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Brahms, Mozart, Sibelius
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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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Brahms, Mozart, Sibelius
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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.
While I have to disagree with your exclusion of all of Szell's classical or romantic symphony interpretations from being among the best, I do concur with your assessment of his Mahler Fourth. In no special order, I would prefer Kletzki/Philharmonia, Klemperer/Philharmonia, Kubelik/BRSO, Solti/Amsterdam (Royal) Concertgebouw, Horenstein/London Philharmonic, Bernstein/New York Philharmonic, Tennstedt/London Philharmonic and Walter/New York Philharmonic (mono).
 
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