Author Topic: Box Blather  (Read 233638 times)

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Offline Brian

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Re: Box Blather
« Reply #1060 on: May 12, 2020, 07:02:13 AM »


Here are my notes on the DG Boston Symphony box set so far...

CD 1 - Debussy, Ravel, Scriabin / Abbado
Basically flawless, one of the highlights of Abbado's career. My favorite Debussy "Nocturnes," razor-sharp, glorious playing.

CD 2 - Tchaikovsky Symphony 1 / Tilson Thomas
It's interesting that they started recording MTT so young, he was only 25 at this session. This is almost a great recording of a not-so-famous symphony; the finale's fugue section is a little too slow and stodgy. But apart from those 2 minutes, everything else measures up to the finest recordings of Tchaikovsky 1. (Reference: Jurowski/LPO)

CD 3 - Strauss Zarathustra, Holst Planets / Steinberg
A classic. One of the greats.

CD 4 - Ruggles Sun Treader, Schuman Violin Concerto, Piston Symphony 2 / Tilson Thomas
I like them in that order: the Ruggles weirds me out, the Schuman is thorny but interesting, the Piston is REALLY good.

CD 7 - Stravinsky Rite, Le roi des etoiles / Tilson Thomas / Hindemith Mathis der Maler Symphony / Steinberg
I didn't listen to Rite yet, but the short Stravinsky piece with chorus is spooky and fun. The Hindemith is blazing (like 7 minutes faster than Salonen), virtuosic, passionate, amazing.

CD 8 - Mozart 41, Schubert Unfinished / Jochum
It's Jochum. It's really solid.

CD 9 - Symphonie fantastique / Ozawa
Relatively fast, relatively well played, but relatively uninteresting.

CD 13-15 - Ravel complete orchestral music / Ozawa
So far I've only listened to Bolero here. Good Bolero. Hurwitz says this is the best Ravel cycle recorded outside France.

CD 16 - Bartok Concerto for Orchestra + Miraculous Mandarin / Kubelik
Really good, but don't take my word for it; in the extensive booklet, there are a series of quotes from BSO members about their experiences in the recording sessions, and one musician singles this out as the best Bartok CfO interpretation she ever played for in her tenure with the orchestra. Hurwitz points out rightly that this is one of the few where you can hear slithering snarling horns in the first 45 seconds or so of the finale.

CD 17 - Shostakovich Cello Concerto No. 2 (Rostropovich) / Falla El Sombrero de Tres Picos (Berganza) / Ozawa
Rostropovich! Berganza! Like...of course this is great. Someone here on GMG told me this is their favorite recording of any Shostakovich work.

CD 21 - Tchaikovsky Symphony 5 / Ozawa
Good, but not special. Interpretation is average, orchestra is stellar, which seems to be the story with all the relative disappointments of the Ozawa years.

CD 23 - Respighi Pines, Fountains, Festivals / Ozawa
Special. Or at least, as good as these pieces get. That said, there are a few really great Roman trilogies...anyway, this is one.

CD 24 - Respighi Ancient Airs and Dances / Ozawa
There aren't so many great recordings of these pieces. This is one - and it's apparently the only one for full symphony rather than chamber orchestra.

CD 25 - Liszt Faust Symphony / Bernstein
Lenny!! A crackling performance, super fun...I do think that the piece as a whole gets less interesting when people start singing, but you can't fault anything about this interpretation. Thriller. Listened yesterday.

CD 28 - Berg and Stravinsky violin concertos (Perlman) / Ozawa
I wished I liked this music enough to comment knowledgeably. Seems fine? Perlman is really good. Sorry, I am not one of the cool kids who is hip to Berg or most post-Petrushka Stravinsky. :(

CD 31 - Mozart clarinet and bassoon concertos, Takemitsu two pieces / Ozawa
The BSO's principals play the concertos. They are...fine. Nothing special. Clarinet tone is not as gorgeously soloistic as, say, Sabine Meyer or Martin Frost. The Takemitsu is good for Takemitsu fans, I guess? Not really my cup of tea. I preferred the shorter of the two works (13 minutes vs. 16). Quatrain features guest stars Tashi (Richard Stoltzman, Peter Serkin, Ida Kavafian, Fred Sherry).

CD 32 - Faure orchestral music / Ozawa
The Faure orchestral disc by which all others are judged. Period. Lorraine Hunt Lieberson cameo to make it extra-perfect.

