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Notes and Editorial Reviews
Back from the wilderness of Sony's Essential Classics series, and remastered in nice, clear stereo along with Bernstein's set of Paris Symphonies for this same label, Szell's recordings of the first six London Symphonies represent the ultimate in big-band Haydn. And late Haydn should always be played with a big band: his own ensemble in London numbered some 60 players in a room that held 800. In other words, for one of today's typical concert halls he would have expected a full-sized, modern symphony orchestra, and that's just what he gets here.
Of course this is Szell, so the size of the ensemble doesn't entail any sacrifice of clarity. Indeed, these performances are miracles of balance and precision, but never at the
expense of Haydn's energy and humor. Consider the slow movement of Symphony No. 93, which features the most obscene bassoon belch in recorded history, or Szell's uplifting handling of the minuets. The famous "Surprise" movement sounds like it was composed yesterday, and the symphony's finale blazes with excitement. There are delights everywhere, from the amazingly detailed counterpoint in the finale of No. 95 to the Mozartean grace of No. 98's slow movement. Just buy this while you can--it's a true classic.
--David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com
Works on This Recording
Average Customer Review: ( 1 Customer Review )
Plenty to offer for those willing to listen December 16, 2011
By T. Drake (South Euclid, OH) See All My Reviews
""There is a difference between the chaste sensuality of Mozart or Haydn and the lascivious sensuality of Richard Strauss. One cannot pour chocolate sauce over asparagus." George Szell
One of the greatest misconceptions about George Szell is that, while he was able to drill orchestras into incomparable playing, his interpretations were metronomic and lacked imagination. What a load of tosh.
Szell characterization of Haydn's Early London symphonies belies the notion of him as a cold-hearted autocrat. Note the bassoon "raspberry" in the slow movement of Symphony No. 93, or his handling of the "surprise" in Symphony No. 94 (for once, it sounds startling). Szell may not indulge in aimless rubato or allow his strings to exude syrupy vibrato, but there are many subtleties to be heard - for those willing to listen. Needless to say, the playing of the Cleveland Orchestra is peerless, not merely from the standpoint of hitting the right notes at the right time and faultless intonation, but that the various choirs of the orchestra are impeccably balanced. Clearly, these players have moved far beyond merely listening to themselves to listening to each other.
While all the works on this set were recorded at Severance Hall, which can sound dry even in modern digital recordings, that doesn't seem to be a problem here. Dynamics, which were constricted, have been opened up. The strings have lost their aggressive edge and have a sweeter, more natural character - far superior to the 1991 Odyssey reissue. It says a lot about these recordings that they've hardly ever been out of the catalogue since their initial release in the late 1960s. Many collectors may well have some, or all, of these symphonies already. Thanks to the improved sonics, it's well worth replacing the earlier issues of these recordings, and a must if you don't have them already.