- Candide, opera: Overture
- Cassiopeia, for orchestra: Scene
It's a tall order to compile the best classical music of the twentieth century, but EMI has selected its top 100 classics for this six-disc set, and it's difficult to argue with most of the choices. Without taking sides in the great ideological debates of the modern era -- traditionalist vs. avant-garde, tonal vs. atonal, styles vs. schools, and so on -- the label has picked the composers whose reputations seem most secure at the turn of the twenty-first century and has chosen representative excerpts of their music. Certainly, the titans of modernism are here, such as Igor Stravinsky, Arnold Schoenberg, Béla Bartók, Dmitry Shostakovich, Sergey Prokofiev, Claude Debussy, and Benjamin Britten, to name just a few masters, but they don't cast such a large shadow that they eclipse either their more backward-looking predecessors or their more experimental successors. If anything, a complaint could be made that certain post-Romantic composers, such as Sergey Rachmaninov and Ralph Vaughan Williams, are over-represented, to the exclusion of other significant figures. Yet this is perhaps understandable for a set designed for accessibility, and it is clear that this was not intended to be a thorough survey, for otherwise, the breakdown of the program would have been more consistently planned. With the discs organized to cover "The Last of the Romantics," "Innovators," " Brave New World," "America," "Instrumental and Chamber," and "Choral and Vocal," the themes seem ill-suited for an in-depth educational program, though good enough for making casual acquaintance with the music in understandable groupings. The performances date from 1963 to 2007, so the ADD and DDD recordings are fairly variable in quality, and there is also a noticeable difference between the live concert recordings and studio sessions. Still, for a quick run through the many styles and developmental phases of the century, this collection is pretty hard to beat for its variety and sheer quantity of examples.