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 11, features the great Nicolai Malko, whose initial claim to fame was as the conductor who premiered Shostakovich's First Symphony. While the majority of the recordings presented in this 2CD set have been available before on disc, they have all been out of print for years. The gems on this set are the early stereo recordings with the Philharmonia Orchestra. Between Feburary 1955 and March 1956, Malko cranked out the Borodin 2nd, Prokofiev 7th, and Dvorak 9th Symphonies along with the Glinka, Rimsky-Korsakov, Tchaikovsky and Suppe pieces presented here, and many others not in this collection including the Borodin 3rd and Prokofiev 1st Symphonies. Walter Legge and the EMI folks sure kept Malko busy, but in many cases these recordings were being rushed to market in order to be the first stereo LPs of a particular composition. The set's only non-Philharmonia performances are Haydn's Symphony No. 92 from 1953 with the Royal Danish Orchestra, and the Nielsen "Maskarade" Overture from 1947 with the Danish State RSO. They are solid renditions, but of course are recorded in mono and don't shine as brightly as the Philharmonia tracks.
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.