Complete works aims to replicate Mozart success.

Less than a year after the spectacular breakthrough in France of the complete Mozart works -- a 170-CD boxed set which sold for €99 ($124) -- Dutch label Brilliant Classics is shooting again with a box of Bach's complete works.

The Bach complete works, which also carries a recommended retail price of €99 ($124), includes 155 CDs in cardboard sleeves and a CD-Rom containing the composer's complete texts and historical background.

Around 75% of the works have been recorded by Brilliant Classics -- either for this boxed set or for previous Bach releases; the remaining content was licensed from a dozen record labels, including Swedish company BIS.

The set was issued Aug. 31 in France and subsequently rolled out in 40 other countries.

Released in October 2005, Mozart complete works achieved unexpected success in France, with close to 200,000 units shipped to date, according to distributor Abeille Musique. According to Brilliant Classics, France alone represents two thirds of shipments worldwide on the Mozart product.

Brilliant Classics managing director Pieter Van Winkel expects France to again be a key market for Bach sales. "French people are really into investing in cultural goods," he says, also pointing out the continuing support of leading French retailer Fnac with in-store promotion.

Abeille Musique president/CEO Yves Riesel Riesel admits, "We probably won't reach the same sales level than with Mozart, who is a classical music superstar. But we have already 200,000 customers [who bought Mozart's complete works] and 99.9% of them are satisfied, so chances are that they buy Bach's set".

At launch, about 27,000 copies of the Bach set were shipped in France and 40,000 units overall.

Selling complete works of this importance at only €99 ($124) has created controversy on the value of music in recent months. Last March, Hervé Boissière, currently managing director of French record label and distributor Naïve, told Billboard: "Opportunistic projects of this kind overshadow almost all other productions and do not help us drive customers to buying new productions or 'difficult' repertoire. [...] Our [classical] market needs long-term strategies."

Riesel argues, "The CD market needs everything but 'routine'." He says that his company's yearly revenue has been multiplied by four, mainly thanks to the Mozart boxed set. Classical music's share of the French music market has been on an upward trend for the past three years and represented 6.8% of the market as of end of June 2006, according to trade body Snep.

Riesel says his company will launch a project featuring another key classical composer for the end of the year, although he won't unveil details.

Distribution in the United States of both the Mozart and the Bach boxes is now handled by Koch Entertainment Distribution.