Decca to release complete-works Britten box-set

Martin Cullingford
Friday, May 31, 2013

A box-set gathering together recordings of all of Benjamin Britten's works will be released by Decca Classics next month.

The 65-CD set includes every Britten work with an opus number, and draws on recordings from across 20 labels, including EMI Classics, Virgin Classics, Naxos, Warner Classics and NMC. But it is appropriate that Decca is behind the initiative. Britten had strong links with Decca, many of his most important recordings being produced and released by the label, and indeed Decca discs make up three-quarters of this anniversary set. The 1963 Decca recording of the War Requiem remains one of the fastest-selling classical releases of all time – this new set offers a version newly remastered from the analogue tapes, as well as material from Britten's rehearsals at the recording session.  

Paul Moseley, managing director of Decca Classics, said: 'In this very special Britten year it seemed to us at Decca that something unique had to be attempted to honour such a huge figure in British music. The first ever "complete works" on disc best fitted the bill, and we are most grateful to all participating labels and to the Britten-Pears Foundation for their support in making this happen.'

In addition to the recordings the box-set will also contain a 208-page full-colour hardback book featuring articles, a complete alphabetical index of works included in the edition, a gallery of original Decca LP sleeves from 1953 onwards, and photographs of recording sessions and the landscape around Aldeburgh where Britten lived and founded his festival. Four bonus CDs offer newly conducted interviews with musicians who worked closely with the composer, historic recordings and other rarities, and there’s also a DVD of Tony Palmer’s film on the making of the 1967 recording of The Burning Fiery Furnace.

For collectors, this Decca box-set looks likely to be a highlight of a centenary year already rich in impressive initiatives. It's due to be released for the Aldeburgh Festival, which opens next month - the price has not yet been confirmed. You can find out more about other anniversary events at Britten100

To read more about Benjamin Britten, including a listening guide and archive articles, see the Gramophone composer Guide to Benjamin Britten.


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