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Haydn, Mozart, Vivaldi, Wagner
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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
If yes, why do you like him.
I find him kind of cold and unyielding.
Tell me about Szell.
:tiphat:
 

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No, and I don't know why since virtually every recording of his that I have is exemplary. Schumann, Beethoven, Brahms - top notch. He even was brilliant with the Russian repertoire: a Tchaikovsky 1st piano concerto with Graffman is, as the reviews said, "Pure Gold". Even the 5th symphony is way above average (never mind that silly added cymbal crash). The Mahler 4th is one of the best. Then there's that incendiary Sibelius 2 on EMI. But there's something that seems calculated in his music making that's hard to pin down. Can something be too perfect?
 
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No he is not. But I generally like him when he does 20th century stuff like Bartók or Walton and I wish he had done more of those. I don`t like the rest, especially Brahms and Schumann but he definitely knew his way with music and I respect his idiosyncratic approach.
 

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He was really talented and good at getting his orchestra to do what he wanted. Whether what he wanted was to your taste is up to you. Personal favorites: Mahler 4, Mozart Haffner Symphony, Beethoven concerti with Fleischer, Brahms B-flat with Serkin, Dvorak Slavonic Dances.
 

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He's a machine. Yes, but a very good one! ;)

Seriously, I would answer definitely yes. His recordings of a lot of the core repertoire often represents some of the best recordings of those compositions. His precision does help. He also often adopts fairly fast tempi in an era when most of his contemporaries usually went in the opposite direction. I also don't find his recordings to be lacking emotion or pathos.

His Beethoven symphony cycle is one of my favorites, possibly my absolute favorite. His late Dvorak symphonies are, appropriately, legendary. His Dvorak Slavonic Dances are a romp. His late Tchaikovsky symphonies (4 & 5) are great, belying his reputation as emotionally cold. His Mahler 4 is legendary and is my favorite recording of that symphony.
 

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Some of my favorite Cleveland Orchestra CDs are conducted by Boulez, and Maazel. I like Szell's Schumann No.2. I have some of his Beethoven, Dvorak, and Mozart but I usually listen to other conductors instead.
 

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I haven't systematically collected his recordings. I value some quite highly, especially the Mozart concerti with Casadesus and Brahms with Fleisher. I have a few more (the Decca masters box and a few singles on Sony). Schumann and Haydn symphonies I'd value as good but not as great as many find them (I know little of his Beethoven besides the 5th and Egmont on Decca both of which are very good).
So overall I estimate Szell as a very good conductor but not a huge favorite.
 

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He's a machine. Yes, but a very good one! ;)

Seriously, I would answer definitely yes. His recordings of a lot of the core repertoire often represents some of the best recordings of those compositions. His precision does help. He also often adopts fairly fast tempi in an era when most of his contemporaries usually went in the opposite direction. I also don't find his recordings to be lacking emotion or pathos.

His Beethoven symphony cycle is one of my favorites, possibly my absolute favorite. His late Dvorak symphonies are, appropriately, legendary. His Dvorak Slavonic Dances are a romp. His late Tchaikovsky symphonies (4 & 5) are great, belying his reputation as emotionally cold. His Mahler 4 is legendary and is my favorite recording of that symphony.
I'm not qualified to judge Szell's Mahler 4 as I'm not a Mahler fan, but the fact that so many people cite that recording is testament to Szell's sheer professionalism because, like me, he didn't find Mahler's music congenial. There are other conductors whose best moments get through to me more than Szell's do, but I've come across few whose musicmaking was of such consistently high quality.
 

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I heard many of his recordings though I have nothing of his in my collection.

I once heard Szell and Karajan described as being leading conductors in the School of Industrial Perfection.

I thought that silly, a cliche. Szell had many fine, warm recordings with lots of humanity. His later Haydn symphonies are among them. He was also very good at descriptive music such as the Hary Janos and Lt. Kije suites.

His orchestra played letter and note perfect all the time with perfect intonation, it is true. I don't know why that would be considered a detriment. Listen to his Pictures At An Exhibition someday.

