George Szell


Born: June 7, 1897; Hungary   Died: July 30, 1970; USA   Period: 20th Century
Part of the wave of great Hungarian conductors who took over American musical life just before and after World War II -- the others included Fritz Reiner, Antal Dorati, and Eugene Ormandy -- George Szell quickly transformed a middling Midwestern orchestra into one of the nation's Big Five. His cultivation of the Cleveland Orchestra set an example of discipline and hard work that gradually helped raise the standards of orchestras across America. Read more
Although born in Hungary, Szell was raised in Vienna where he studied composition with Eusebius Mandyczewski, and piano with Richard Robert; he also studied composition in Prague with J.B. Foerster. Szell was a wunderkind, playing a Mozart piano concerto with the Vienna Symphony Orchestra when he was ten, and composing a number of solid chamber and orchestral works in a lush, late Romantic style as a child and teenager. He was 17 when he conducted the Berlin Philharmonic in a program that included one of his own compositions.
Despite these early successes, Szell rose through the conducting ranks in the traditional way of the period, with a series of opera positions: Royal Opera of Berlin (1915-1917), Strasbourg (1917-1918), Prague (1919-1921), Darmstadt (1921-1922), and Düsseldorf (1922-1924). Szell's first prestigious post came to him in 1924, when he was named first conductor of the Berlin State Opera; he simultaneously served as a professor at Berlin's Hochschule für Musik. In 1929, he moved on to become general music director of the German Opera and Philharmonic in Prague, where he remained until 1937.
Szell began focusing more on orchestral repertory in the 1930s; he made his U.S. debut as guest conductor of the St. Louis Symphony in 1930, and in 1937 he was appointed conductor of the Scottish Orchestra in Glasgow, while maintaining a steady relationship with the Residentie Orkest in The Hague. Szell was in America in 1939 when war broke out in Europe; he remained in the U.S. through the war, first depending on guest engagements and then, in 1942, becoming a regular conductor at the Metropolitan Opera, where he was especially praised for his Wagner performances. In 1946 Szell took American citizenship and became music director of the Cleveland Orchestra, a post he held for 24 years. He was also the New York Philharmonic's music advisor and senior guest conductor during the last two years of his life.
Although Szell made a recordings in Europe in the 1950s and 1960s for Decca, and in Cleveland at the end of his life for EMI, the bulk of his substantial discography was the result of his long collaboration with Columbia Records in Cleveland. There, Szell had inherited an able but ordinary orchestra and, through sheer determination, molded it into one of America's finest. A Szell performance was remarkable for its textural clarity, chamber-like balances, and precision of attack and release. He drilled his orchestra mercilessly, even in works it had performed with him not long before. Szell was particularly admired for his performances of Austro-Germanic classics from Haydn to Richard Strauss, his sharp renderings of works by a select group of twentieth century composers including Bartók, Prokofiev, Janácek, and Walton), and his idiomatic way with Dvorák. Indeed, some collectors maintain that Szell's monaural, early 1950s recording of Dvorák's Eighth Symphony with the Concertgebouw Orchestra has never been equaled. His treatment of French composers, on the other hand, was criticized for its lack of atmosphere, and detractors maintained that he achieved precision at the expense of emotional expression. To those who demanded a warmer approach to his beloved Mozart, however, Szell is said to have retorted, "One does not pour chocolate sauce over asparagus." Read less
Browse 1-25 of 167 Available Recordings
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  • 1.
    100 Best Classics
    Label: Warner Classics   Catalog: 556480 Release Date: 08/05/2016   Number of Discs: 6
    Composer:  Ludwig van Beethoven,  Maurice Ravel,  George Frideric Handel,  Antonio Vivaldi  ... 
    Performer:  Yehudi Menuhin,  Barry Tuckwell,  Mikhail Rudy,  Maria-Joao Pires  ... 
    Conductor:  Nikolaus Harnoncourt,  Kent Nagano,  Sir Thomas Beecham,  Alberto Lysy  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Camerata Lysy,  St. Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra,  Philharmonia Orchestra  ... 
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  • 2.
    Strains of Caledonia / Oistrakh, Szell, Bernstein
    Label: Praga   Catalog: 250328 Release Date: 03/04/2016   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Felix Mendelssohn,  Max Bruch
    Performer:  David Oistrakh
    Conductor:  George Szell,  Leonard Bernstein
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cleveland Orchestra,  Moscow State Symphony Orchestra,  New York Philharmonic
    CD: $22.99
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  • 3.
    Philips Classics: The Stereo Years
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 002445602 Release Date: 02/19/2016   Number of Discs: 50
    Composer:  Jean Sibelius,  Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky,  Robert Schumann,  Franz Schubert  ... 
    Performer:  Salvatore Accardo,  Elly Ameling,  Dalton Baldwin,  Jörg Demus  ... 
    Conductor:  Sir Colin Davis,  Bernard Haitink,  Raymond Leppard,  Eduard Van Beinum  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra,  Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra,  English Chamber Orchestra  ... 
    CD: $134.49
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  • 4.
