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Szell demanded a lot from his players but they often delivered. Tbh, he's got a pretty high strike-rate for me. I even like his Schumann cycle even though he made some cuts and alterations to 'improve' its clarity (did he really need to?). I liked his forthright approach especially in Brahms.
 

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On the discussion of spontaneity, Charles Munch was well known for the spontaneity in concert. Beethoven's 5th has lost all of its spontaneity for me over the years, but Munch's version made it fresh for me and is the only version I listen to from time to time now.

"When you played a concert with Charles Munch or attended one of his performances as a listener, it was not just a concert - It was an event. He never used the same palette twice. As a player, you had to give 110% of yourself, or be left out of the music."

-Vic Firth, percussionist, Boston Symphony Orchestra
Yes, Munch probably takes the prize for spontaneity in concert....He loved to do it, and deliberately would do things differently in performance...this could be very exciting at a live concert, on recording, the imprecision and inaccuracies can be annoying on repeated listening...
the former bass trombone player of BSO told me that Munch loved to pull fast ones in Berlioz "Symphonie Fantastique"...the closing bars of mvt V, with the descending trombone roulades were a favorite place - he would speed up, or slow down, always different....always with a twinkle in his eye...he knew exactly what he was doing....the trombones rarely got it together, it was most always sloppy and imprecise....
 

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Heck,

Do you have any impressions/stories about Koussevitzky?

His concert recording of the original Bartok Concerto for Orchestra with the BSO is the most exciting I’ve heard. He gave a lot of premieres. He also left a great Prokofiev 5.
 

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Heck,
Do you have any impressions/stories about Koussevitzky?
His concert recording of the original Bartok Concerto for Orchestra with the BSO is the most exciting I've heard. He gave a lot of premieres. He also left a great Prokofiev 5.
I've never been a big fan of Koussie...he was a great champion of new music, and his contribution was very substantial....as was his creation of the Tanglewood Music Festival...
As a conductor, I'm not so impressed - apparently he was not a "natural" conductor - the mechanics were difficult for him, and he had difficulty addressing problems clearly - he knew what he wanted, but had difficulty communicating it to the orchestra....
Personally, he was quite insecure, always needed praise and adulation, could get very testy and sensitive if it was not forthcoming. I heard many stories about Koussie and BSO from Willem Valkenier, former principal horn, who lived right down the road from me in retirement - really cool guy!! he loved to tell stories and had tapes of performances....he lived to be 99yo!!

Also - Koussie made some very odd appointments to the BSO over the years, so that section unity and unanimity of tone and style were not consistent -
when he became BSO conductor, Monteux had left him a very solid French-sounding orchestra - many section principals were former Garde Republicaine members who emigrated to America - his woodwinds were all French, and played in a similar style....then he fires the clarinet player [Hamelin], and hires a Viennese player [Polatschek] from VPO/VSOO!!...in the bassoons, he had a French principal - R. Allard - then hired a 2nd bassoonist from the Vienna VolksOpera [Panenka]!! now we have musicians playing different instruments in the same section [French (Buffet) and German (Heckel) systems are very different - different instruments. With the Horns, he had a German/Dutch principal [Valkenier]- a very refined, polished style, small sound but very precise...he brings in Stagliano, from the LA movie studios, as co-principal, with a much brasher, louder approach
Unfortunately for the BSO, Munch did not seem interested in correcting these discrepancies...

the disparity in section sound and style I always found rather distracting...
At this time, keep in mind, that other orchestras - NYPO, Philadelphia, Chicago, NBC were all building very tight, balanced sections known for unanimity of tone, phrasing articulation...
 

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Returning to Szell (again! ) I played his Tchaikovsky 4 this afternoon. Its been a recommended performance of mine for what seems like centuries (I had it on LP) but it's never been my favourite 4th. However, It still has marvellous energy and I love the detail and clean lines of the finale, even if the constricted sound quality hasn't worn so well. Few conductors could get the LSO to play with such skill, precision, fire and unity though.

Liquid Publication Art Font Wood
 

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Returning to Szell (again! ) I played his Tchaikovsky 4 this afternoon. Its been a recommended performance of mine for what seems like centuries (I had it on LP) but it's never been my favourite 4th. However, It still has marvellous energy and I love the detail and clean lines of the finale, even if the constricted sound quality hasn't worn so well. Few conductors could get the LSO to play with such skill, precision, fire and unity though.

View attachment 161806
When was this Szell/LSO Tchaik 4 recorded??
 

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I've never been a big fan of Koussie...he was a great champion of new music, and his contribution was very substantial....as was his creation of the Tanglewood Music Festival...
As a conductor, I'm not so impressed - apparently he was not a "natural" conductor - the mechanics were difficult for him, and he had difficulty addressing problems clearly - he knew what he wanted, but had difficulty communicating it to the orchestra....
Personally, he was quite insecure, always needed praise and adulation, could get very testy and sensitive if it was not forthcoming. I heard many stories about Koussie and BSO from Willem Valkenier, former principal horn, who lived right down the road from me in retirement - really cool guy!! he loved to tell stories and had tapes of performances....he lived to be 99yo!!

