George Szell

Biography

Born: Jun 7, 1897; Hungary   Died: Jul 29, 1970; USA  
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 Read more America.
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 51-75 of 106 Available Recordings
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  • 51.
    Barber: Violin Concerto Op. 14, Piano Concerto Op. 38, Adagio
    Label: Sony   Catalog: 7529892 Release Date: 06/16/2009  
    Composer:  Samuel Barber
    Performer:  John Browning,  Isaac Stern
    Conductor:  George Szell,  Leonard Bernstein,  Eugene Ormandy
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cleveland Orchestra,  New York Philharmonic,  Philadelphia Orchestra
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  • 52.
    Pablo Casals - The Complete EMI Recordings
    Label: Emi Classics   Catalog: 94932 Release Date: 06/16/2009   Number of Discs: 9
    Composer:  Manel Saderra,  Julio Garreta,  Enrique Casals,  Pablo Casals  ... 
    Performer:  Pablo Casals,  Otto Schulhof,  Blas Net,  Jacques Thibaud  ... 
    Conductor:  Pablo Casals,  Landon Ronald,  Alfred Cortot,  Sir Adrian Boult  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cobla "La Principal de Gerona",  London Symphony Orchestra,  Pablo Casals Orchestra  ... 
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  • 53.
    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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  • 54.
    Beethoven Greatest Hits
    Label: Sony   Catalog: 742558 Release Date: 03/24/2009   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Ludwig van Beethoven
    Performer:  André Watts,  Emanuel Ax,  Rudolf Serkin
    Conductor:  Charles Munch,  André Previn,  Leonard Bernstein,  George Szell
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  New York Philharmonic,  Guarneri String Quartet,  Cleveland Orchestra
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  • 55.
    The Record of Singing Vol 5 - From the LP to the Digital Era
    Label: Emi Classics   Catalog: 28949 Release Date: 03/10/2009   Number of Discs: 10
    Composer:  Ralph Vaughan Williams,  Jacques Offenbach,  Georges Bizet,  Giuseppe Verdi  ... 
    Performer:  John Shirley-Quirk,  Luciana Serra,  Neil Shicoff,  Alain Vanzo  ... 
    Conductor:  Sir David Willcocks,  Sylvain Cambreling,  Georges Prętre,  Herbert von Karajan  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  English Chamber Orchestra,  Brussels Théâtre de la Monnaie Orchestra,  Paris Opera Orchestra  ... 
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  • 56.
    The Glenn Gould Trilogy: Ein Leben
    Label: Sony Classical Essential Classics   Catalog: 716922 Release Date: 02/17/2009   Number of Discs: 3
    Composer:  Michael Stegemann
    Performer:  Suzanne Shulman,  Elisabeth Schwarzkopf,  Emile Naoumoff,  Wanda Landowska  ... 
    Conductor:  David Hill,  Walter Susskind,  Leopold Stokowski,  Georg Ludwig Jochum  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Symphonia Quartet
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  • 57.
    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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  • 58.
    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
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  • 59.
    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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  • 60.
    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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  • 61.
    David Oistrakh - The Complete EMI Recordings
    Label: Warner Classics   Catalog: 14712 Release Date: 09/16/2008   Number of Discs: 17
    Composer:  Franz Schubert,  Giuseppe Tartini,  Karen Khachaturian,  Eugčne Ysa˙e  ... 
    Performer:  Jacov Shapiro,  Joseph Stidel,  Joseph Gertovich,  Mikhail Terian  ... 
    Conductor:  Nicolai Malko,  Aram Khachaturian,  Maxim Shostakovich,  Lovro von Matacic  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Philharmonia Orchestra,  New Philharmonia Orchestra,  London Symphony Orchestra  ... 
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  • 62.
    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
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  • 63.
    An Hour With Beethoven
    Label: Sony   Catalog: 729169 Release Date: 08/26/2008   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Ludwig van Beethoven
    Performer:  Richard Lewis,  Adele Addison,  Jane Hobson,  Donald Bell  ... 
    Conductor:  George Szell,  Leonard Bernstein,  Charles Munch
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cleveland Orchestra,  Guarneri String Quartet,  New York Philharmonic  ... 
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  • 64.
    An Hour With Mozart
    Label: Sony   Catalog: 731251 Release Date: 08/26/2008   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
    Performer:  Vladimir Spivakov,  Shlomo Mintz,  Alan Titus,  Zdislawa Donat  ... 
    Conductor:  Vladimir Spivakov,  Sir Colin Davis,  Erich Leinsdorf,  James Levine  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Moscow Virtuosi Chamber Orchestra,  Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra,  London Symphony Orchestra  ... 
