Deutsche Grammophon is lucky in that World War II didn't slow classical recordings in Germany as it did in the United States but stimulated them: It was essential for wartime morale. Thus, if you can get past any repugnance related to these recordings' genesis, there's a huge amount to enjoy. There's a disc of lieder by all the prewar greats (Franz Volker, Tiana Lemnitz, Erna Berger, and Heinrich Schlusnus), a disc of Wagner featuring young Hans Hotter, opera and operetta performances by Berger and Helge Roswaenge, and a disc showing how the German singers gave Italian opera a distinctively Nordic but highly communicative edge. The set is crowned by a complete Winterreise that was recorded by Peter Anders in 1945 (and sounds it): the cultivated tenor's anguished performance embodies a Germany facing the abyss. –David Patrick Stearns
Authoritative and comprehensive, this 55CD set presents a unique period in human history: a period when brilliant recorded sound on LP & CD, plus radio, TV, film and live all combined to offer huge new opportunities for singers, record labels and producers to expand the audience for classical music. This box set puts the spotlight on fifty-five unique voices whose music and art shaped the century. Included are also the debut recitals of some of todays biggest names, underlining Deccas unparalleled ability at spotting vocal talent.