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
Liebermann: Penelope / Szell, Goltz, Rothenberger, Schock
Release Date: 10/10/1994   Label: Orfeo D'or  
Catalog: 328931   Number of Discs: 1
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Liebermann: Die Schule Der Frauen / Szell, Rothenberger, Etc
Release Date: 07/09/1996   Label: Orfeo D'or  
Catalog: 429962   Number of Discs: 2
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Egk: Irische Legende / Szell, Borkh, Klose, Berry, Et Al
Release Date: 07/24/2001   Label: Orfeo D'or  
Catalog: 564012   Number of Discs: 2
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Mozart: Die Entführung Aus Dem Serail / Szell, Köth, Et Al
Release Date: 10/25/2005   Label: Orfeo D'or  
Catalog: 652052   Number of Discs: 2
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Mozart: Die Zauberflote / Szell, Della Casa, Kopth, Et Al
Release Date: 09/16/2000   Label: Orfeo D'or  
Catalog: 455972   Number of Discs: 2
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Browse 26-50 of 172 Available Recordings
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  • 26.
    Clifford Curzon Edition - Complete Recordings [23 CDs + DVD]
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 001728400 Release Date: 09/11/2012   Number of Discs: 24
    Composer:  Ludwig van Beethoven,  Johannes Brahms,  Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart,  Robert Schumann  ... 
    Performer:  Clifford Curzon,  Irmgard Seefried,  Horst Günther,  Julius Patzak  ... 
    Conductor:  Hans Knappertsbusch,  George Szell,  Benjamin Britten,  Eduard Van Beinum  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra,  London Symphony Orchestra,  English Chamber Orchestra  ... 
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  • 27.
    Strauss: Don Quixote, Horn Concerto No 1, Don Juan / Fournier, Bloom, Szell
    Label: Sony Classical Masterworks   Catalog: 63123 Release Date: 08/31/2012   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Richard Strauss
    Performer:  Pierre Fournier,  Rafael Druian,  Abraham Skernick,  Myron Bloom
    Conductor:  George Szell
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cleveland Orchestra
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  • 28.
    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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  • 29.
    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:  Mstislav Rostropovich,  David Oistrakh,  Sviatoslav Richter
    Conductor:  George Szell,  Herbert von Karajan
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  • 30.
    The Very Best Of David Oistrakh
    Label: Emi Classics   Catalog: 678987 Release Date: 03/13/2012   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Johannes Brahms,  Sergei Prokofiev,  Franz Schubert,  Alexander Zaracycki  ... 
    Performer:  David Oistrakh,  Lev Oborin,  Svyatoslav Knushevitsky,  Vladimir Yampolsky  ... 
    Conductor:  George Szell,  Alceo Galliera,  Maxim Shostakovich,  Herbert von Karajan  ... 
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  • 31.
    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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  • 32.
    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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  • 33.
    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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  • 34.
    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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  • 35.
    The Very Best Of Mstislav Rostropovich
    Label: Emi Classics   Catalog: 94775 Release Date: 07/26/2011   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Franz Joseph Haydn,  Johannes Brahms,  Antonín Dvorák,  Robert Schumann  ... 
    Performer:  Mstislav Rostropovich,  David Oistrakh,  Alexander Dedyukhin,  Ulrich Koch  ... 
    Conductor:  Mstislav Rostropovich,  George Szell,  Carlo Maria Giulini,  Leonard Bernstein  ... 
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  • 36.
    Best Beethoven 50
    Label: Emi Classics   Catalog: 48445 Release Date: 04/19/2011   Number of Discs: 3
    Composer:  Ludwig van Beethoven
    Performer:  James [Bass Vocal] Morris,  Josef Suk,  Claudio Arrau,  Emil Gilels  ... 
    Conductor:  Riccardo Muti,  Kurt Sanderling,  Wolfgang Sawallisch,  Eugen Jochum  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Melos Ensemble London,  Nash Ensemble
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  • 37.
    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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  • 38.
    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  ... 
    Recommendation
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  • 39.
    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
    On sale! $18.98
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  • 40.
    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  ... 
    On sale! $64.98
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  • 41.
    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  ... 
    Recommendation
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  • 42.
    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
    CD: $11.99
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  • 43.
    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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  • 44.
    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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  • 45.
    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  ... 
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  • 46.
    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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  • 47.
    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  ... 
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  • 48.
    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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  • 49.
    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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  • 50.
    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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