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The Classic Sound - Beethoven: Egmont / Szell, Lorengar

Release Date: 10/11/2003 
Label:  Decca   Catalog #: 448593   Spars Code: ADD 
Composer:  Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Klausjürgen WussowPilar Lorengar
Conductor:  George Szell
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: n/a 
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This CD is reissued by ArkivMusic.

Notes and Editorial Reviews

A classic set that is likely to remain unsurpassed for many years to come.

When my son asks me, as I fear one day he will, “Daddy, did they have proper conductors when you were young?” I shall take this record from the shelves and play the overture. Later, I will also play him Furtwangler’s May 1947 performance of the piece (DG, 4/62 – nla), pointing out how, at the moment of Egmont’s execution, this uniquely imaginative man could create an entire drama, not out of the music, but out of the silence. Yet, as a simple demonstration of what it is to conduct a great orchestra properly, Szell and the Vienna Philharmonic in the Egmont music will do very nicely.

It is, indeed, a classic set that is likely even
Read more now to remain unsurpassed for many years to come. Masur’s live New York performance is good, too, superior to Karajan’s often brash and superficial play-through of the music, but not quite in the Szell/Vienna Philharmonic class. Some may object to short measure on the new disc (48 minutes); others may have been happier with an earlier CD reissue which simply attached highlights from the Egmont recording (no spoken contribution) to Szell’s famous LSO recording of Tchaikovsky’s Fourth Symphony (Decca, 4/91 – nla). But the new CD, like the original LP, will appeal to the tidy-minded library builder. In any case, why should a great recording have to rub shoulders with some distracting fill-up? Why should it not assert its singularity?

The original 1969 recording was indeed in ‘classic sound’ – sound, that is, which comes from a great orchestra directed and balanced at source by a great conductor (not by the engineers) in a hall that is entirely sympathetic to the matter in hand. (If people do, in all seriousness, ask in years to come about the disappearance of proper conductors it will largely be because meddlesome technology has rendered them about as useful as a spavined horse.)

In the circumstances, there is little Decca’s engineers can usefully do to ‘improve’ the sound, apart, that is, from reassert and redefine once and for all the peerless quality of the original. This they have done. The timpani sound is 0.002 per cent cleaner; Szell’s groans in the overture’s coda 0.003 per cent less ghostly. The result: perfection. And all this lavished on words and music which – the overture apart – might not be given the time of day were the name of Beethoven not associated with it. Here, though, it makes compelling listening from first to last.'

Richard Osborne, Gramophone 9/1996
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Works on This Recording

Egmont, Op. 84 by Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Klausjürgen Wussow (Spoken Vocals), Pilar Lorengar (Soprano)
Conductor:  George Szell
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: 1810; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 12/1969 

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