Eslite, one of Taiwan’s largest bookstore chains, has opened a branch in Causeway Bay, Hong Kong not long ago, and the sheer size of the store, taking up 3 levels of the shopping mall Hysan Square, has made it a popular place for book-lovers to visit. And even if you’re not a book fan, you’ll be delighted to know that Eslite sells classical CDs and DVDs as well, in a rather obscured corner of the store. Make no mistake though: it’s quite massive compared to the classical section of many other stores, and the sheer amount of labels to be found there is amazing. Yes, the offerings there are mostly Universal and EMI, as would be expected, but discs from Vox, Audite, Reference Recordings, Ondine and Harmonia Mundi are of great abundance too, surely greater than your average disc store.
But the greatest kudos is for the fact that it’s home to what is simply the largest contingency of Brilliant Classics discs I have ever seen.
As you may already know, Brilliant Classics is a Dutch label that mostly exhumes and licenses out-of-print, hard-to-find recordings from independent labels and reissues them at budget price. Their offerings, moreover, clearly shows the selectivity of the brains behind the label, so that very little if any duds have been reissued under their name. Check out the gems: Gulda’s (and Brendel’s first cycle of) Beethoven piano sonatas, Pieter-Jan Belder’s Complete Scarlatti set, Kempe’s Strauss set, Milne’s Medtner sonatas, Blomstedt’s Beethoven symphonies and Barshai’s Shostakovich symphonies set, and of course Barshai’s tremendous Mahler 5, to name but a few. More often than not Brilliant has released box sets ranging from massive (complete Mozart/Bach/Beethoven Edition) to moderate-sized (Medtner piano sonatas, Sibelius symphonies) while releasing relatively few singles, so if you’re a fan of box sets (and we at Top Ear sure are) it’s almost given that your box set collection will be filled with releases of the label.
And all that for amazing prices. The Brendel Beethoven cycle was around $260, much less expensive than the later cycles on Philips; the Medtner box was $200 for 7CDs, certainly much less expensive than Tozer on Chandos and Hamelin on Hyperion; the Scarlatti set was less than $700 and the Barshai Shostakovich box around $350, as with Kempe’s Strauss.
A warning though: Eslite isn’t known for low prices, and many of the other discs (and books) sold there were significantly more expensive than those in other retailers, so if you can bet on your luck that you’ll be able to see any of these truly attractive offerings anywhere else at a lower price, by all means wait. Otherwise, if you can’t resist, be sure to grab them as soon as possible before everyone else does–which they probably will. And nobody would blame you for doing so.