They dominated the record catalogues of the 1950s and 1960s. Orchestras trembled at their every irate, intemperate word and record company executives scuttled to do their bidding. When the CD arrived, their recordings were again released in swathes. And then, like the dinosaurs, they suddenly disappeared. The once-mighty maestros Pierre Monteux, Fritz Reiner, Charles Munch, George Szell and Eugene Ormandy seem to mean little to today’s record collectors, who have their own contemporary heroes and, if they turn to conductors of the past, pay more heed to Bernstein, Solti, Tennstedt or Karajan. Toscanini will always, like his compatriot Caruso, stand for the ultimate in quality. Beecham, Stokowski and Furtwängler have their cults, Talich and Mravinsky their niches, Walter and Klemperer their Mahler connections. But what has happened to the reputations of the five men who once bestrode the podiums of some of the best orchestras in the world? Are they a generation of extinct volcanoes?
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