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  • 65.
    Mozart: Piano Concertos / Robert Casadesus
    Label: Andromeda   Catalog: 5129 Release Date: 07/08/2008   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
    Performer:  Robert Casadesus,  Gaby Casadesus
    Conductor:  George Szell
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Columbia Symphony Orchestra
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  • 66.
    Bartok: Piano Concerto No 1, Miraculous Mandarin,Etc/Ormandy
    Label: Cbs Masterworks Portrait   Catalog: 46446 Release Date: 06/12/2008   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Béla Bartók
    Performer:  Rudolf Serkin,  Anshel Brusilow
    Conductor:  George Szell,  Eugene Ormandy
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cleveland Orchestra,  Philadelphia Orchestra
    ArkivCD $16.99
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  • 67.
    Kodaly: Hary Janos Suite; Prokofiev: Lt Kije Suite / Szell
    Label: Cbs Great Performances   Catalog: 38527 Release Date: 01/21/2008   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Zoltán Kodály,  Sergei Prokofiev
    Conductor:  George Szell
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cleveland Orchestra
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  • 68.
    The Essential Leon Fleisher
    Label: Sony   Catalog: 721581 Release Date: 01/15/2008   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Maurice Ravel,  Erich Wolfgang Korngold,  Edvard Grieg,  Johannes Brahms  ... 
    Performer:  Leon Fleisher,  Jaime Laredo,  Joseph Silverstein,  Yo-Yo Ma  ... 
    Conductor:  Seiji Ozawa,  George Szell
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Boston Symphony Orchestra,  Cleveland Orchestra,  Juilliard String Quartet
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  • 69.
    Mozart: Piano Concertos No 20 & 27 / Serkin, Ormandy, Szell
    Label: Sony   Catalog: 26 Release Date: 12/26/2007   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
    Performer:  Rudolf Serkin
    Conductor:  George Szell,  Eugene Ormandy
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Columbia Symphony Orchestra,  Philadelphia Orchestra
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  • 70.
    Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra Plays Strauss 1929 - 1990
    Label: Deutsche Grammophon   Catalog: 435335 Release Date: 11/13/2007   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Johann Strauss Jr.,  Josef Strauss,  Johann Strauss Sr.
    Conductor:  Erich Kleiber,  Clemens Krauss,  George Szell,  Herbert von Karajan  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
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  • 71.
    Festspieldokumente - Salzburger Orchesterkonzerte / Szell
    Label: Orfeo D'or   Catalog: 704077 Release Date: 10/30/2007   Number of Discs: 7
    Composer:  Ludwig van Beethoven,  Richard Strauss,  Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart,  Christoph W. Gluck  ... 
    Performer:  Clifford Curzon,  Rudolf Firkusny
    Conductor:  George Szell
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Dresden Staatskapelle,  Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra,  Czech Philharmonic Orchestra  ... 
    CD: $74.49
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  • 72.
    Mozart: Piano Concertos;  Weber: Konzertstuck / Casadesus
    Label: Medici Masters   Catalog: 10-2 Release Date: 10/30/2007   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Carl Maria von Weber,  Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
    Performer:  Robert Casadesus
    Conductor:  Romanus Hubertus,  George Szell
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cologne West German Radio Symphony Orchestra
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  • 73.
    Best Beethoven 100
    Label: Emi Classics   Catalog: 97307 Release Date: 07/31/2007   Number of Discs: 6
    Composer:  Ludwig van Beethoven
    Performer:  Eric Heidsieck,  Paul Tortelier,  Stephen Kovacevich,  Siegfried Rudolf Frese  ... 
    Conductor:  Herbert von Karajan,  Wolfgang Sawallisch,  Riccardo Muti,  Jeffrey Tate  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Philharmonia Orchestra,  Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra,  Nash Ensemble  ... 
    CD: $19.99
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  • 74.
    Mozart: Piano Concertos No 23 & 24, K 365 / Casadesus
    Label: Sony   Catalog: 63037 Release Date: 06/25/2007   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
    Performer:  Robert Casadesus,  Gaby Casadesus
    Conductor:  Eugene Ormandy,  George Szell
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Philadelphia Orchestra,  Cleveland Orchestra,  Columbia Symphony Orchestra
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  • 75.
    Mahler: Symphony No 4;  Mozart: Exsultate, Jubilate / Szell
    Label: Cbs Masterworks   Catalog: 42416 Release Date: 04/24/2007   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Gustav Mahler,  Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
    Performer:  Judith Raskin
    Conductor:  George Szell
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cleveland Orchestra
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