Eight More Miles to Louisville: Legendary First Edition Recordings Re-released on CD

Eight More Miles to Louisville: Legendary First Edition Recordings Re-released on CD

In 1948, the Louisville Orchestra embarked on an innovative commissioning project advocated by board president Charles P. Farnsley (who coincidentally was also the acting mayor of Louisville) that would end up commissioning 116 new works from 101 composers by 1959, masterfully conducted by Robert Whitney. In addition to the huge number of world premieres that the orchestra gave during these years, often conducted by the composer himself, Farnsley’s vision also included recording new works on 33 1/3 long-play records, a technology that had been introduced in the same year, 1948, by Columbia Records. The resulting collaboration between Columbia Masterworks (headed up by producer Howard Scott) and the Louisville Orchestra led to the release of 125 LPs between 1952 and 1967. Additional funding from BMI and the Ford Foundation allowed the First Edition label, as it came to be called, to create 23 more LPs and 10 CDs by 1995. These recordings introduced to the works of such important 20th composers as Elliott Carter, Lou Harrison, and Lukas Foss, among others and now, beginning on March 11, 2003, the Santa Fe Music Group (SFMG) begins reissuing the series on CD.

The project came to life when Matthew Walters, the managing director of SFMG, acquired the rights for his organization to re-release dozens of these recordings made by the Louisville Symphony Orchestra between 1948 and 1992. “Beginning in late 1999, I took a long hard look at the complete First Edition catalog and discovered that virtually none of it was available commercially,” Walters recounts. “I approached the Louisville Orchestra, acquired the exclusive rights, obtained funding, programmed several dozen (primarily single-composer) titles for compact disc release, engaged original producer Howard Scott, assembled a first class production team, encoded the archival catalog for internet and satellite applications, and contracted with Harmonia Mundi, and 21C Media for U.S. retail distribution and publicity.” Partial funding for the project was provided by the Aaron Copland Fund for Music and the National Endowment for the Arts.

The reissues will contain the original orchestral recordings remastered for 24-bit HDCD sound as well as the original liner notes accompanied by updated annotations and new artwork, including rare and previously unreleased photos. According to Walters, the first four recordings to be re-released were selected because of the “musical diversity among the four and their popularity.” The four are recordings feature the music of two living composers (John Corigliano and George Crumb) and two past masters (Alan Hovhaness and Henry Cowell). In addition to the initial four recordings, First Edition Music plans to release 11 more recordings in 2003 and continue throughout 2004. A complete list of 2003 releases follows. In addition, SFMG hopes to widen their international distribution, enhance the project’s website, www.firsteditionmusic.com, and partnering with “internet and satellite affiliates, radio, and music publishers.” Walters summed up SFMG’s enthusiasm for the projects, saying, “We take great pride in being stewards of the legendary First Edition catalog and we are excited about creating a new high quality label, and reaching a growing worldwide audience.”


* indicates a world premiere recording






For more information about each of these discs, check the First Edition Music website. All of these recordings will be featured on NewMusicBox in SoundTracks when they become available, so stay tuned!

NewMusicBox provides a space for those engaged with new music to communicate their experiences and ideas in their own words. Articles and commentary posted here reflect the viewpoints of their individual authors; their appearance on NewMusicBox does not imply endorsement by New Music USA.