Why is it risky to call a special edition “complete”?

In mathematics, to prove a theorem false, often all you need to do is to provide a counterexample. To play devil’s advocate, you can apply the same logic to the recent surge of “Complete Editions” of musicians in classical music.

How about the coming WILHELM FURTWÄNGLER: Complete Recordings on Deutsche Grammophon & Decca?

Does this edition include all of what DG or Decca has released on Wilhelm Furtwängler? Oh, I can almost see your devilish smile.

Life of course is not so simple. The answer is not a simple yes or no.

Two CDs in the Vienna Philharmonic 150th Anniversary Edition issued by Deutsche Grammophon in 1991, as shown in the following picture, have contents not included in the coming “Complete” Edition.

For the DG 435324-2, the 1944 Beethoven Leonore III and the 1945 Brahms Symphony No. 2 are included in the coming set on CD15. However the 1954 Beethoven Grosse Fuge is not included. The Beethoven Symphony No. 9 in May 1953 on DG 435325-2 is also not included in the coming “Complete” Edition.

The fact that these 2 recordings are not included may just be due to copyright reasons as they are part of the Archiv der Wiener Philharmoniker. Whatever the reason for their non-inclusion, it is a pity that these 2 very admirable recordings are not included in the coming “Complete” Edition.

Anyway, I’m perfectly happy with a glass half full rather than moaning a glass half empty.

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