CD 35 - Liszt piano concertos and Totentanz (Krystian Zimerman) / Ozawa
Hell yeah. Pedal to the metal! As good as this music gets.

CD 37 - Poulenc Gloria and Stabat mater / Ozawa
Great playing and singing (Kathleen Battle!). More or less definitive for these pieces, though there are a lot of other good recordings (avoid Paavo Jarvi on DG).

CD 41 - Mendelssohn Midsummer Night's Dream / Ozawa
I posted my thoughts in the listening thread a while ago, but the summary was that Judi Dench recites her first poem so quickly it's a blemish, and then she settles down and everything else about the CD is perfect. Best Dream suite on disc is still Szell/Cleveland imho, but this is the best complete edition. There is a lot of talking.

CD 44 - Rachmaninov Piano Concertos 1 and 2 (Krystian Zimerman) / Ozawa
The performance of No. 1 is really good. No. 2 Zimerman's intro was so painfully, stupidly slow that I turned it off in rage and put Hough on instead. Don't know how the remaining 30 minutes of it are because I doubt I will ever listen to it. On the other hand, since I only listened to 30 seconds, I can't call this an outright failure.

CD 50 - Shostakovich Symphony 6 / Nelsons
New recording from 2017 as part of Nelsons' ongoing cycle. This was recorded while they were making the box set and released on single CD after the box set was released, so CD 50 is just the 6th Symphony, only about 30 minutes long. The individual CD release includes a Seventh Symphony recorded after this box was put together, so the Seventh is technically not an omission. Really really good Sixth btw. Nelsons is good in Shostakovich. My girlfriend came in from a run during the scherzo and her comment was that she really liked it. I look forward to the other Shosty in here: 5, 8, 9, 10. Huh. Nelsons really went for the popular ones first.

CD 52 - "American Chamber Music" with Boston Symphony Chamber Players (Carter, Ives, Porter, Dvorak)
I've only listened to the Ives (a romantic miniature, not the crazy Ives many of us know and love/hate) and the Dvorak, which is the String Quintet Op. 77 with the optional intermezzo added. Seemed to be a really good recording until my CD started hopelessly skipping in the finale. I need to try it on a different player. There does appear to be a scratch on the outside edge. I'd be sad if I couldn't play this, as I love Op. 77 dearly. :(

CD 54 - Schoenberg, Berg and Webern arrangements of Johann Strauss waltzes + Stravinsky Octet, Pastorale, Ragtime, Concertino - all with Boston Symphony Chamber Players
On the way to get some takeout tacos, I played two Strauss waltzes (super great, and nice to hear the harmonium) and "Ragtime", which uhhhhhh does not sound like ragtime  ;D

CD 57 - a rediscovered session they forgot to release? Brahms Symphony 2 + Rossini Semiramide overture + Paganini Moto perpetuo (all Ozawa)
The Brahms is somewhat on the relaxed/pastoral side (21' first movement) but overall fine. Spirited finale and good Rossini. The Paganini is kind of an annoying piece of music but can't blame the performers.

MISSING FROM THE BOX: DG forgot two discs. They omitted Ozawa's Franck Symphony in D minor, and a Gidon Kremer violin CD coupling Schumann's cello concerto (re-orchestrated by Shostakovich and re-soloed by Kremer) and Shosty's VC 2. I have no idea why they did this. The 150 page booklet makes it clear that they hired a researcher and involved a number of BSO employees. They for sure knew about the Franck because the couplings are in the box, now on a different CD! Somehow everyone goofed badly. Ultimately, this is incredibly annoying to me but not a dealbreaker since it's still great value and full of classics. I have other good Franck Symphonies, notably in Martinon's Erato box. I could someday buy the complete Gidon Kremer box if I really wanted to. But like...come on, guys. Get your poop together.

BOX PRESENTATION: Elite level. The white tiled box depicted in online photos is actually a slipcover; the real box is a blue-green shade and has photos of every conductor, the orchestra, and the concert hall. The CD spines (just for you Mookafalakas) do NOT have content listings, but the back covers of each sleeve list tracks, timings, years recorded. The BSO Chamber Players discs have the names of every musician. The booklet is a beaut; English, German, and Japanese essays by Andris Nelsons, a longtime DG record producer, and the BSO publication manager, plus full recording provenance info, about a dozen BSO musician quotes about their favorite recording sessions, a billion photos, and a composer index. In summary, this box set is exactly how Big Boxes should all be done...except for the part where they forgot two CDs!!!

