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Record firms pile it on with collections of CDs

I HAVE been confronting a minor dilemma over the past two weeks, a real 'what to do', and 'how best to handle' a situation.

I presume it is by total coincidence, but I seem to have been overwhelmed with collections of music on CD. Do I mean collections dedicated to one artist or composer, or mixed collections in the way of compilations? Both, is the answer to that question. I am just counting the pile again as I write this, in order to be accurate: I'm looking at eight different collections of music, all, with the exception of one, packaged into sets of two or three CDs. (The one exception is an issue that has been put out as two separate CDs, but which have a loose thematic link and would have made an effective single collection.

Anyway, staring at this pile of eight I decided, given that there is a weekly priority with new individual CD releases also coming in all the time, and sometimes topical in their subject matter, that this week a slightly different approach would be appropriate. It would take months to get through the pile of eight, with other new issues and reissues falling by the wayside meantime. And I am asked weekly, by concert goers and music lovers at large: what's new, what's coming, what should we be looking out for?

So, instead of getting trapped inside a single triple-decker CD set, today I will give a broad sweep of the pile of eight, then select individual sets for review, while accommodating new individual releases. Today, therefore, is more about information than opinion. And we have to tackle the pile by starting at the top, with a three-CD set from Paul Baxter's magnificent, Edinburgh-based Delphian label. It is a recording of the complete songs (73 in total) by Rachmaninov, the first complete recording, apparently, in 20 years. The project has been masterminded by the peerless pianist and broadcaster Iain Burnside, who has selected seven singers, all native Russian speakers. There are two sopranos, one mezzo, one tenor (the fast rising Daniil Shtoda), two baritones and a bass, with Burnside providing all accompaniments and an enlightening essay into the neglect of all but a handful of Rachmaninov's songs. A treasure trove awaits, methinks.

Moving swiftly along but still on a Russian theme, here is a splendid-looking new recording of Prokofiev's five Piano Concertos on Chandos with the magnificent Frenchman Jean Efflam Bavouzet as solois, the glorious BBC Philharmonic and its former principal conductor Gianandrea Noseda, neatly packaged on two CDs with the concertos in the right order, which leaves the second disc, at 46 minutes, a bit short.

Meanwhile, over on Harmonia Mundi, the inexorable progress of the label's Matthias Goerne, the baritone who is one of the great Schubert exponents of the era, continues apace with Volume 8 of the Matthias Goerne Schubert Edition, titled Wanderers Nachtlied, with two exemplary pianists in accompaniment: Helmut Deutsch and Eric Schneider.

Leaping to Bach, here comes yet another new set of the six Brandenburg Concertos, bringing the total number of recordings ever nearer 500. This should be a good 'un, with the Freiburg Baroque Orchestra and their dazzing twin leaders, Petra Mullejans and Gottfried von der Goltz. It is on Harmonia Mundi with the six concertos fitting neatly on two CDs and a running time of two hours 10 minutes.

Now I cheat a bit. Two complementary CDs have been reissued on Apex featuring Brahms's Hungarian Dances (four books of them) and Dances From Hungary. The orchestra is the same in each case, the Danubia Orchestra Obuda, and I will do this one soon, as it is interesting.

Which leaves space for a mention only of three big triple CD compilation sets from Warner Classics: one of Ravel's orchestral music, featuring just about everything, including both Piano Concertos; another of Chopin's music, with both of his concertos and a broad selection of solo piano works; and the third of Handel's music, including the Fireworks and Water Musics, and all the big hits. There you go.

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