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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.
I'll play Hurwitz here. For this movement, my order of preference:

#1 Szell
#2 Furtwangler
#3 Abbado

I just don't like Abbado in Brahms, it sounds too corny for me. Szell's phrasing is at the same time the most engaging and subtle for me.
 

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I'll play Hurwitz here. For this movement, my order of preference:

#1 Szell
#2 Furtwangler
#3 Abbado

I just don't like Abbado in Brahms, it sounds too corny for me. Szell's phrasing is at the same time the most engaging and subtle for me.
Huh, you think Abbado is even more sentimental than Furtwängler here?

Abbado certainly is more "gooey" than most Brahms conductors, but his cycle is excellent - probably the best thing he did with the BPO - and the 3rd is the pick of the litter. (And actually, I believe Hurwitz is on record as agreeing with this)

I don't hate Szell. I was just seconding the recommendation of the above referenced Tchai 4.

His R. Strauss is excellent, maybe the uniformly best in the catalogue.

I just find his symphony recordings of the German masters - Beethoven, Brahms, Mahler - to be lacking in depth and warmth. They sound kind of robotic to me. Too much emphasis on mere accuracy.

.
 

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Question for Heck, Knorf, or any other experienced orchestral musician:

My first Haffner Symphony was a Szell/Cleveland LP that I liked (and still revere) because of the crystalline nature of some of the string phrases in the first movement. I have already expressed my preference for Szell's Mahler Fourth, in part because of the precision of the wind playing.

So my question: Are these things any first rate orchestral musician can accomplish with enough whipping? Or does it require finding the right people with the right technique and temperament to respond to the blandishments? :)
 

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Question for Heck, Knorf, or any other experienced orchestral musician:
....So my question: Are these things any first rate orchestral musician can accomplish with enough whipping? Or does it require finding the right people with the right technique and temperament to respond to the blandishments? :)
That's an excellent question. Great conductors have in mind, in their ear, a sound that they want to produce from their orchestras...in a past era conductors would seek out specific musicians they knew, or knew of audition them personally, and get them into their ensembles...

so, not every musician will play with a tone or style that will please every conductor....every musician is going to have their own personal sound and approach...the trick is to have your sections comprised of players who all play in a similar style, tone, articulation....

The greatest orchestras all have their "training grounds" for prospective members...students who are studying with incumbent orchestra members, feeder orchestras...all perpetuating the sound of that orchestra.

Anomalies, inconsistencies within or between sections stick out like an auditory sore thumb...tone and balance problems are readily apparent...if a new musician doesn't "fit" into the orchestra for tone and balance, they probably won't be granted tenure...
Good question, big topic...I'm sure others will chime in with more insights...
 

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That's an excellent question. Great conductors have in mind, in their ear, a sound that they want to produce from their orchestras...in a past era conductors would seek out specific musicians they knew, or knew of audition them personally, and get them into their ensembles...

so, not every musician will play with a tone or style that will please every conductor....every musician is going to have their own personal sound and approach...the trick is to have your sections comprised of players who all play in a similar style, tone, articulation....

The greatest orchestras all have their "training grounds" for prospective members...students who are studying with incumbent orchestra members, feeder orchestras...all perpetuating the sound of that orchestra.

Anomalies, inconsistencies within or between sections stick out like an auditory sore thumb...tone and balance problems are readily apparent...if a new musician doesn't "fit" into the orchestra for tone and balance, they probably won't be granted tenure...
Good question, big topic...I'm sure others will chime in with more insights...
Thank you! .
 

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That's an excellent question. Great conductors have in mind, in their ear, a sound that they want to produce from their orchestras...in a past era conductors would seek out specific musicians they knew, or knew of audition them personally, and get them into their ensembles...

so, not every musician will play with a tone or style that will please every conductor....every musician is going to have their own personal sound and approach...the trick is to have your sections comprised of players who all play in a similar style, tone, articulation....

The greatest orchestras all have their "training grounds" for prospective members...students who are studying with incumbent orchestra members, feeder orchestras...all perpetuating the sound of that orchestra.

