Solti – complete Chicago recordings

The trend for complete box sets continues with this recent release from Decca. Decca issued the set to celebrate one of the world’s most prolific conductor – orchestra partnerships with this deluxe 108-CD box set marking both the 20th Anniversary of the passing of Sir Georg Solti and the 125th Anniversary of the founding of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

As with all ‘complete’ editions there are inevitably high and low spots but this release seems to fall between the best of Solti and the best of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. In many cases there are earlier Solti recordings that are preferably to those included as indeed there are many fine Chicago recordings from other conductors throughout their history.

That said the performances contained are never less than good and often superb – there are no less than 24 Grammy award winning discs in this set! We have complete symphony cycles from Beethoven (2 sets – the first being the better), Brahms, Bruckner & Mahler. Indeed I would not be without Solti’s superb recording of Mahler’s Symphony No. 8 in E flat major ‘Symphony of a Thousand’. Georg Solti worked really well with singers whether in oratorio or opera and there are some fine examples of this. Haydn’s The Seasons and The Creation, Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde, Berlioz’s The Damnation of Faust and an outstanding performance of Verdi’s Requiem together with Wagner’s Der fliegende Holländer and Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg.

The earlier analogue recordings are generally of a high standard and I recall much praise for the sound quality of the original Beethoven set when it was released on LP. Sadly the same cannot be said of Decca’s early digital recordings which are somewhat harsh. At around £200 for the set it is hard to give a firm recommendation, despite the luxury feel of the package and the undeniable fact that this was a significant conductor – orchestra partnership.

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