20 Jun 2013
By 
Ultrarunner (Perth-West Australia) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Britten: The Complete Works (Decca box set) (Audio CD)
Britten was born on the 22nd November 1913 in Lowestoft.He died 4th December 1976 in Aldeburgh, where his festival is still held.He was supported by protective friends.But as Bernstein stated"that Britten was a man at odds with the World".For he was a pacifist and homosexual,which caused him to feel oppressed,isolated and alienated. These feelings he worked out in his opera's such as Peter Grimes.( I have reviewed as many of the CD's as I can).However,Britten was remarkably sensitive which is shown in the Serenade for tenor,horn and strings.He found British music of the time, too conservative and British musical training too amateurish. He prefered the European model.Britten's' favourite composers were Purcell,Mozart,Schubert,Mahler and Shostatokovich,also,Far Eastern music such as Balinese and Japanese music.He was a gifted composer and pianist;see Britten the performer.Eventually,he was considered part of the establishment,but I think that was to disguise his relationship with Peter Pears. His War Requiem portray's his real feelings about that subject.(St James Encyclopedia Eds Guinn and Stone.Britten, a life in the 20th Century,Kildea.)

A big blue tough cardboard box with a lid, with two holes cut out, so you can lift it;covers the entire box.Inside the box, the sides and bottom are entirely covered with black foam to protect the CD's.Beneath the box is the limited edition number,mine is:O2440/3000.Also,which companies are involved in this project,such as EMI,Virgin,Warner, Naxos,Coro etc.For example,CD 1-20 sleeves and CD are Cobalt blue with a design of a wharf and a boat on the sleeves.The difference is that near the middle, the tonal values of the sleeves become lighter,until white,then gradually back to cobalt blue. This is the same for all sleeves. CD 21-32 Stage and screen,Powder blue;Voices CD 33-48 violet;CD 49-61 instruments light Emerald green;CD 62-65 Bonus material grey and DVD black.So when you look down on the open box,you see sleeves that look like blocks of colour,with different tonal values. There are four books,one for each section,which gives you a chapter on what Britten meant;or various items of interest regarding the pieces of music;track numbers,synopsis of the operas.In the booklet voices, there are even English translations of the French and Italian song cycles.How about that.Plus black and white pictures of items of interest.The Sleeve has the CD number on the right hand side.The piece to be played,on the back with track numbers and the music played.The CD has the CD number and details of the music.Do not lose the booklets for it has all the details,but not the sleeves,or CDs. The Hard cover book is about Britten,also Index with the piece of music and CD track number.Plenty of pictures as well.The box contains all the music commercially released as of now.When a box set has been released by Decca,the sound is the best available,especically this limited release.Just try out Decca's New analogue set and you will see what I mean.

I will go across the page with CD number,opera,or music to be played,orchestra and conductor.If it is Britten I will not mention him.The reviews will be from Penguin classical guides 1977,1993,1996 and 2008,also,Gramophone classical guide 2009.My opinions will have T.

The OPERAS:
(
CD 1 &2) Paul Bunyan;Lawless,Dressen,Elisabeth Nelson. Orch of Plymouth Music series,Minnesota,cond Brunelle."This excellent set deserves the prizes it won for the Virgin Classics label now part of EMI"(CD 3&4)Peter Grimes; Pears Watson,Pease,Brannigan,Geraint Evans.Orch of Royal opera house,Covent Garden.Won a Penguin rosette for its all round excellence-T(CD 5 &6)The Rape of Lucretia;Pears,Harper, Shirley-Quirk.Luxon,Baker,Bainbridge.ECO."Baker as Lucretia conveys her part with passionate conviction."(CD 7&8) Albert Herring;Fisher,Noble,Brannigan,
Rex,ECO."The comedy comes over with an immediacy and sense of presence." (CD 9&10)Billy Budd;Glossop,Pears,Shirley-Quirk. LSO." the singers makes these symbol figures believable."(CD 11&12) Gloriana;Barstow,Langridge,Delia Jones,Orchestra of Welsh National opera,cond Charles Mackerras." a crowning achievement in the complete cycle of Britten opera begun by himself."(CD 13 &14)The Turn of the Screw;(mono)Pears,Vyvyan,Hemmings,Cross.English opera Group Orch.""With such sound,the claustrophobic quality of this weird ghost story is intensified."(CD 15 &16) A Midsummer's night dream; Deller,Harwood,Pears,Veasey,Harper,Shirley-Quirk,Watts,Brannigan.LSO."Britten's own version sets standards all round almost impossible for any rival to outshine."(17&18)Owen Wingrave;Pears,Fisher,Harper,Vyvyan,Baker,Luxon,Shirley-Quirk.ECO.(19 & 20)"After the trials of the TV recording this record was made, and the result is even more concentrated and compelling." Death in Venice:Shirley-Quirk,Bowman ECO cond Bedford."The whole presentation makes this a set to establish the work as the very culmination of Britten's cycle of operas".

