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Szell was a great conductor; for me, he sometimes keeps things "buttoned down" too tightly...and the assertions that he could be stiff or rigid have some validity....however, this is not always the case...at times, he'd really let the orchestra rip - and this was to great effect - Cleveland was a terrific ensemble with great players - I'm thinking Beethoven #7, Leonore #3[!!], Walton Sym #2, just ottomh....
I also enjoy his Mozart and Haydn....the exquisite phrasing and precision are most attractive, and again, he enjoyed input from his outstanding orchestra....
The guy was a total control freak, tho - any lengthy solo meant special coaching sessions with the Maestro, so that it was presented according to his wishes. Szell controlled each musician's salary. If a musician wanted a raise, it had to go thru him...he even tried to dictate musicians' personal habits to a degree - what instrument they played, what they ate, drank, did with free time, etc...

A highly enjoyable book Tales from the Locker Room - An Anecdotal Portrait of George Szell and his Cleveland Orchestra by Lawrence Angell and Bernette Jaffe sheds some light on his relationships with his musicians....very entertaining...
Sounds like he was really the Head Coach of the Cleveland Browns
 

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Why is it Szell never recorded choral or opera works?

I find that interesting considering his style. This repertoire requires the ability to conduct a long legato line, the opposite of stiffness.

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Could it be as simple as the divas of his day and he would never have seen eye to eye - can you imagine the battles of wills in the studio!
 
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