One thing cannot be denied about Szell: he was consistent. It was probably also true he concentrated on execution and perfection at the expense of what some may say soul.

Anshel Brusilow, the former concertmaster under Szell, wrote about him in his book. Szell was neither an easy person to work for nor was he generous. But that was not unusual in his day either.
 

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Great conductor, superb musician, who built s great orchestra in Cleveland....i generally enjoy his performances a great deal....a total control freak, he could keep things " buttoned down" at times but he also let the orchestra really cut loose at times to great effect.
Like many podium autocrats of the time, he could be a pretty miserable person
 

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For me the issue is not so much lack of warmth as much as it is lack of depth. I don’t feel like Szell is saying anything beyond a simplistically literal conveyance of the score, which for me is often painfully dull, except in those cases where the music lends itself to mere virtuosity as entertainment value.

I listened to his Eroica a few days ago. The outer movements were thrilling in their dexterity. Indeed, a machine but a good machine. The Marcia funebre was well-paced and sensitively played by the orchestra, but it barely skimmed the surface. So many greater conductors have left touching accounts. Even Toscanini, who makes me feel like I am listening to La Traviata in this movement, is showing personal connection to the music and saying something.

Music, as all art, is inherently individual and subjective. I don’t believe in objective regurgitation of the written score.

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Absolutely yes, he is, because he was an astounding musician and left us numerous superb recordings.

The rest is up to taste. For mine, I frequently find his recordings extremely satisfying.

I'm listening to the Szell/Cleveland Don Juan right now, and this recording still sweeps me away with its virtuosity, keen sense of drama, and thoughtful understanding of the dark side of the original poem that inspired Strauss to compose this.
 

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Well, Szell's Schubert's 9th (Epic lp and Sony cd) gives me the incisiveness and drive I prefer over all other interpretations I've heard. On the other hand, Walter's Brahms gives me the lyricism or poetry Szell's Brahms comparatively misses here. But I'm not about to over generalize. For me, a lot is based on nuances---how and how much I am moved by them. Not long ago I listened to a Tokyo performance of the Sibelius' Second given by Szell/Cleveland just prior to the conductor's death in 1970. Frankly, I was amazed at the difference in interpretation between this and Szell's 1965 Concertgebouw Second on Philips. It was like night and day. To me, the latter reading heaved and lurched, the former soared and inspired. Rigidity? lack of emotion? No. Szell is often accused of both...And try something else: Szell's Columbia/Sony Dvorak Seventh. Listen to the second movement poco adagio. Coldness? No. I hear emotional warmth. I'll say no more for now.
 

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I haven't listened to enough Szell since I generally avoid older recordings for their poorer sound quality.
I have his Beethoven symphonies set and while not among my favourite (sound quality has to do with it to a large degree), the Allegretto from the 7th is the best I've heard.
 

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I'm not a huge Szell fan, but the recording he made with Elisabeth Schwarzkopf of Strauss' Vier letzte Lieder and orchesterlieder is breath-takingly beautiful. Of course, the music itself could be described in this manner, but the amount of detail and attention brought to the music is perfection (or as close as one could get to it). Of course, Schwarzkopf carries the show, but the accompaniment from Szell is what makes it even more successful. I also like his Dvořák.
 

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Absolutely yes, he is, because he was an astounding musician and left us numerous superb recordings.

The rest is up to taste. For mine, I frequently find his recordings extremely satisfying.

I'm listening to the Szell/Cleveland Don Juan right now, and this recording still sweeps me away with its virtuosity, keen sense of drama, and thoughtful understanding of the dark side of the original poem that inspired Strauss to compose this.
Funny you mention it as that is maybe my favorite Szell recording. His Richard Strauss was great - the DJ, Don Quixote with Fournier, Tod und Verklärung, and Till Eulenspiegel all among the best.

OTOH, I can't think of a single case where I would name Szell's version of a Classical or Romantic symphony to be among the best, not even the famous Mahler 4th which I find clinical. They sound to me too by-the-numbers, too straight forward.

Maybe it's a case where to my ear Strauss tone poems play more to Szell's strength as an orchestral technician as opposed to a symphonic interpreter.

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