STAGE and SCREEN:

(CD 21&22)Gay The Beggar's opera arr Britten;Langridge,Lloyd,Murray,Rawnsley,Kenny,Aldeburgh Cond Bedford.""The team is a strong and characterful one.(CD 23 )Noye's Fludde; Brannigan,Rex,English Opera Group Orchestra, Norman Del Mar.The Golden Vanity"Not only the professional choristers but the children have the time of their lives."(CD 24)Curlew River(1st parable):Pears,Shirley-Quirk,music under the direction of Britten and Tunnard."the works success stems mainly from the vividness of the atmosphere within a monastery setting."(CD 25)The Burning Fiery Furnace(2nd parable);Pears,Shirley-Quirk,Tear. Music under the direction of Britten and Tunnard.Decca served Britten in providing definitive versions of his major scores for the guidance of all future performers,as well as for our enjoyment at home".(CD 26) The Prodigal son;Pears,Shirley-Quirk,Tear,Music under the direction of Britten and Tunnard.(3rd Parable for Church performance)."The last of the set of parables is the sunniest and most heartwarming.An ideal performance"(CD 27)The little sweep.(Lets make an Opera).Children's Crusade;Hemmings,Vyvyan,English Opera group Orch.(Mono)."The fizzing vitality comes over very vividly."(28 &29)The Prince of The Pagodas;Orchestra of The Royal Opera house,Covent Garden."This 1957 version in stereo sounds astonishingly well.A lovely ballet score written after Brittens return from the Far East where he found the Balinese gamelan orch."(CD 30) Film scores.Night Mail. The Tocher.The kings stamp. Negroes. The way to the sea.Men behind the Meters.Coal Face."It was an important development in Britten's career in the mid 1930's when he wrote music for the GPO and Strand films. He learned how to use a handful of players to produce amazingly original results.Brabbins conducts the Birmingham players in brilliant performances."(CD 31)Love from a stranger. BBC Orch Cond van Steen. Johnson over Jordan ECO cond Bedford.The rescue of Penelope;Baker, Hagley.Wyn-Rogers, Ainsley.halle orch Cond Nagano."A valuable addition to the Britten oeuvre."(CD 32) The company of Heaven.ECO cond Brunelle. the sword in the stone.Cond Goehr.

VOICES:

