It's sad that the "Great Conductors of the 20th Century" reissue series has not gotten more notice on Amazon and in other places, because it has my vote for the best reissue program thus far of the 21st Century. Drawing from the archives of all the major classical labels (EMI, Sony, BMG, DG, Decca, Philips, Supraphon, etc.), EMI and IMG Artists have assembled a wonderful series of affordable two-disc sets by the leading conductors of the last century. And unlike its counterpart, "The Great Pianists of the 20th Century," which are basically compilations of material already available on other CDs, the "Great Conductors" features rare and, for the most part, previously unreleased performances!
This particular CD, Volume 17, features Albert Coates, one of the great pre-World War II conductors, and a figure who has been virtually forgotten, not to mention woefully underrepresented on CD. As the track information is not abundantly clear above, allow me to mention that these two discs feature all mono performances from 1926-30 with the London Symphony Orchestra made for HMV. They are among the earliest of electrical recordings, but the sound is remarkable considering their age. The performances of Borodin's Symphony No. 2, Tchaikovsky's "Francesca da Rimini," Ravel's "La Valse," Wagner's "Tannhauser" Overture, and Strauss' "Tod und Verklarung" are nothing short of magical. It is awful that Coates' association with HMV seemingly ended in 1932, and that others didn't ask him to record for them. According to the CD's liner notes, Coates stayed in the USA for most of WWII, then went to South Africa where he taught and made occasional appearances until his death in 1953.
Whether you are a serious collector of classical music or a beginner, the "Great Conductors of the 20th Century" has something for everyone. If the prized, rare performances previously unreleased on CD (or ever!) doesn't excite you, then use this as an opportunity to check out one of the greatest conductors ever recorded. Chances are, since stores are offering increasingly homogenized classical music sections, this conductor isn't even in your collection. And that would truly be a shame.