This 1966 program from the archives of the Bell Telephone Hour series profiles Szell and his relationship with the Cleveland Orchestra. Among the highlights are segments showing Szell rehearsing the Orchestra in works of Brahms (Academic Festival Overture), Berg (Violin Concerto, with the Orchestra’s concertmaster, Rafael Druian, as soloist), and Beethoven (Symphony No. 5). In another segment, Szell coaches three “apprentice conductors”, among them a young James Levine at the threshold of his illustrious conducting career. The program ends jubilantly with footage of Szell and the Orchestra in actual performance, playing the final movement of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony.
GEORGE SZELL (1897–1970) was one of the most celebratedRead more conductors of his time, noted for the precision he demanded of his orchestral players and the elegance of his interpretations. Born in Budapest, but raised in Vienna, Szell studied piano and composition from an early age. He performed a Mozart piano concerto with the Vienna Symphony at age 10 in a program that also included one of his own compositions. His early conducting career included many distinguished assignments, most notably that of Principal Conductor of the Berlin State Opera (1924–1929). He made his first U.S. appearance as guest conductor of the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra in 1930 and later settled here, at the outbreak of war in Europe in 1939. From 1942 to 1946, Szell led performances at the Metropolitan Opera, in addition to performances with most of the major U.S. orchestras. The high point of his career was his 24-year tenure as conductor of the Cleveland Orchestra, which he raised to world-class rank.
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