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 24, features the great Czech conductor Vaclav Talich, who led the world-renowned Czech Philharmonic for nearly a quarter century. As the track information is not abundantly clear above, allow me to mention that these discs feature memorable performances of Smetana's "Sarka" from "Ma Vlast" and "Prague Carnival," Dvorak's symphonic poem "The Water Goblin" and "New World" Symphony (a Talich-specialty), and Mozart's Symphony No. 33. Also here are rarer works, nonetheless beautifully played, like Suk's "Serenade for String Orchestra," Janacek's "The Cunning Little Vixen Suite" and Benda's "Symphony for String Orchestra," a piece that Talich single-handedly introduced into the Czech repertoire. Finally, Tchaikovsky's "Orchestral Suite No.4," aka "Mozartiana," finds Talich conducting the Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra instead of in his usually place with the Czech Philharmonic. All of the recordings were made between 1951 and 1954, and while the performances are in mono, they sound wonderful.
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.