This has got to be the biggest CD release ever. I can’t find any info from Philips Classics website, so this could be the official site, with very complete information on each CD and track.

Later, EMI has a Great Conductors of the 20th Century series, originally planned to have 60+ 2-CD volumes, each for one conductor, but ended up with only 40 so far. This page has an easy-to-read list, missing only Adrian Boult.

Amazon used to sell it for about $2000. It’s pretty ridiculous to get the whole set–I certainly don’t have room for it. I bought the 2-CD sampler from eBay, though, which is a very good introduction with short bio for all pianists. And for the full series? Pray that your local library has it, and if you happen to be local to NYC, your prayer is answered! I think the first volume I got (Gyorgy Cziffra) was actually from the library in Elizabeth, NJ.

Some facts and stats:

  • There are 100 2-CD volumes. Total running time is over 250 hours.
  • 72 pianists are covered:
    1. 45 have single volumes.
    2. 16 have double.
    3. 7 have triple: Arrau, Brendel, Gilels, Horowitz, Kempff, Richter, and Rubinstein.
    4. 2 couples each share one volume.
  • The pianists come from 23 nations. Russia has the most (10), followed by USA (9), then Ukraine (8). In terms of region, Europe has the overwhelming majority of almost 80% (West Europe 20, old USSR 19, East Europe 17). Asia only has one (内田光子).
  • Among the 41 deseased, 80% lived past 60. 2 died in their 30s: Kapel 31, Lipatti 33. 2 in their 40s: Katchen 43, Francois 46. At the other end, 3 lived to 90s: Rubinstein 95, Kempff and Rosina Lhevinne to 96.
  • Competition winners
    • Chopin: Pollini@60, Argerich@65, Zimerman@75 won 1st prize. Ashkenazy@55, Uchida@70 won 2nd.
    • Tchaikovsky: Cliburn@58, Ashkenazy@62, Ogdon@62, Gavrilov@74, and Pletnev@78 won 1st.
    • Leeds: Lupu@69 and Perahia@72 won 1st. Uchida@75 won another 2nd.
    • Rubinstein: Anton, not Artur. It was setup by Anton Rubinstein himself and went from 1890 to 1910. I got to know about it from the notes on Backhaus, and amazingly Wikipedia didn’t have an entry. I did some googling and here is my first Wikipedia creation. Josef Lhévinne@1895, Backhaus@1905, Sofronitsky, and Yudina were winners.

I won’t say anything about the music and pianists until I’ve listened and compared enough to say anything not obviously stupid. Before that, you can kill a day reading this very detailed review.

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