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Wagner's complete operas. ( )

A Bumper Crop Of Classical Box Sets

Dec 6, 2013

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Verdi at the Met. Fritz Reiner conducts the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Van Cliburn: The Complete Album Collection. Britten: The Complete Works It was a big year for extravagant classical box sets.

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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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