(CD 33) The War Requiem:Vishnevskaya,Pears,Fischer-Dieskau,LSO.For the first time ever, all audio processing has been achieved in the 96kHZ 24 bit domain.A Penguin rosette for the excellent performance."The recorded performance comes near the ideal."(CD 34)Spring Symphony;Vyvyan,Procter,Pears.Orch of the Royal Opera House,Covent Garden."Vyvyan and Pears are outstanding,Britten shows that no conductor is more vital in his music then he himself."Cantata Academica;Vyvyan,Watts,Pears,Brannigan.LSO Cond Malcolm. "Is a work of Joy." Hymn To St Cecilia,LSO
Cond Malcolm."A brilliant Auden setting."(CD 35)Saint Nicolas;Pears,Hemmings,Aldeburgh Festival Choir and Orch.(Mono)."Brittens first recordings of his own works have a freshness and vigor unsurpassed since."Five Flower Songs.Elizabetian Singers.Cantata misericordium,Pears,Fischer-Dieskau,LSO (CD 36) A boy was born."Britten at his freshest." Corpus Christi Carol.A Wealden Trio. The Sycamore Tree. A Shepherd's Carol. Christ's Nativity-Christmas
Suite for Chorus.BBC Singers Cond Bedford.A Ceremony of Carols. "One of Britten's most spontaneous of works" The Holly and the Ivy (CD 37)Songs from "Friday afternoons"."Was written for a school where his brother was headmaster"Psalms 150."Setting was done for the centenary of his own former school in Suffolk". Three two part songs. Two Part songs. The Birds(1934).a Hymn to the Virgin.Jubilate Deo. Te Deum in C.Ledger.Deus in Adutorium meum. A.M.D.G. London Sinfonfonietta Chorus, cond Edwards.(CD 38)Rejoice in the Lamb.Ballad of little Musgrave and Lady Barnard. Chorale after an old French carol. Festival Te Deum. St Johns College, Cambridge.guest.A Wedding Anthem.The 16 Harry Christophers.A hymn To St peter. Choir of St John's college. Guest.Antiphon-The 16,Christophers.Missa brevis.The Choir of St John's college,Cambridge.Guest."Has a striking excellence of style."(CD 39) Jubilate Deo. The Choir of St John's College,Cambridge.Guest.A Hymn of St Columba. Voices for Today;The Choir of Kings College,Cambridge.Sacred and Profane,The Wilbye Consort.Praise We Great Men. Tear,Willard White.City Of Birmingham Symphony Orch.(CD 40)Quartre Chansons Francaises. Jill Gomez.City of Bimingham Symphony Orch Simon Rattle.Now Sleeps The Crimson Petal.Mackie,Barry Tuckwell. Scottish Chamber Orch. Cond Bedford.Our Hunting Fathers. Soderstrom."a committed soloist." Orch Welsh National Opera. Cond Armstrong."(Serenade for Tenor,horn and strings. Pears,Tuckwell,LSO.(CD 41) Les Illuminations.Pears.ECO) "This pairing on the disc is recommended to all who have yet to discover the magic of Britten's music".Nocturne Pears.Strings of the LSO."Full of memorable moments". Phaedra.Baker.ECO.Cond Bedford."Britten's last Vocal work,dedicated to Baker who convey's the heroine's agony,whose singing is beautiful and intense."(CD 42) Canticles 1.My beloved is mine. 2. Abraham and Isaac. 3. Still falls the Rain.4. Journey of the Magi.5. The death of St Narcussus."A beautiful collection."(CD 43) The Song Cycles 1. The heart of the matter.Tit for Tat. "Shirley-Quirk.The first singer of this cycle". On this Island. Bonney soprano, Martineau piano.Four Cabaret Songs. Hughes mezzo, Martineau. Seven Sonnets of Michelangelo.Peter Pears."This cycle was recorded when Pears voice was at its freshest and most appealing."(CD 44)The Song Cycles 2. The Holy Sonnets of John Donne.Pears.A Charm of Lullabies. Bowden Contralto. Gllhorn Piano.(mono).Winter Words." Tiny operas.Dramatic vignettes." Pears.(CD 45)The Song Cycles 3. Six Holderlin Fragments. Pears.Songs and proverbs of William Blake. Fischer-Dieskau,The Poets Echo; Vishnevskaya soprano, piano Rostropovich.Who are these children. Pears. (CD 46)Early and Miscellaneous songs. two Ballads for two voices and piano.Six settings of W.H.Auden.(CD 47)Folksongs 1.(CD 48) Folksongs 2.Tear.Langridge. Lott.Osian Ellis.Graham Johnson.

