There have been a flood of historical box sets released over the past few years, featuring recordings from the 1930’s on from various music labels, and many at a bargain price. Downloadable sets have also appeared, some duplicating the box sets, or at least with a bit of overlap. Due to copyright expiration in Europe, many bargain labels have emerged, releasing long out-of-print recordings, along with some great sets from the major labels.
These sets are bare-bones, with no real documentation other that track listings and performance dates. But of course the important thing is the music and the performances. Of course there are some super box sets, upward of 50+ CDs too, and although more expensive, at around $2 or less per CD are still incredible bargains. Some of these do have more documentation, or a companion CD with text, librettos, etc. Along the way, hopefully you will discover some performers that you have never listened to but heard of, and may discover some new works too.
The BOX: series of posts will try to highlight many of the sets out there, and when there are numerous collections by the same performer, attempt to identify the recordings in each set, and point out any overlaps, if any. Some will just be single sets that are either on CD or download. The sets will be available at Amazon, AmazonMP3 and iTunes, with links to each store for the corresponding albums. In the case of opera or vocal sets, I will try to reference online resources for librettos and the like.
I have enjoyed many of the boxes, and as long as you are willing to make allowances for sound quality for the older mono recordings on some sets, you can have hundreds of hours of great listening for very little cost.