Various Artists

20th Century Masterpieces

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This 16-disc collection is even more ambitious than it appears on the cover. It's not just an anthology of recordings of music of the twentieth century, but an introduction to the whole subject, with a comprehensive text overview (or at least as comprehensive as you can be in 17 pages). The organization is chronological, and each piece is presented basically complete. Thus, there isn't room, even on 16 discs, for one piece per year, but it's remarkable how many years do get covered, and how many styles. The natural tendency one might have expected from EMI to favor British music is resisted, and the later part of the century is especially pleasing in its diversity, with thorny scores by the likes of Harrison Birtwistle cheek by jowl with holy minimalists. One might protest a moderate slighting of American music; the absence of both Ives and Cage is puzzling in view of the entire disc devoted to Orff's Carmina Burana. But Gershwin, Bernstein, Adams, Barber, and Copland are all represented. The selections, drawn from EMI's catalog, are for the most part not warhorses brought back for one more turn around the pasture but almost uniformly well-regarded readings from the 1990s; where old recordings are used, as with Jacqueline du Pré's version of Elgar's Cello Concerto from 1965, they are mostly recordings that held a place in the catalog for many years. The booklet essay is as compressed as you might expect, but it will give the newcomer some useful places to start in exploring the incredible variety of music in the twentieth century. With a few exceptions, the remastering holds this diverse material together. If you want to take care of an entire century of music with one purchase, this is a reasonable choice.

Track Listing - Disc 8

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
Symphony No. 5 in D minor, Op. 47
blue highlight denotes track pick