It's a tall order to compile the best classical music of the twentieth century, but EMI has selected its top 100 classics for this six-disc set, and it's difficult to argue with most of the choices. Without taking sides in the great ideological debates of the modern era – traditionalist vs. avant-garde, tonal vs. atonal, styles vs. schools, and so on – the label has picked the composers whose reputations seem most secure at the turn of the twenty-first century and has chosen representative excerpts of their music. Certainly, the titans of modernism are here, such as Igor Stravinsky, Arnold Schoenberg, Béla Bartók, Dmitry Shostakovich, Sergey Prokofiev, Claude Debussy, and Benjamin Britten, to name just a few masters, but they don't cast such a large shadow that they eclipse either their more backward-looking predecessors or their more experimental successors.
With more than 7 hours of tender music by Tchaikovsky, Mozart, Debussy, Puccini and more, performed by greats like Luciano Pavarotti, Andre Previn and Jose Carreras, this set can complete any romantic evening at home. And if we can't play upon your heart strings, 100 classics for this low price is quite a deal.
For the price, Decca's five-disc collection entitled Ultimate Cello Classics does a fairly nice job of introducing listeners to some of the instrument's great literature. It includes the concertos of Dvorák, Saint-Saëns, Elgar, and Tchaikovsky (Rococo Variations), as well as the complete Bach solo suites. There are definite holes in the programming, however. With the exception of the aforementioned works, the remainder of the album is devoted almost exclusively to short transcriptions – works not even written for the cello. This wouldn't be so troubling if the collection included some of the "essential masterpieces" of the twentieth century or any of the sonata literature, works that are certainly more essential to the repertoire than Kreisler or Wieniawski transcriptions.