12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
A fitting tribute,
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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...)