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A Bumper Crop Of Classical Box Sets

It was a big year for extravagant classical box sets.
Denise DeBelius
/
NPR
It was a big year for extravagant classical box sets.

This wound up being a spectacular year for elaborate, lavishly packaged reissues. Given all the fabulous classical box sets that appeared this year, you'd think we were in some kind of boom era for music served up on compact discs. (2013? More like 1993.)

Why? Well, there's always the mercenary aspect of the labels' self-interest to consider — but come on, the 65-CD Benjamin Britten edition works out to something like less than $5 a disc at retail price. More pressingly: As precious treasures in the labels' vaults age, there's increasing pressure for record companies to churn out reissues that extend their copyrights, and therefore allow them to continue to make money from these artists for many, many more years to come.

Whatever the reason for these sets' existence, listeners can enjoy overwhelming bounty. Here are some of our favorite reissues from 2013. With their size and scope, these boxes make elegantly angular packages under the Christmas tree.

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Anastasia Tsioulcas is a reporter on NPR's Arts desk. She is intensely interested in the arts at the intersection of culture, politics, economics and identity, and primarily reports on music. Recently, she has extensively covered gender issues and #MeToo in the music industry, including backstage tumult and alleged secret deals in the wake of sexual misconduct allegations against megastar singer Plácido Domingo; gender inequity issues at the Grammy Awards and the myriad accusations of sexual misconduct against singer R. Kelly.
Tom Huizenga is a producer for NPR Music. He contributes a wide range of stories about classical music to NPR's news programs and is the classical music reviewer for All Things Considered. He appears regularly on NPR Music podcasts and founded NPR's classical music blog Deceptive Cadence in 2010.