First Edition Records


The Louisville Orchestra with recording microphone, Nov. 19, 1950
Photograph by Cort Best © The Courier-Journal

Maestro Robert Whitney and Charles Farnsley, Mayor of Louisville (1948-1953), conceived of an adventurous plan to make the commissioning and recording of new works for the Louisville orchestra a centerpiece of the Orchestra’s global mission. The Louisville Orchestra, as a result, is the first orchestra to create its own record label – First Edition Records – and with support from the Rockefeller Foundation, Louisville commissioned up to 52 new compositions each year from established and student composers worldwide for three years.

After the Rockefeller funds were exhausted in 1957, premieres of new works diminished, but this opened an even more productive stage for the orchestra’s recording activity on the First Edition label. The new mission was to record worthy 20th century works that had never been recorded. This latter stage of the recording project brought hundreds of composers to the attention of listeners around the world. The Louisville Orchestra ultimately released nearly 150 vinyl recordings (LPs) of more than 450 works worldwide in more than 48 countries. The documentary features a partial list of these many composers. A complete discography is available here.