Music Ward > Album Reviews

The Rubinstein Collection - An Embarassment of Musical Riches

(1/3) > >>

I have to admit that I really like boxed sets...if they are done right.  I'm not a fan of sets that collect whatever crappy sounding recordings the producers can get their hands on so they can make a fast buck.  I occasoinally buy cheap boxed sets from labels such as Proper Box.  But I very much perfer boxed sets that have some care and thought put into the production even if it drives up the price.

I suppose that is why I am such an staunch supporter of Mosaic Records.  When they reissue vintage jazz recordings they do what they can to obtain the best possible source.  For 78 era records that usually means the original metal parts.  For LP era recordings that means going to the original master tapes.  They also give you a very nice booklet with essays about the artists and music being covered and complete discographical notes.  Unless their quality starts to taper off I will be a loyal Mosaic customer for life.  I also have a few vinyl boxed sets that are spectacular, like the Complete Bill Evans Riverside recordings issued on 180g 45RPM vinyl.  That set was about $600 and worth every penny.

But with every boxed set of music I have ever bought there are usually compromises made of one sort or another.  I've often wondered what a cost-is-no-object boxed set of music would look like.  I recently got my answer when I was fortunate enough to buy a used Rubinstein Collection boxed set on eBay, which contains practically the entire recorded legacy of pianist Arthur Rubinstein.  It was produced by RCA/BMG in 1999, before the label was acquired by Sony.

This set is absolutely mamoth in scope.  Tipping the scales at almost 40 lbs, RCA spared no expense in assembling the music that went into this lavishly appointed boxed set.  It includes everything that Rubinstein recorded for RCA Victor.  It also includes Rubinstein's recordings on the HMV label, which RCA licensed from EMI for inclusion in this set.  There are 94 CDs in all collected into 84 volumes (some volumes contain two CDs).  The recordings in The Rubinstein Collection span from 1929 to his final recording and public performance in 1976.  They also cover the vast majority of the piano repertiore.  Rubinstein was adept with the piano music of most composers, but had a special affinty with Chopin and particularly Brahms (Johannes Brahms passed away when Rubinstein was 10 years old).  There are many recordings in the set that feature these two composers.  There are also many performances of works from Beethoven, Schumann, Grieg, Schubert, Dvorak, Debussy, Ravel, Mozart, Haydn, Falla, Liszt, Franck, Rachmaninov, Tchaikovsky...the list goes on and on.

The packaging presents this music as a shrine to Rubinstein's legacy.  You will find no cheap jewel cases here.  The box is constructed of heavy press board that is clothbound and made to last.  Each volume of music is presented in a hard cover laminated booklet with extensive liner notes or mini essays about the recordings.

How does it sound?  Well there's a lot of music here spanning almost 50 years of recording history.  The early recordings sound surprisingly good given the sources, and are likely to sound better than even the best 78 shellac records you could hope to find of this music.  Rubinstein was a daring and bold pianist in his youth.  I'm listening to the first disc in the set right now, a 1929 recording of Brahms Piano Concerto No. 2.  It lacks the full bodied holosonic presence of a modern recording, to be sure.  But it is great listening nevertheless.  Moving further forward into the 78 era to the early 1940s, the sound improves as microphones and recording techniques improved.  Noise is reduced.  Dynamic range and resolution improves.  Now I am listening to a 1942 recording of Greig's Piano Concerto with Eugene Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra.  The sound is splendid.  And of course, recordings laid down on analog tape starting in the early 1950s has audiophile quality sound.  In each case, the producers at RCA/BMG used the best source available and each recording was lovingly remastered for this special release.

At an original retail price of $1,600 there were only 200 of these magnificent sets made.  RCA/BMG decided that there would be no more produced after the initial production run of 200 sold out because sales were so slow.  Once sold out some sets started to show up on eBay for between $2K and $4K.  I have had my eye on this for quite some time, but I wasn't willing to pay silly money to land one.  I feel very fortunate that I was able to secure this set for the price of $1,000.  It was a once in a lifetime opportunity that nearly got away from me.


$1k - now that's a collection! :shock:

Barry (NJ):


--- Quote from: etcarroll on April 08, 2011, 05:45:40 PM ---$1k - now that's a collection! :shock:

--- End quote ---

I'd be sleeping in the garage for sure.  :rofl:



--- Quote from: tmazz on April 08, 2011, 07:22:13 PM ---I'd be sleeping in the garage for sure.  :rofl:


--- End quote ---

What makes you think that isn't where I spent my night?  ;)

Seriously, my wife stopped scrutinizing my music purchases years ago.  We've been married for 26 years, so she has seen practically every record, CD, tape, and piece of gear I have ever owned come through the front door (I never resorted to sneaking stuff in through the back....though the thought did cross my mind a few times).  She's really been a good sport through it all.



[0] Message Index

[#] Next page

Go to full version