    Annie Fischer & Leon Fleisher Play Schumann
    Label: Audite   Catalog: 95643 Release Date: 11/13/2015   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Robert Schumann,  Ludwig van Beethoven
    Performer:  Annie Fischer
    Conductor:  George Szell
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Philharmonia Orchestra
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  • 5.
    Domingo: The 50 Greatest Tracks
    Label: Deutsche Grammophon   Catalog: 002412702 Release Date: 11/13/2015   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Giuseppe Verdi,  Gioachino Rossini,  Giacomo Puccini,  Friedrich von Flotow  ... 
    Performer:  Placido Domingo,  Ileana Cotrubas,  Hans Sotin,  Robin Leggate  ... 
    Conductor:  George Szell,  Claudio Abbado,  Giuseppe Sinopoli,  Carlos Kleiber  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra,  Chamber Orchestra of Europe,  Philharmonia Orchestra  ... 
    CD: $21.99
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  • 6.
    Elisabeth Schwarzkopf: The Complete Recitals 1952-74
    Label: Warner Classics   Catalog: 553028 Release Date: 11/13/2015   Number of Discs: 31
    Composer:  Franz Schubert,  Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart,  Richard Strauss,  Traditional  ... 
    Performer:  Edwin Fischer,  Elisabeth Schwarzkopf,  Anny Felbermayer,  Josef Metternich  ... 
    Conductor:  John Pritchard,  Otto Ackermann,  Lovro von Matacic,  Josef Krips  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Philharmonia Orchestra,  Ambrosian Singers,  Philharmonia Chorus  ... 
    CD: $86.99
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  • 7.
    The History of Classical Music in 24 Hours
    Label: Dg Deutsche Grammophon   Catalog: 002403602 Release Date: 11/13/2015   Number of Discs: 24
    Composer:  Anonymous,  Pérotin,  Guillaume de Machaut,  John Dunstable  ... 
    Performer:  Konrad Ragossnig,  Charles [Tenor Vocals] Daniels,  Susan Gritton,  Trevor Pinnock  ... 
    Conductor:  Pater Godehard Joppich,  David Munrow,  Josef Ulsamer,  Bruno Turner  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Early Music Consort of London,  Ulsamer-Collegium,  Hamburger Bläserkreis für Alte Musik  ... 
    CD: $75.49
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  • 8.
    Brahms: Piano Concerto No. 1 / Curzon, Szell, London Symphony [Vinyl]
    Label: Decca   Catalog: B002405201 Release Date: 11/06/2015   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Johannes Brahms
    Performer:  Clifford Curzon
    Conductor:  George Szell
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
    LP: $24.99
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  • 9.
    Richard Strauss: Four Last Songs; Lieder
    Label: Warner Classics   Catalog: 552136 Release Date: 09/18/2015   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Richard Strauss,  Unspecified
    Performer:  Elisabeth Schwarzkopf,  Edith Peinemann
    Conductor:  George Szell
    CD: $12.99
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  • 10.
    Imperial Oistrakh!
    Label: Warner Classics   Catalog: 2564614443 Release Date: 05/12/2015   Number of Discs: 3
    Composer:  Ludwig van Beethoven,  Franz Schubert,  Max Bruch,  Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart  ... 
    Performer:  David Oistrakh,  Lev Oborine,  Svyatoslav Knushevitsky,  Igor Oistrakh  ... 
    Conductor:  André Cluytens,  Sir Malcolm Sargent,  Lovro von Matacic,  David Oistrakh  ... 
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  • 11.
    Blacher: Music For Cleveland; Mozart: Piano Concerto No. 27; Brahms: Symphony No.2; Stravinsky: Fireworks
    Label: Guild   Catalog: 2404 Release Date: 06/10/2014   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Boris Blacher,  Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart,  Johannes Brahms,  Igor Stravinsky
    Performer:  Robert Casadesus
    Conductor:  George Szell
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  • 12.
    Isaac Stern Plays Mozart
    Label: Sony   Catalog: 5429342 Release Date: 03/25/2014   Number of Discs: 4
    Composer:  Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
    Performer:  Isaac Stern,  Pinchas Zukerman
    Conductor:  George Szell,  Alexander Schneider,  Daniel Barenboim,  Jean-Pierre Rampal
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Columbia Symphony Orchestra,  English Chamber Orchestra,  Cleveland Orchestra members  ... 
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  • 13.
    Robert Casadesus Plays Mozart
    Label: Sony   Catalog: 7808372 Release Date: 03/25/2014   Number of Discs: 5
    Composer:  Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
    Performer:  Robert Casadesus,  Gaby Casadesus,  Jean Casadesus
    Conductor:  George Szell,  Eugene Ormandy
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Columbia Symphony Orchestra,  Cleveland Orchestra,  Philadelphia Orchestra  ... 
    CD: $14.99
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  • 14.
    George Szell conducts Haydn Symphonies
    Label: Sony   Catalog: 68779 Release Date: 01/01/2014   Number of Discs: 4
    Composer:  Franz Joseph Haydn
    Conductor:  George Szell
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cleveland Orchestra
    CD: $11.99
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  • 15.