Also - Koussie made some very odd appointments to the BSO over the years, so that section unity and unanimity of tone and style were not consistent -
when he became BSO conductor, Monteux had left him a very solid French-sounding orchestra - many section principals were former Garde Republicaine members who emigrated to America - his woodwinds were all French, and played in a similar style....then he fires the clarinet player [Hamelin], and hires a Viennese player [Polatschek] from VPO/VSOO!!...in the bassoons, he had a French principal - R. Allard - then hired a 2nd bassoonist from the Vienna VolksOpera [Panenka]!! now we have musicians playing different instruments in the same section [French (Buffet) and German (Heckel) systems are very different - different instruments. With the Horns, he had a German/Dutch principal [Valkenier]- a very refined, polished style, small sound but very precise...he brings in Stagliano, from the LA movie studios, as co-principal, with a much brasher, louder approach
Unfortunately for the BSO, Munch did not seem interested in correcting these discrepancies...

the disparity in section sound and style I always found rather distracting...
At this time, keep in mind, that other orchestras - NYPO, Philadelphia, Chicago, NBC were all building very tight, balanced sections known for unanimity of tone, phrasing articulation...
And yet, they ultimately got their act back together -- Doriot Anthony Dwyer, who succeeded Georges Laurent, Ralph Gomberg, Sherman Walt, Harold Wright, Joseph Silverstein, Jules Eskin -- all on those fabulous Boston Symphony Chamber Players records.
 

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And yet, they ultimately got their act back together -- Doriot Anthony Dwyer, who succeeded Georges Laurent, Ralph Gomberg, Sherman Walt, Harold Wright, Joseph Silverstein, Jules Eskin -- all on those fabulous Boston Symphony Chamber Players records.
Well, sort of, first they had to get by Holmes and Cioffi [oboe, clar]...Walt came from Chicago, where Kubelik had fired him...
Gomberg and Wright were very good players, eventually the section took shape...but then Ozawa screwed things up with his chronic inability to commit himself and make or confirm appointments [Oboe, flute, trumpet].with Levine and Nelsons,
the BSO section is in pretty good shape now...the brass was a mess for years and years....a lot better now.
 

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I have always admired the string section sound on those old Kouss recordings. Sounds like perhaps he neglected the other sections.
Valkenier related a funny story to us, along with a tape of the performance in question - it shows the extraordinary ability of a great string section to adapt -
They were performing Tchaik Sym #5 - mvt II has the lengthy horn solo, which can be very taxing....which enters after the introductory chords in the strings....
Koussie, like many conductors of that era, was quite a martinet...and would at times deliberately take a extra slow/fast tempo in performance....on this occasion - he had the strings open the movement at a glacially slow tempo - funereal, it is reaaaallly slow!! agonizing...The poor horn player [Valkenier] is going to expire halfway thru the passage!! So, on his entrance, Valkenier completely ignored Koussie, and upped the tempo to a more normal, playable pace....it's amazing - the strings immediately went with his tempo increase, I'd say within a half of a beat!! and they proceeded from there...Koussie followed along with the flow....
Valkenier thought Koussie was pissed at him for something that had happened before the concert, and was out to "bust his chops" - maybe, maybe not?? but it was certainly interesting to hear the tape!!
 

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And...I can't believe I let myself get sucked into another Furtwängler debate. Ugh.
What's so hard to believe about it? It's the same phenomenon as in the case of Roggy; you intentionally let yourself cause you enjoy it. Almost everyone loves some sort of iconoclasm deep down.
Yes, you know it and you enjoy it; gets you more chances to call him 'fartwangler'.
 

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From John Culshaw, Szell's English Decca producer:
"Szell had a notorious tongue and a reputation for eating anyone alive who crossed his path. With very few exceptions, orchestral musicians loathed him, although no musician worthy of the name could fault him artistically. On the podium he was incapable of generating warmth. When he died almost all the obituaries could not resist the comment that he did not suffer fools gladly, but it would be nearer the truth to say that he did not suffer fools at all".
https://slippedisc.com/2018/08/was-georg-szell-as-horrid-as-described/
 

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When was this Szell/LSO Tchaik 4 recorded??
You know, Heck, I never did know when the Szell Tchaikovsly 4 was recorded so I looked it up. Apparently it was recorded on the 11th & 13th September 1962 at Walthamstow Assembly Hall, London. I always thought it was just before he died in '70 but apparently its much earlier than that (it does sound more early 60s than late 60s tbh). Apparently the LSO liked playing for Szell a lot. There are quite a few references to his guest conductor performances in London. If I recall it's even mentioned in the Karajan books (Karajan had a lot of time for Szell, found him a "deeply honourable man" and wouldn't hear a bad word about him). If you haven't heard that Tchaikovsky you, Heck, you should. It's a fine performance. Right up your street.
 

