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Great Conductors Of The 20th Century - George Szell

Release Date: 08/05/2003 
Label:  Emi Classics   Catalog #: 75962   Spars Code: ADD 
Composer:  Daniel-François AuberAntonín DvorákClaude DebussyFrederick Delius,   ... 
Conductor:  George Szell
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cleveland OrchestraCologne West German Radio Symphony OrchestraNew York Philharmonic
Number of Discs: 2 
Recorded in: Mono & Stereo 
Length: 2 Hours 26 Mins. 

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This CD is reissued by ArkivMusic.

Notes and Editorial Reviews

George Szell was a conductor who was feared and respected rather than loved by his players. In this, he wasn’t that different from many eminent maestros of his and earlier generations, and I don’t get the impression that it worried him overmuch. There is no doubting his great musical talent, and the discipline he brought to his rehearsals and performances.

He is represented here in repertoire for which he is well known – Dvo?ák, Wagner and others of that era – along with some that one wouldn’t immediately associate with him. CD1 begins, for example, with a fizzing account of the enticing Fra Diavolo overture by Auber, full of wit and élan. It finishes with a loving and equally stylish version of Delius’s
Read more exquisite prelude to Irmelin.

Also on CD1 is a Dvo?ák Eighth recorded with the Cleveland Orchestra – the band with which he was most strongly linked – in 1970, just months before his death. It is a fine account, with a sure sense of architecture yet careful projection of the many characteristic details. Now, I grew up (along with how many readers, I wonder?) with a Szell Dvo?ák Eighth, published by Decca on the old ‘Ace of Clubs’ label. It was with the Concertgebouw, and packed with a joyous sense of adventure and incident. One has to take care, because one always remembers such recordings with misty-eyed affection. But on checking, I was struck by how much more sense of urgent forward movement there was in the opening Allegro con brio, and elsewhere. An earlier date, a younger, more energetic Szell, no doubt. But equally, I was struck how Szell had refined his interpretation over the years, with many small fluctuations in the tempo to add emphasis.

A splendid La Mer follows, from 1962, and, though the playing of the Cologne Orchestra is not always up to the highest standards, they play their hearts out for Szell, and give a thrilling account. It by no means suffers by comparison with the Giulini recording from the same era that I reviewed a week or two back.

CD2 begins with a brilliant Italian Girl in Algiers, followed by a truly resplendent Tchaikovsky Fifth. There is a sense of urgency and drive about Szell’s conducting here, which serves the music exceptionally well. Listen, for example, to how he refuses to allow the first movement’s second subject to relax too much (CD2, track 2, around 4:28). So many conductors lose the plot here and imagine themselves in a ballet suite rather than a symphony! Bracing.

A magisterial Mastersingers prelude, and, just to underline the point of what a truly great stylist Szell was, a totally intoxicating one of one of the less well-known waltzes from the Strauss family, Josef’s Delirien complete CD2. The playing he draws from the Cleveland strings in this last number is out of this world.

Szell was truly an aristocrat among conductors, and nothing on this fine set falls below the superb standards he set for himself and his orchestras.

-- Gwyn Parry-Jones, MusicWeb International
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Works on This Recording

Fra Diavolo: Overture by Daniel-François Auber
Conductor:  George Szell
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cleveland Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1830; France 
Symphony no 8 in G major, Op. 88/B 163 by Antonín Dvorák
Conductor:  George Szell
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cleveland Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1889; Bohemia 
La mer by Claude Debussy
Conductor:  George Szell
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cologne West German Radio Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1903-1905; France 
Irmelin: Prelude by Frederick Delius
Conductor:  George Szell
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cleveland Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1890-1892; Paris, France 
Symphony no 5 in E minor, Op. 64 by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Conductor:  George Szell
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cologne West German Radio Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1888; Russia 
Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg: Act 1 Prelude by Richard Wagner
Conductor:  George Szell
Orchestra/Ensemble:  New York Philharmonic
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1867; Germany 
Delirien, Op. 212 by Josef Strauss
Conductor:  George Szell
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cleveland Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1867; Vienna, Austria 
L'italiana in Algeri: Overture by Gioachino Rossini
Conductor:  George Szell
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cleveland Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1813; Italy 

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