YET TO LISTEN: I know from a sample clip that Ozawa's Mahler 1 will be fun (CD 27). His Ravel is supposed to be great. Later today I will dive back into the Nelsons Shostakovich (CD 47, a Tenth with rather slow track timings). Kubelik's Smetana (CD 6) is obviously gonna be good. (Man, they had some good guest conductors.) There is a very long Sofia Gubaidulina piece called Offertorium (CD 40) and I don't know if it will be interesting or intolerable. I heard John Williams' TreeSong on the radio at age like 16 and thought it was a weird sweet-sour combo of crowd pleasing and crowd antagonizing; but I'm twice as old now so maybe I'll appreciate it better (CD 45). Most of the BSO Chamber Players albums are Schoenberg, of whose work I really like the first Chamber Symphony (which is here), but I am excited for the highly regarded Debussy sonatas album (rounded out with a chamber arrangement of "Afternoon of a Faune" for string quintet, flute, oboe, clarinet, piano, harmonium, and TWO "antique cymbals" players!! That is a lot of antique cymbal crashing!). I've never heard Stravinsky's Soldier's Tale and a John Gielgud narrated version looks like a posh place to start.

QUESTION: If CD 52 really is scratched, who do I contact? Someone at DG? I don't want a whole new box. Just like a replacement of that CD. And uhh maybe if they could mail me the Franck and Kremer...

Offline André

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Re: Box Blather
« Reply #1061 on: May 12, 2020, 07:14:34 AM »
No Hindemith Music for Strings and Brass ? It was on the B side of the Steinberg/Hindemith LP.

Offline Jo498

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Re: Box Blather
« Reply #1062 on: May 12, 2020, 07:21:21 AM »
What about Faust and Romeo and Juliet with Ozawa, weren't these Boston recordings as well?

Which ones contained in the box have never been available internationally or at all on CD? The Brahms 2nd, and probably some of the chamber players? (I might have bought a small box with all of the BSO chamber players DG recording.)
Struck by the sounds before the sun,
I knew the night had gone.
The morning breeze like a bugle blew
Against the drums of dawn.
(Bob Dylan)

Online Mookalafalas

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Re: Box Blather
« Reply #1063 on: May 12, 2020, 07:25:54 AM »
Wow! Quite the review! Thanks, Brian.  I have spent a big chunk of this evening going through my collection to see how many of these disks I have so I don't have to buy the box.  I don't want to buy another...
 (I've sold almost 30 box sets on Ebay, generally at a modest profit. I was excited and figured I'd parted with most, but I counted and it turns out I've still got 102 left. How did that happen?)
« Last Edit: May 12, 2020, 09:00:55 AM by Mookalafalas »
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Offline Brian

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Re: Box Blather
« Reply #1064 on: May 12, 2020, 08:41:12 AM »
No Hindemith Music for Strings and Brass ? It was on the B side of the Steinberg/Hindemith LP.
Sorry, yes, it's there and it's great!

What about Faust and Romeo and Juliet with Ozawa, weren't these Boston recordings as well?

Which ones contained in the box have never been available internationally or at all on CD? The Brahms 2nd, and probably some of the chamber players? (I might have bought a small box with all of the BSO chamber players DG recording.)
I don't know the answer to your CD availability question, but the answer to Faust and R&J is that they are there, they are not listed there only because I have not yet listened to them.

Mookalafalas - you have 102 big boxes?! Wow. How many CDs does a box have to contain in order to count as a big box? Maybe I'll count mine  ;D

Offline MusicTurner

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Re: Box Blather
« Reply #1065 on: May 12, 2020, 08:46:48 AM »
Wow! Quite the review! Thanks, Brian.  I have spent a big chunk of this evening going through my collection to see how many of these disks I have so I don't have to buy the box.  I don't want to buy another...
 (I've sold almost 30 box sets on Ebay, generally at a modest profit. I was excited and figured I'd parted with most, but I counted and it turns out I've still got 102 left. How didthat[happen?)

Interesting, but why not. How do you define those boxes then?