INSTRUMENTS:

(CD 49) Sinfonietta.Simple symphony for String Orch. Variations on a theme of Frank Bridge.ECO." An example of Britten at his most convinving and spontaneous in the recording studio".Soirees musicales.Matinees musicales. National Phil orch Bonynge.(CD 50). Rondo Concertante.Northern Cond Zehetmair. Two portraits.Double Concerto in B minor.Kremer.Halle Orch Cond Negano.Movements for a Clarinet Concerto. Collins Northern Sinfonia. Cond Zehetmair.(CD 51)Piano Concerto. Violin Concerto. Richter,Lubotsky.ECO. (CD 52).Mont Juic.ECO Cond Bedford.Young Apollo.Canadian Carnival City of Birmingham Sym Orch.Cond Rattle.Sinfonia da requiem New Phil Orch.(CD 53) Scottish Ballad. An American Overture City of Birmingham Sym Orch.Cond Rattle.Prelude and Fugue for 18 part orch ECO. The Young Person's guide to the Orch.LSO. Men of Goodwill. Minnesota orch Neville Marriner.(CD 54) Cello Concerto. Rostropovich cello. ECO.The building of the House overture. ECO. Suite on English Folk tunesa." A time there was." City of Birmingham Sym Orch. Cond Rattle.Lachrymae.Tomter Viola Norwegian Chamber orch. Iona Brown.(CD 55). Reflection for viola and piano. Elegy.Suite for Violin and orch. Reville for violin and piano. Two insect pieces. Six Metamorphoses after Ovid.(CD 56) Cello Suite No 1. Cello Suite No 2. Cello sonata in C. Rostropovich Cello. (CD 57)Cello Suite No 3. Robert Cohen.Suite for Harp. Osian Harp. string Quartet No 3. Amadeus string quartet. Tema "Sacher" for Solo cello. Alisa Weilerstein. cello.(CD 58)String Quartet in F major. Utrecht String Quartet.Miniature Suite. Emperor Quartet. Quartettino Phantasy in F minor. Alla march. Three Divertimenti for string Quartet.Endellion String Quartet.(CD 59) String Quartet in D major.Gabrieli string Quartet.String QuarteT No i Allegri string Quartet. string Quartet No 2. Amedeus string Quartet. (CD 60) Quartet for oboe,violin,viola and cello. members of the Gabrieli string quartet.gemini Variations.(CD 61) Five waltzes. a little Idyll. Three Character pieces. two Lullabies.Stephan Hough, Goldstone, Ronan o'Hara piano's.(

CD 62) Making music with Britten-a memoir.(CD 63) War Requiem-rehearsal. (CD 64) Historical recordings (1944-1953) (CD 65) Supplementary recordings (1955-1989) (DVD) the 1967 recording of the Burning Fiery Furnace.A film by Tony Palmer.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ben Britten in a Big Blue Box, 3 Dec 2013
By 
Roy Howitt (Yorkshire) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Britten: The Complete Works (Decca box set) (Audio CD)
This is a truly remarkable achievement. The complete works plus extras, all beautifully recorded . Congratulations to all concerned in compiling this marvelous anthology.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars All in one Britten, 17 July 2013
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This review is from: Britten: The Complete Works (Decca box set) (Audio CD)
Splendid recordings, includes many smaller pieces that we didn't have. The book is a wonderful description of Britten and his world. Gave it as 83rd birthday present to my husband
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Britten in a Box, 18 Sep 2013
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If you love Britten you'll love this. The packaging is fine, the music is sublime. Everything is here. The recording quality is pretty amazing too.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars the ultimate Britten experience, 2 Oct 2013
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A wonderful special present of one of the 20th Century's greatest music creators. His tunes are wonderful and well recorded here, a most valuable archive.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Big, Bold and Sublime, 11 May 2014
By 
BP Mills (Boulder County, CO) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Britten: The Complete Works (Decca box set) (Audio CD)
This set is so massive that I have only scratched the surface after 2 months of ownership. I was only partly familiar with Britten's work prior to buying this set, but as this is a limited edition, and because what I knew of Britten's work i enjoyed, I took the plunge. Well worth the money.
The quality is excellent, as is to be expected from Decca.

If you are hesitating, do not delay. This will be gone in a few years, and will them be unavailable except to those with Bentley's in their garage.
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