George Szell

Biography

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 26-50 of 171 Available Recordings
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  • 26.
    Label: Zyx Records   Catalog: 56034 Release Date: 04/27/2012   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Carl Zeller,  Johann Strauss Jr.,  Oscar Straus,  Franz Lehár  ... 
    Performer:  Anneliese Rothenberger,  Josef Traxel,  Dolf Dolz,  Rupert Glawitsch  ... 
    Conductor:  Wilhelm Schüchter,  Wilhelm Stephan,  Franz Marszalek,  Harry Hermann  ... 
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  • 27.
    Beethoven: Triple Concerto / Karajan
    Label: Warner Classics   Catalog: 6787052 Release Date: 03/26/2012   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Johannes Brahms,  Ludwig van Beethoven
    Performer:  David Oistrakh,  Mstislav Rostropovich,  Sviatoslav Richter
    Conductor:  George Szell,  Herbert von Karajan
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  • 28.
    Strauss: Four Last Songs, Etc / Schwarzkopf, Szell
    Label: Emi Classics   Catalog: 87318 Release Date: 01/24/2012   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Richard Strauss
    Performer:  Elisabeth Schwarzkopf,  Edith Peinemann
    Conductor:  George Szell
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra,  London Symphony Orchestra
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  • 29.
    The Romantic Era - Beethoven, Etc / Horowitz, Reiner, Szell
    Label: Andromeda   Catalog: 5002 Release Date: 01/01/2012   Number of Discs: 3
    Composer:  Carl Czerny,  Ludwig van Beethoven,  Franz Schubert,  Frédéric Chopin  ... 
    Performer:  Vladimir Horowitz
    Conductor:  Fritz Reiner,  George Szell
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  RCA Victor Symphony Orchestra,  New York Philharmonic
    CD: $14.99
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  • 30.
    Mozart: Piano Concertos No 22 & 25 / Paul Badura-skoda
    Label: Music & Arts   Catalog: 1254 Release Date: 09/13/2011   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
    Performer:  Paul Badura-Skoda
    Conductor:  Horst Stein,  George Szell
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra,  Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra
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  • 31.
    The Very Best Of Dietrich Fischer-dieskau
    Label: Emi Classics   Catalog: 94768 Release Date: 07/26/2011   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Franz Schubert,  Johannes Brahms,  Hugo Wolf,  Richard Strauss  ... 
    Performer:  Gerald Moore,  Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau,  Wolfgang Sawallisch,  Robert Veyron-Lacroix  ... 
    Conductor:  Alberto Erede,  Sir John Barbirolli,  George Szell,  Philip Ledger
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  • 32.
    Dvorak: Symphonies No 8 & 9 / Szell, Cleveland Orchestra
    Label: Sony   Catalog: 68958 Release Date: 04/05/2011   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Antonín Dvorák
    Conductor:  George Szell
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cleveland Orchestra
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  • 33.
    Icon - Elisabeth Schwarzkopf - Perfect Prima Donna
    Label: Emi Classics   Catalog: 18459 Release Date: 03/22/2011   Number of Discs: 10
    Composer:  Johann Sebastian Bach,  Gottfried H. Stölzel,  George Frideric Handel,  Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart  ... 
    Performer:  J. Edward Merret,  Harold Jackson,  Geraint Jones,  Manoug Parikian  ... 
    Conductor:  Peter Gellhorn,  Otto Klemperer,  Thurston Dart,  Josef Krips  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Philharmonia Orchestra,  Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra,  Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra  ... 
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  • 34.
    Label: Opus Kura   Catalog: 2103 Release Date: 01/11/2011   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Edouard Lalo,  Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
    Performer:  Bronislaw Huberman,  Paul Frenkel
    Conductor:  George Szell
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
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  • 35.
    Icon - Emil Gilels
    Label: Warner Classics   Catalog: 29511 Release Date: 09/14/2010   Number of Discs: 9
    Composer:  Ludwig van Beethoven,  Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart,  Sergei Rachmaninov,  Camille Saint-Saëns  ... 
    Performer:  Emil Gilels
    Conductor:  George Szell,  Leopold Ludwig,  André Vandernoot,  André Cluytens  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cleveland Orchestra,  Philharmonia Orchestra,  Society of the Conservatory Concerts Orchestra  ... 
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  • 36.
    Mahler: The Complete Works
    Label: Warner Classics   Catalog: 08985 Release Date: 06/29/2010   Number of Discs: 16
    Composer:  Gustav Mahler
    Performer:  Thomas Hampson,  Wolfram Rieger,  Christa Ludwig,  Fritz Wunderlich  ... 
    Conductor:  Simon Rattle,  Sir John Barbirolli,  Otto Klemperer,  Klaus Tennstedt  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra,  New Philharmonia Orchestra,  Philharmonia Orchestra  ... 
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  • 37.
    50 Classical Music Favorites
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 001388102 Release Date: 06/08/2010   Number of Discs: 3
    Composer:  Johann Sebastian Bach,  Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart,  Luigi Boccherini,  Ludwig van Beethoven  ... 
    Performer:  Heinz Holliger,  Italo Colandrea,  Antonio Perez,  Michael Copley  ... 
