THE ESSENTIAL CLASSICS COLLECTION
Deutsche Grammophon 463 485-2 6 CDs around
CD1:- MEDITATION includes Peer Gynt - Morning Mood (Grieg).
Suite No.3 - Air (JS Bach). Canon (Pachelbel). Pavane (Faure). Adagio (Albinoni).
Tales of Hofmann - Barcarolle (Offenbach).
CD2:- ORCHESTRAL FIREWORKS includes Carmen - Les Toredors (Bizet).
Four Seasons - Winter (Vivaldi). Requiem - Dies Irae (Verdi). Bolero (Ravel).
Rhapsody in Blue (Gershwin). Romeo and Juliet - Kinght's Dance (Prokofiev).
CD3:- INVITATION to DANCE includes Invitation to dance (Weber). Water
Music - Alla Hornpipe (Handel). The Blue Danube Waltz (Strauss). Prince Igor
- Polovtsian Dances (Borodin). Gaite Parisienne - Cancan Allegro (Offenbach).
CD4:- NOCTURNE includes Piano Concerto No.21 - Andante (Mozart). Fur
Elise (Beethoven). Clair de Lune (Debussy). Moments Musicaux (Schubert).
Nocturne in F sharp major (Chopin). CD5:- POMP & CIRCUMSTANCE
includes Messiah - Hallelujah Chorus (Handel). Ma Vlast - Vltava (Smetana).
Finlandia (Sibelius). Pomp & Circumstance March No.1 (Elgar). Hebrides
Overture (Mendelssohn). Toccata & Fugue (JS Bach). Fantasia on Greensleeves
CD6:- GRAND OPERA includes Nessun dorma! (Puccini). Il trovatore -
Di quella pira (Verdi). Tristan und Isolde - Liebestod (Wagner). Celeste
Aida (Aida). William Tell - Overture (Rossini). Madama Butterfly - One Fine
The intent of this set is pretty clear from the titles of each of the six
discs: Meditations; Orchestral Fireworks; Invitation to the Dance; Nocturne;
Pomp & Circumstance; Grand Opera. This is mood or 'theme' music designed
to provide either a background or a sequence of 'tasters' initiating the
person who comes fresh to classical music with a sampling from the 'great
and the good'. True the 'great and the good' are all from the core repertoire;
not even a scintilla of Janacek, Nielsen, Adams, Reich which is a shame.
Speaking for myself I gained a spicy introduction to classical music not
through the conventional Bs but through Janacek, Martinu, Vaughan Williams,
Bax and only later, and in a relatively unguided way, 'explored' the classics.
The playing time is reasonably generous though more could easily have been
squeezed on. Playing times vary between 68 and 75 minutes, mostly over 70
The set, blessedly, does very little in the way of extracting passages from
the middle of movements. The tracks are usually either complete works or
complete movements from works.
I am not going to list all the contents but give you some flavour.
Meditations: Pachelbel's Canon, Mahler's Adagietto from
Symphony No. 5 (in an emotional reading by Kubelik), a mordantly attacking
Elgar Cello Concerto moderato from Fournier, Faure's Pavane.
Orchestral Fireworks: Ozawa's Boston Knight's Dance (Prokofiev),
a bumptious Les Toreadors from Bizet's Carmen, Steinberg's
Also Sprach (for years the staple version on DG); a complete Rhapsody
in Blue (Stockigt being the characterful pianist) and a glitzy Bolero
from Ozawa's Boston.
Invitation to the Dance: Abbado's storming and rippling Hungarian
Dances (perhaps a little rushed); Leitner's rather earthbound Sugar
Plum Fairy, Pinnock on his toes in Water Music, Fricsay rather
wonderful in Blue Danube; Jarvi spinning and delirious in the
Nocturne: lots of piano including two obligatory Mozart piano concerto
movements (yes, 21 and 23 and yes Geza Anda), Weissenburg sensitive in Clair
de Lune; a couple of restful Rachmaninov Preludes by Zilberstein. Nothing
to break the sleepy mood.
Pomp & Circumstance: an Oh so respectable Hallelujah Chorus
(Trevor Pinnock) which I hated - where is the joy in this?; Orpheus Chamber
Orchestra in Greensleeves; a magical and alert Vltava from
Kubelik; a sleepy Finlandia from Jarvi, a decent Jupiter from
Steinberg; a good Fingal's Cave from Abbado; Norman Del Mar (much
missed) spanking along in P&C No. 1.
Grand Opera: Domingo is in rich and resonant voice in a 1982 Nessun
Dorma, a bawling Bergonzi in Di quella pira; a nicely swung Va
pensiero from Sinopoli; a strained Sandor Konya in Che gelida
manina; Kleiber conducting and Margaret Price singing (probably better
that way) in the Liebestod. Mirella Freni, noticeably wobbly, in 1988
with Sinopoli conducting in Un bel di vedremo. This is the weakest
disc in the set but the four Domingo tracks are superb. He is in ringing
form. There are stacks of Sinopoli on this disc. Are DG trying to tell us
This set is not at all the usual type of material reviewed here. But we should
cover it. All I have done here is skipped and sample the discs. From this
I commend the set as a bargain basement 'intro' to the great classics. There
are a few misfires or things I didn't like (not necessarily the same thing)
but you have to expect that with any compilation.
The key thing is that the recording quality is good, performances are often
excellent and chosen from one of the world's strongest stables.
There are no liner notes or texts and you have to get inside the jewel case
to find out who is performing what.