Online Mookalafalas

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Re: Box Blather
« Reply #1066 on: May 12, 2020, 09:21:30 AM »
Most are 50-60. I didn't count the little clam-shell guys at all, but a lot are smaller, 20-30. "The Secret Labyrinth" is only 15, but I have 4 Membran boxes and a Harmonia Mundi that are 100 each, and a couple Brilliant sets and the Paillard that are well over a hundred.  I've got about 10 that I've never opened, that I'm just waiting to go OOP and then sell. (I just did that with the big Brendel box yesterday. Actually, I didn't even own that one. It's OOP, but my local shop still had it on the shelf for $250. I listed it on EBay for $625, and someone bought it. I had to run down to the shop and buy it before it disappeared.)
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Offline MusicTurner

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Re: Box Blather
« Reply #1067 on: May 12, 2020, 09:31:53 AM »
Most are 50-60. I didn't count the little clam-shell guys at all, but a lot are smaller, 20-30. "The Secret Labyrinth" is only 15, but I have 4 Membran boxes and a Harmonia Mundi that are 100 each, and a couple Brilliant sets and the Paillard that are well over a hundred.  I've got about 10 that I've never opened, that I'm just waiting to go OOP and then sell. (I just did that with the big Brendel box yesterday. Actually, I didn't even own that one. It's OOP, but my local shop still had it on the shelf for $250. I listed it on EBay for $625, and someone bought it. I had to run down to the shop and buy it before it disappeared.)

That's a lot. Do you partly concentrate on boxes, or are single-double CDs just as plentiful? It's difficult selling stuff in Europe these days, possibly unless you wait for the items to be rare. They are worth very little, if I go to a shop here in Denmark, trying to sell them.
« Last Edit: May 12, 2020, 09:33:49 AM by MusicTurner »

Online Mookalafalas

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Re: Box Blather
« Reply #1068 on: May 12, 2020, 09:55:02 AM »
I have about 3 classical CDs that weren't part of a box (lots of old jazz and rock, though). If I tried to sell anything at a second-hand shop, it wouldn't be worth it, I think. Ebay is pretty good, but they take a pretty big cut (about 13%), and then paypal gets some, too. And as I live in Taiwan, shipping cost a lot.

   Surprisingly, mega-boxes and ebay are what really got me into classical music. The first big box I saw was Miles Davis. I bought that, and then a Jazz set and couldn't believe I was getting great CDs for $2 a piece. I started looking on ebay to buy more, and saw some classical boxes going for really high prices (The big Heiffetz box, and the Red Mercury box). I saw them at my local store and bought them and sold them on ebay without opening them. I had no idea what kind of music was inside, but was curious. At about that time, my store got the Phillips box in. It was $100 for 55 CDs. I bought it as an impulse buy, started playing the music and...you know the rest ;D.
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Offline MusicTurner

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Re: Box Blather
« Reply #1069 on: May 12, 2020, 09:59:57 AM »
I have about 3 classical CDs that weren't part of a box (lots of old jazz and rock, though). If I tried to sell anything at a second-hand shop, it wouldn't be worth it, I think. Ebay is pretty good, but they take a pretty big cut (about 13%), and then paypal gets some, too. And as I live in Taiwan, shipping cost a lot.

   Surprisingly, mega-boxes and ebay are what really got me into classical music. The first big box I saw was Miles Davis. I bought that, and then a Jazz set and couldn't believe I was getting great CDs for $2 a piece. I started looking on ebay to buy more, and saw some classical boxes going for really high prices (The big Heiffetz box, and the Red Mercury box). I saw them at my local store and bought them and sold them on ebay without opening them. I had no idea what kind of music was inside, but was curious. At about that time, my store got the Phillips box in. It was $100 for 55 CDs. I bought it as an impulse buy, started playing the music and...you know the rest ;D.

OK, so customers for the bigger boxes - is there a geographical pattern? I've sold some smaller stuff and LPs via Ebay.co.uk to many parts of world, Japanese and Korean collectors being among the best ... but postage and customs can be a hindrance when selling abroad ... guess the customer group in the US is large enough ...
« Last Edit: May 12, 2020, 10:01:28 AM by MusicTurner »

Online Mookalafalas

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Re: Box Blather
« Reply #1070 on: May 12, 2020, 10:23:00 AM »
OK, so customers for the bigger boxes - is there a geographical pattern? I've sold some smaller stuff and LPs via Ebay.co.uk to many parts of world, Japanese and Korean collectors being among the best ... but postage and customs can be a hindrance when selling abroad ... guess the customer group in the US is large enough ...

   Amazon UK ships incredibly cheaply, but apparently comparable rates aren't available to citizens, so yeah, that will hit you pretty hard {at least mailing to Taiwan. I have no idea about in the EU}.  The stuff I've sold has mostly been to the US, but some in Japan, one each in Singapore, Hong Kong, Germany, The UK, and Finland. I sold to a guy in England, but he said he got hit with a brutal import tax.
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