New Classical Box Set: Emerson String Quartet, Complete Recordings on Deutsche Grammophon

I know, I’ve said many times that I’m not buying any more box sets, but I’ve also said that there are still a few artists whose work I like, and whose discography I’d love to have in big sets. One such artist is the Emerson String Quartet. Deutsche Grammophon has just released a 52-CD set of their complete recordings on that label. (They’ve recently moved to Sony, so newer recordings are on that label. They also made a number of recordings before being signed to DG, on labels such as Book of the Month Records, Composers Recording, and New World.) Spanning nearly 30 years, and covering a wide range of composers, this is one of the few big box sets of recordings by a string quartet. (, Amazon UK)

Emerson box set

The Emerson String Quartet is known for its incisive recordings and performances, and a high level of perfection. In this set, from Beethoven to Ives, from Schubert to Berg, by way of Bach, Haydn, Dvorak, and many others, one gets a rich overview of the music for the string quartet. There’s not much “complete” music here, as far as composers are concerned; only Bartok, Beethoven, Mendelssohn, and Shostakovich are fully recorded. But there’s a staggering range of music by a few dozen different composers.

The set is in the now-familiar cube-shaped box, with original album covers, and with a 140-page booklet with track listings, but no substantial liner notes. And the booklet highlights how difficult it is to shoot interesting photos of a string quartet. Each photo of the group, many of which are used on their covers, shows four men doing the same thing: holding instruments, walking, smiling with their instruments on the floor in front of them, etc.

It’s not as cheap as some such sets, but it’s still a bargain. I have about 20 CDs worth of the Emerson String Quartet’s music, but I’m happy to have this set, to listen to their recordings that I haven’t yet heard. I very much like their Beethoven, their Schubert string quintet with Rostropovich is excellent, their Ives/Barber CD is great, and I love their “Intimate Letters” CD, with music by Grieg, Nielsen and Sibelius.

This set is out now in the UK, and is due out next week in the US. (, Amazon UK)

I’m still waiting for that big box set of Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau recordings…