Customer Review

44 of 46 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I guess you should buy this. I wish I could be more enthusiastic., 20 Nov. 2012
This review is from: The Anniversary Edition (Audio CD)
Any serious student of the piano should own this box. I'm not serious, but I'll keep it anyway.

It doesn't claim absolute completeness, but comes pretty close. For 65 quid* (blimey!) you get 40 CDs + an 80 page booklet.

Alfred Cortot had an unbalanced recorded repertoire.
He was a Chopin specialist: Half his solo piano recordings are of music by Chopin.
His only rival was Arthur Rubinstein, but their repertoire was different:
Rubinstein left us with 3 complete sets each of the Mazurkas, Nocturnes, Polonaises and Scherzi.
He avoided the Preludes (aside from once in 1946), and Etudes.
Cortot left us with 4 complete sets of the Preludes, and 2 sets of Etudes (all in this box).
He avoided the Mazurkas, Nocturnes, Polonaises and Scherzi (aside from a few pieces).

Perhaps the division of labor was EMI's idea, but I can't imagine that their marketing department was happy with 4 sets of Preludes from the same artist.

This box also includes 2 sets of Ballades, 2 sets of Waltzes, 1 set of Impromptus, 4 recordings of Sonata 2, and 2 recordings of Sonata 3.
I am frankly overwhelmed trying to comprehend it all.
Anything worth doing is worth doing three times. I can sympathize (I have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder).

CDs 1-28 are arranged in chronological order by recording date. CDs 29-40 are arranged by genre.

CDs 1-3: Acoustic recordings, 1916-1925. Most of these are American Victors.

CDs 4-28: Electrical recordings, 1926-1957.
It begins with the 1926 recording of Chopin's Preludes. It ends with a 1957 recording of the same (previously unpublished).
You also get the 1933 and 1942 recordings. Amazing.

CDs 29-34: Chamber Music with Thibaud (Franck Sonata twice), Casals, and some lesser-known colleagues + Brahms Double Concerto.

CDs 35-36: Cortot Conducts - primarily Bach's Brandenburg Concerti.

CD 37: Songs with Charles Panzera (Schumann) and Maggie Teyte (Debussy). No texts or translations (sigh).

CDs 38-40: Master Class in Beethoven Sonatas, recorded 1958-1959 at L'Ecole Normale de Musique. In French (no translation) with musical examples.
Does not duplicate the material already issued in a Sony 3 CD set (!)

The booklet includes a 4 page article about Cortot in French and English + 21 pages of photographs + a listing of CD contents.

RECORDING QUALITY: Remastering by "Studio Art et Son, Paris, 2012".
All 40 CDs are mono, even CDs 28 and 38-40 which were recorded 1957-1960, well into the stereo era.
The electrical recordings are pretty good.
I was shocked by the sound of the acoustic recordings, 1919-1925, on CDs 1-3.

In my experience, acoustic piano recordings sound like a toy piano: all mid-range, no highs or lows.
These are much better than that.
I have heard of computer software that can synthesize an octave of highs and lows based on the information in the original acoustic recording.
I don't know if that was done here, but these sound like early electricals.
Or perhaps credit goes to The Victor Talking Machine Company of Camden, New Jersey.

The improved sound highlights the seediness of the orchestra in the Schumann Concerto. Probably unavoidable with 25 musicians crammed into a tiny acoustic recording studio.
Spirited performance nonetheless


There is no index to the music in this collection.
A jumble of composers spread over 40 CDs. Too much information. No context.
The CDs come in plain paper sleeves. No hint as to the contents.
All CD labels read: "Alfred Cortot: Anniversary Edition".
No other details (keep the booklet handy).

Aargh! ... Buy it anyway.

* Yes, I admit it. I'm an American. I don't have a squiggly L with a line through it on my keyboard.

P.S. Six weeks have passed, and I've finally finished listening to everything.
A rewarding experience, but exhausting.
I'm glad I gave it five stars, but wish it was more user-friendly.
Still five stars.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 26 Apr 2013 07:32:13 BDT
Last edited by the author on 26 Apr 2013 07:32:26 BDT
Malverns says:
Bravo! What a review! Devoted, but with twinkle in eyes. Great Thanks!

Posted on 5 Apr 2014 17:15:09 BDT
Grwfsywash says:
Thanks god for your self confessed CDO (correct alphabetical order, isn't it?)
Your very thorough and considered review has made me want to buy this box set.
Thank you.
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Location: urbana, illinois

Top Reviewer Ranking: 204