BIS is forcing us to buy this 4 disc box to get the extra music, duplicating all three symphonies. Ridiculous.
Those of us who have been trying to collect BIS's Rachmaninov SACDs (Piano Concertos and Symphonies, etc.) have had a rough time of it. This has got to be one of the very worst production blunders ever witnessed in modern times.
So let me get this straight.
To get all of Yevgeny Sudbin's Piano Concertos (and the Paganini Rhapsody), there is a single disc of #2 & #3 (with conductor Sakari Oramo). Great. But to get his #1, it is coupled with conductor Lan Shui's reading of the 1st Symphony. And to get #4, it is coupled with Medtner's 2nd Concerto (conducted by Grant Llewellyn). And to get his Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, it is coupled with Shui's Symphony #3.
Got that? With me so far? For the 4 concertos, plus the Rhapsody, we've had to purchase 4 discs. And we've gotten two of the symphonies plus a random concerto from a completely unrelated composer thrown in for good measure, whether we wanted them or not. And Sudbin performs with no less than three conductors and orchestras.
Moving on to Shui's orchestral works, we now already have his 1st and 3rd Symphonies with Sudbin's Concerto 1 and Rhapsody. So one more disc purchase gets us the 2nd Symphony as well, bringing us closer to a complete set.
But wait! BIS isn't done messing with the collector just yet. After all of the above (5 discs in all), BIS has released (at the very end, in 2020) all of the tone poems and incidental music conducted by Shui - available ONLY in a box set of 4 discs along with the 3 Symphonies that we've already purchased. So, in order to obtain all the extra orchestral material, we are forced to purchase this entire 4-disc box set, and in so doing, purchasing again the symphonies we've already acquired while trying to assemble Sudbin's Piano Concertos! Oh, and the Piano Concertos aren't included in the box set, so you've still got to keep those discs on your shelf, along with those now unnecessary duplicated couplings.
In the dictionary for the word Exasperating, BIS would be the definition. The only redeeming merit here is that the box set is SACD, as were each of the individual releases. But seriously, this Rachmaninov project is a farce and a colossal ripoff for the consumer.
By the way, the performances are excellent and the sound is generally very good. Sudbin has definitely learned the concertos from Rachmaninoff's own recordings, adopting fast tempos (some, very fast). But he never sounds rushed; he's at all times musical and rhapsodic, with sweetly singing lines and spectacularly effortless virtuosity. It's too bad his piano sounds a touch clangy in Singapore (although splendid in London). On the other hand, BIS's sound of the Singapore Symphony in the orchestral music is luscious. (I listen to the 2-channel SACD layer.) It's interesting to compare it to DG's new Rachmaninoff recordings in Philadelphia for Nezet-Seguin (on CD only, of course). The richness there is most impressive, and the powerful dynamics are stunning. But the airier textures in Singapore afford an even more colorful orchestral palette, and allow delicate details to shimmer forth. It is ultimately a more natural presentation. Where BIS can't match DG is in the massive crescendos/climaxes, where the sound fails to open up with an endless expansiveness as it does in Philly. Instead it tends to take on a bit of an edge at high volumes. But I do really like Shui in the symphonies. He has a little more fire in his bones than does Nezet-Seguin. All the more reason why I really want to hear him do all the extra orchestral material, all of which would have easily fit on a neat 2-fer. Which is the impetus for this rant.
Oh, and one more thing while I'm at it. That "special price" they mention there on the rear cover - don't believe it for an instant. This set's list price is $80! And it's an import for those of us in the U.S. It can sometimes be found for less (priced anywhere from $46 to $85), but that's not at all "special" in my book, especially considering all the duplications (and irritation) it involves. A $20 double-disc set would have completed this collection beautifully, if only BIS had had the consumer in mind.
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