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 3, features the great Ataulfo Argenta, who died tragically of carbon monoxide poisoning at the age of 44 in 1958. Fortunately the powers that be at Decca saw this massive talent in the making, and there are some outstanding stereo recordings to document this fact. Though only a portion of his output is currently available -- the Decca Legends collection "Espana" (see my review), Liszt Piano Concertos with Katchen (currently only an import), and Berlioz's Symphonie Fantastique (now out of print) are or have been on CD, while recordings of Tchaikovsky's 4th Symphony and Violin Concerto, and Schubert's "Unfinished" remain unissued -- it clearly illustrates that, had he lived a long life, Argenta would undoubtedly be known today as Spain's greatest conductor. Boasting terrific performances of Schubert's 9th and Liszt's Faust Symphonies, excerpts from Falla's "El Amor Brujo," and Ravel's "Alborada del Gracioso" (one of several of Ravel Orchestral Works Argenta recorded in mono in 1956 that has remain unissued on CD), this collection is a welcome showcase of Argenta's classic, under-appreciated recordings.
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. Since stores are offering increasingly homogenized classical music sections, this conductor may not be in your collection, and that would truly be a shame.