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 32, features the great Hermann Scherchen, and as the track information is non-existent above, allow me to tell what is contained in this fine collection. This 2CD set begins with works by Beethoven -- the Coriolan Overture (Vienna State Opera Orchestra, 1954) and the 8th Symphony (Royal Philharmonic, 1954). This account of the 8th, made available on CD more than a decade ago in the original MCA "Double Decker" series but long out of print, created quite a stir when it was first released nearly fifty years ago. Scherchen was one of the first conductors to strictly follow Beethoven's metronome markings, and as a result the Symphony is at a much brisker tempo than the typical account. It provides a wonderful, striking contrast to other famous versions of the 8th! Disc one concludes with a delightful "Firebird Suite" (RPO, 1954), Schoenberg's "Suite in the Old Style" (Berlin RSO, 1959) and Orff's "Entrata" (VSOO, 1960). As good as disc one is, the second's even better with Reznicek's "Donna Diana" Overture (VSOO, 1957), Haydn's "Military" Symphony (VSOO, 1958) and a surprisingly good Brahms 1st (VSOO, 1952) from a conductor not known as a Brahms specialist. A final note, all of the selections on this collection are either in golden-age stereo, or very good, late mono sound.
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.