    Haydn: Symphonies 97, 98 & 99 / Szell, Cleveland Orchestra
    Label: Sony Classical Masterworks   Catalog: 62979 Release Date: 12/27/2013   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Franz Joseph Haydn
    Conductor:  George Szell
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cleveland Orchestra
    ArkivCD $16.99
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  • 16.
    Vienna Philharmonic - Bruckner, Mozart, Walton / George Szell
    Label: Video Artists International   Catalog: 4566 Release Date: 12/10/2013   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart,  Sir William Walton,  Anton Bruckner
    Conductor:  George Szell
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
    DVD: $28.99
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  • 17.
    Decca Sound - The Analogue Years
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 001934702 Release Date: 11/19/2013   Number of Discs: 54
    Composer:  Camille Saint-Saëns,  Anton Bruckner,  Arnold Schoenberg,  Giuseppe Verdi  ... 
    Performer:  Pascal Rogé,  Dame Joan Sutherland,  Marilyn Horne,  Luciano Pavarotti  ... 
    Conductor:  Charles Dutoit,  Sir Georg Solti,  Bernard Haitink,  Horst Stein  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Philharmonia Orchestra,  Royal Philharmonic Orchestra,  Chicago Symphony Orchestra  ... 
    CD: $181.49
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  • 18.
    Great Moments: Horowitz Live At Carnegie Hall
    Label: Sony   Catalog: 376860 Release Date: 11/11/2013   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Domenico Scarlatti,  Franz Joseph Haydn,  Frédéric Chopin,  Felix Mendelssohn  ... 
    Performer:  Vladimir Horowitz,  Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau
    Conductor:  George Szell
    CD: $12.99
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  • 19.
    Dvorak: Symphony No 8; Brahms: Symphony No 1 / George Szell
    Label: Audite   Catalog: 95625 Release Date: 09/24/2013   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Antonín Dvorák,  Johannes Brahms
    Conductor:  George Szell
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Czech Philharmonic Orchestra,  Philharmonia Orchestra
    CD: $14.99
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  • 20.
    Leon Fleisher - The Complete Album Collection
    Label: Sony   Catalog: 545997 Release Date: 07/16/2013   Number of Discs: 23
    Composer:  Franz Schubert,  Sergei Rachmaninov,  César Franck,  Frederick Delius  ... 
    Performer:  Leon Fleisher,  Jules Eskin,  Benita Valente,  Harold Wright  ... 
    Conductor:  George Szell,  Seiji Ozawa,  Leon Fleisher,  Szymon Goldberg
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cleveland Orchestra,  Juilliard String Quartet,  Boston Symphony Orchestra  ... 
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  • 21.
    Wagner at The Met
    Label: Sony   Catalog: 542717 Release Date: 04/09/2013   Number of Discs: 25
    Composer:  Richard Wagner
    Performer:  Karin Branzell,  Lauritz Melchior,  Kirsten Flagstad,  Emanuel List  ... 
    Conductor:  Artur Bodanzky,  George Szell,  Erich Leinsdorf,  Fritz Reiner  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Metropolitan Opera Chorus,  Metropolitan Opera Orchestra
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  • 22.
    Label: Zyx Records   Catalog: 4645589 Release Date: 02/05/2013   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
    Performer:  Kurt Böhme,  Murray Dickie,  Rudolf Schock,  Lisa Otto  ... 
    Conductor:  George Szell
    CD: $11.99
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  • 23.
    The Sound of Pablo Casals
    Label: Emi Classics   Catalog: 780032 Release Date: 02/05/2013   Number of Discs: 4
    Composer:  Antonín Dvorák,  Sir Edward Elgar,  Max Bruch,  Franz Schubert  ... 
    Performer:  Pablo Casals,  Alfred Cortot,  Jacques Thibaud,  Otto Schulhof
    Conductor:  George Szell,  Sir Adrian Boult,  Landon Ronald,  Pablo Casals
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Czech Philharmonic Orchestra,  BBC Symphony Orchestra,  London Symphony Orchestra  ... 
    On sale! $19.98
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  • 24.
    Label: Emi Classics   Catalog: 165022 Release Date: 02/05/2013   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Carl Maria von Weber,  Richard Wagner,  Bedrich Smetana,  Engelbert Humperdinck  ... 
    Performer:  Elisabeth Schwarzkopf,  Elisabeth Grümmer,  Gerald Moore,  Edwin Fischer  ... 
    Conductor:  Walter Susskind,  Heinrich Schmidt,  Herbert von Karajan,  Lovro von Matacic  ... 
    CD: $17.99
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  • 25.
    The Christmas Album - Holiday Melodies From Around The World, Recorded 1907-1967
    Label: Sony Classical Masterworks   Catalog: 63309 Release Date: 10/03/2012   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  James Pierpont,  Albert Périlhou,  Franz Xaver Gruber,  Traditional  ... 
    Performer:  Henry Silvern,  Charles Adams Prince,  Charles Gilibert,  Olive Fremstad  ... 
    Conductor:  Lehman Engel,  Alexander Fine,  Arild Edvin Sandvold,  John Finlay Williamson  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Madrigal Singers,  Associated Glee Clubs of America,  Russian Art Choir  ... 
    ArkivCD $16.99
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