It's sad that the "Great Conductors of the 20th Century" reissue series has not gotten more attention, 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! And as if that wasn't enough, the most recent volumes (beginning with no. 25) are now available at mid-line instead of full-price!
This particular CD, Volume 31, features the great Artur Rodzinski, and as the track information is not very clear above, allow me to tell what is contained in this fine collection. This 2CD set begins with Rodzinski performing with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra on Rimsky-Korsakov's "Russian Easter" Overture and Mussorgsky's "Khovanshchina" Prelude (both from recorded in 1958). Next we go back in time to Rodzinski's tenure with the New York Philharmonic and an excellent account of Rachmaninov's 2nd Symphony, though from 1945 it is the collection's poorest in terms of sound quality. CD1 wraps up with Rossini's "William Tell" Overture (Columbia SO, 1950). The second disc is dedicated in its entirety to the works of Wagner and Strauss. The selections from "The Valkyrie" and "Twilight of the Gods" were recorded in 1955 with the Royal Philharmonic, while the "Tristan und Isolde" excerpts are with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra from 1947. The Strauss recordings, along with the Russian works on disc one, are among Rodzinski's final recordings, in this case with the Philharmonia Orchestra from 1957-8.
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 don'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 might not be in your collection. And that would truly be a shame.