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From John Culshaw, Szell's English Decca producer:
"Szell had a notorious tongue and a reputation for eating anyone alive who crossed his path. With very few exceptions, orchestral musicians loathed him, although no musician worthy of the name could fault him artistically. On the podium he was incapable of generating warmth. When he died almost all the obituaries could not resist the comment that he did not suffer fools gladly, but it would be nearer the truth to say that he did not suffer fools at all".
https://slippedisc.com/2018/08/was-georg-szell-as-horrid-as-described/
Columbia wanted Szell to record Strauss's Burleske with André Previn, but the two had never met before, so a meeting was arranged while Szell was in LA:

The Cleveland Orchestra Story by Donald Rosenberg said:
Previn arrived at Szell's room at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel and engaged in small talk. Then Szell said, "Well, let's go through the piece." One problem: the room had no piano. Szell proceeded to tell Previn to play the piece on a table. "Well, I was still young and inexperienced, I suppose, and in awe of the great conductor, so I didn't walk out," recalled Previn. "I sat down and started whacking away at this table." Soon Szell stopped him: "No, no, no. It needs to be faster." He wasn't kidding. Nor, perhaps, was Previn: "Well, maestro, the reason it sounds so slow is that I'm simply not used to this table. My dining room table at home has much better action." With that, Szell dismissed him -- "I don't consider that funny, young man. You may go." -- and the recording was off.
 

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You know, Heck, I never did know when the Szell Tchaikovsly 4 was recorded so I looked it up. Apparently it was recorded on the 11th & 13th September 1962 at Walthamstow Assembly Hall, London. I always thought it was just before he died in '70 but apparently its much earlier than that (it does sound more early 60s than late 60s tbh). Apparently the LSO liked playing for Szell a lot. There are quite a few references to his guest conductor performances in London. If I recall it's even mentioned in the Karajan books (Karajan had a lot of time for Szell, found him a "deeply honourable man" and wouldn't hear a bad word about him). If you haven't heard that Tchaikovsky you, Heck, you should. It's a fine performance. Right up your street.
Yeah, that's an exciting recording. I've owned it for decades.

I was introducing someone to Brahms, in particular the lovely 3rd symphony Allegretto movement, and I realized it makes an interesting comparison.

With Furtwangler, I feel as if I am hearing with every note his obvious love and affection. Now, I revere this recording, but I can understand someone feeling that perhaps he is overstating the case, making too much of it. With some more epic works, the Beethoven 9th for example, or Wagner, it is almost impossible to overstate things. But with this movement perhaps Furtwangler's treatment takes away from the beautiful simplicity of the writing.


With Szell, we hear the clear contrast. This the other extreme - a "just the facts" interpretation. It sounds cold and clinical to me, as if Szell doesn't even like the piece.


I think Abbado/BPO strikes an ideal middle ground. Played with affectionate warmth, but not overemphasizing things. This is my prime recommendation for this work.

 

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You know, Heck, I never did know when the Szell Tchaikovsly 4 was recorded so I looked it up. Apparently it was recorded on the 11th & 13th September 1962 at Walthamstow Assembly Hall, London. I always thought it was just before he died in '70 but apparently its much earlier than that (it does sound more early 60s than late 60s tbh). Apparently the LSO liked playing for Szell a lot. There are quite a few references to his guest conductor performances in London. If I recall it's even mentioned in the Karajan books (Karajan had a lot of time for Szell, found him a "deeply honourable man" and wouldn't hear a bad word about him). If you haven't heard that Tchaikovsky you, Heck, you should. It's a fine performance. Right up your street.
The LSO came to the fore in the early 60s, as Monteux took over the helm...great orchestra!! This was the LSO that made such great recordings under Kertesz, Dorati, Previn, Abbado, Solti, Monteux, etc...
 

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I agree that Abbado/Berlin for Brahms offers an attractive "middle road" between Furtwängler and Szell, but, Brahmsianhorn, I feel you demonize Szell; to my ears your criticisms are very far from fair, even though Szell is not my own favorite for Brahms (and yet even so I would not want to do without having heard Szell's Brahms, and I get why people like it...)
 

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The LSO came to the fore in the early 60s, as Monteux took over the helm...great orchestra!! This was the LSO that made such great recordings under Kertesz, Dorati, Previn, Abbado, Solti, Monteux, etc...
At one point, many principal players resigned over a dispute on work rules. So in came Neville Marriner, Barry Tuckwell and James.Galway. They had a pretty strong pool of players to draw from in London in the 60s.
 
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