This magnificent collection spans almost half a century, from three of Rachmaninov's Op 39 Etudes-Tableaux that Vladimir Ashkenazy recorded in 1963, to his version of the First Sonata, which was released two years ago. It's wonderfully comprehensive, including the four piano concertos and the Paganini Rhapsody, the works for two pianos (the Suites and the Symphonic Dances with André Previn, some smaller-scale pieces with Ashkenazy's son Vovka), and all manner of occasional pieces and transcriptions as well as the major solo piano works.
A majority of well-known composers have written at least a few chamber compositions in their entire lifetime. The most famous would have to be Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms, and probably Prokofiev. Some, including Respighi and Vaughan Williams, are overlooked or even rejected in today's society. Whether it's because of lack of originality or excessive complexities, these sorts of compositions are always left in the dark. Take Rachmaninov's Cello Sonata, for instance. This 35-minute work doesn't receive the complete recognition it deserves. It's overshadowed by the composer's piano concertos and symphonies, all of which are respectfully first-rate works in their own right.
Richard Wagner, the most controversial figure the arts have ever seen, whose music can move and overwhelm like no other, continues to divide the spirits even today. The year 2013, when we celebrate the 200th anniversary of his birth, is inevitably going to be devoted to the man and his work.
The Complete Wagner Operas offers the best of Deutsche Grammophon, two operas each from Decca and the BBC and EMIs Rienzi.
Monteverdi's three great operas (a fourth, Arianna, only survives in part) are among the earliest surviving examples of opera, and are still regular fixtures on the international operatic repertoire. Orfeo was composed in 1607, and performed that year during the carnival in Mantua. Not only is Orfeo the earliest opera in the repertoire, it was also one of the grandest of its time.