    Conductor:  Frans Brüggen,  Sir Colin Davis,  Kurt Masur,  Silvio Varviso  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  I Musici
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  • 38.
    Mozart: Symphonies 35 & 39 / Szell, Cleveland Orchestra
    Label: Sony   Catalog: 38472 Release Date: 01/07/2010   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
    Conductor:  George Szell
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cleveland Orchestra
    ArkivCD $16.99
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  • 39.
    Brahms: Piano Concerto No 1; Strauss: Burleske / Szell, Serkin
    Label: Cbs Masterworks   Catalog: 42261 Release Date: 12/16/2009   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Johannes Brahms,  Richard Strauss
    Performer:  Rudolf Serkin
    Conductor:  George Szell
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cleveland Orchestra
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  • 40.
    Berlitz Passport - The Music Of Austria
    Label: Sony Classical Masterworks   Catalog: 47284 Release Date: 11/30/2009   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Johann Strauss Jr.,  Johann Strauss Sr.,  Franz Lehár,  Roman Hoffstetter  ... 
    Performer:  Pinchas Zukerman
    Conductor:  Andre Kostelanetz,  Leonard Bernstein,  George Szell,  Eugene Ormandy  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Andre Kostelanetz Orchestra,  New York Philharmonic,  Cleveland Orchestra  ... 
    ArkivCD $16.99
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  • 41.
    Berlitz Passport - The Music Of Germany
    Label: Sony Classical Masterworks   Catalog: 47276 Release Date: 10/20/2009   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Carl Orff,  Richard Wagner,  Johann Sebastian Bach,  Ludwig van Beethoven  ... 
    Performer:  William Wildermann,  Emilia Cundari,  Albert Da Costa,  Nell Rankin
    Conductor:  Michael Tilson Thomas,  Leonard Bernstein,  Eugene Ormandy,  Andre Kostelanetz  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cleveland Orchestra,  Cleveland Orchestra Boys Choir,  Cleveland Orchestra Chorus  ... 
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  • 42.
    Berlitz Passport - The Music Of Eastern Europe
    Label: Sony Classical Masterworks   Catalog: 47283 Release Date: 10/02/2009   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Antonín Dvorák,  Franz Liszt,  Johannes Brahms,  Jaromir Weinberger  ... 
    Performer:  Earl Wild
    Conductor:  Sir Andrew Davis,  Andre Kostelanetz,  Leonard Bernstein,  George Szell  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Philharmonia Orchestra,  Columbia Symphony Orchestra,  New York Philharmonic  ... 
    ArkivCD $16.99
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  • 43.
    Smetana: Moldau, Bartered Bride Etc / Szell, Cleveland
    Label: Cbs Great Performances   Catalog: 36716 Release Date: 08/19/2009   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Antonín Dvorák,  Bedrich Smetana
    Conductor:  George Szell
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cleveland Orchestra
    ArkivCD $16.99
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  • 44.
    Schubert: Symphony no 9
    Label: Cbs Great Performances   Catalog: 37239 Release Date: 06/25/2009   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Franz Schubert
    Conductor:  George Szell
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cleveland Orchestra
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  • 45.
    Heritage Masters - Brahms: Piano Concertos / Curzon
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 001268202 Release Date: 03/31/2009   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Johannes Brahms
    Performer:  Clifford Curzon
    Conductor:  George Szell,  Hans Knappertsbusch
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra,  Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
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  • 46.
    Beethoven: Symphony No 5;  Sibelius: Symphony No 2 / Szell
    Label: Philips   Catalog: 420771 Release Date: 01/07/2009   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Ludwig van Beethoven,  Jean Sibelius
    Conductor:  George Szell
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra
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  • 47.
    George Szell - Salzburg Concert 1957 - Mozart, Debussy, Beethoven, Mendelssohn
    Label: Orfeo D'or   Catalog: 774083 Release Date: 10/28/2008   Number of Discs: 3
    Composer:  Felix Mendelssohn,  Ludwig van Beethoven,  Claude Debussy,  Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
    Performer:  Nathan Milstein,  Leon Fleisher
    Conductor:  George Szell
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra
    CD: $54.49
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  • 48.
    Brahms: Piano Concerto No 1, 2 Intermezzos / Curzon, Szell
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 417641 Release Date: 10/15/2008   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Johannes Brahms
    Performer:  Clifford Curzon
    Conductor:  George Szell
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
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  • 49.
    Elgar, Dvorak: Cello Concertos / Fournier, Szell, Rosabud
    Label: Medici Masters   Catalog: 28-2 Release Date: 09/30/2008   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Sir Edward Elgar,  Ludwig van Beethoven,  Antonín Dvorák
    Performer:  Pierre Fournier
    Conductor:  Hans Rosbaud,  George Szell
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cologne Radio Symphony Orchestra
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  • 50.
    Tchaikovsky: Symphony No 4;  Beethoven: Egmont / Szell, Lso
    Label: London/Decca Historic Series   Catalog: 425972 Release Date: 09/16/2008   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Ludwig van Beethoven,  Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
    Performer:  Pilar Lorengar
    Conductor:  George Szell
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra,  London Symphony Orchestra
    ArkivCD $16.99
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