Anomalies, inconsistencies within or between sections stick out like an auditory sore thumb...tone and balance problems are readily apparent...if a new musician doesn't "fit" into the orchestra for tone and balance, they probably won't be granted tenure...
Good question, big topic...I'm sure others will chime in with more insights...
Thanks, Heck. All I can add from my outside viewpoint (though friends and relatives are on the inside) is that the tradition you are talking about is fading in our modern world, though perhaps continuing on in the mighty institutions of the Vienna and Berlin Philharmonics. The top orchestral musicians come from all over the world and increasingly travel all over the world to land in the top orchestral chairs after competing in supposedly 'blind' auditions against a huge number of candidates from everywhere (though the French continue with their tradition of hiring their own, what French orchestra would you consider one of the best in the world today?).

And imo this does indeed result in problems. The New York Philharmonic recently hired a principal oboist from China (though he played in another American orchestra before joining the NYP). He was a spectacular player, but was fired for misconduct (sexual harassment, I believe, though the details were not publicized). That incident, which of course one hopes was isolated and not the norm, does illustrate how principal players are hired for their virtuoso playing but often without a whole lot of consideration for personalities and how well they will interact with colleagues.

Today's economic realities have also damaged the traditional family concept of the symphony orchestra. Look at the debacle in Minnesota. Ultimately the orchestra was saved, but not before losing some if its best players permanently. In sum, though the technical proficiency of the best players has likely never been higher, something has been lost from the proud symphony orchestra tradition.
 

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Thanks, Heck. All I can add from my outside viewpoint (though friends and relatives are on the inside) is that the tradition you are talking about is fading in our modern world, though perhaps continuing on in the mighty institutions of the Vienna and Berlin Philharmonics. The top orchestral musicians come from all over the world and increasingly travel all over the world to land in the top orchestral chairs after competing in supposedly 'blind' auditions against a huge number of candidates from everywhere...
The very top orchestras do maintain their own sounds and styles...thru teacher-student relationships, and feeder orchestra programs coached by orchestra musicians[ie - Chicago Civic Orchestra]

I agree about the "homogenization" of orchestral sound - mainly in the very excellent 2nd or 3rd tier orchestras....the first round of blind auditions tends to favor technical accuracy, generally attractive tone, "don't do anything wrong", "color inside the lines", etc....this promotes a sort of "one size fits all" approach by audition takers - develop a generic "Bb" style that won't antagonize or offend anyone....Is it really possible to distinguish the AtlantaSO from, say St LouisSO from a recording??
Thing is - a musician eliminated in the first round by audition committee might have, in the past, been exactly the one a conductor would have chosen to fill a vacancy...but c'est la vie....

Today's economic realities have also damaged the traditional family concept of the symphony orchestra. Look at the debacle in Minnesota. Ultimately the orchestra was saved, but not before losing some if its best players permanently......
What exactly, happened in Minnesota?? I'm not up to speed on that....
 

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What exactly, happened in Minnesota?? I'm not up to speed on that....
There was a 15-month lockout there before the orchestra accepted a major cut in benefits and pay in January 2014.

http://https://www.startribune.com/jan-15-minnesota-orchestra-deal-ends-15-month-lockout/240153421/

I must respectfully disagree with you about the Chicago Symphony and other major American orchestras. If you look at their current roster, it is a very nationwide and international bunch. Principal flutist Stefan Hoskuldsson was trained in his native Iceland and was principal flutist at the Met for many years, a nice guy and fine player. Concertmaster Robert Chen is a Juilliard alum from Taiwan. Principal violist Li-Kuo Chang is from China and studied at Eastman. Other players come from all over the US and the world and many are Juilliard, Eastman or Curtis alums, including the current principal bassoonist Keith Buncke, a Curtis alum from Portland, Oregon. A member of the horn section, Daniel Gingrich, is a Chicago area native and Civic Orchestra alum who has been with the orchestra since 1975. I remember him from my days in Chicago in the early 80s. But I'm not sure how many more there are these days.

The leading 'training' orchestra in the US today no doubt is the New World Symphony in Florida, where young players can remain a maximum of four seasons before they must seek employment elsewhere. You can find its alumni in major (and minor) orchestras throughout the US, including the Chicago Symphony.

I have a cousin who was a section leader in the Chicago Youth Symphony and played in the Civic Orchestra as well. Those are good ensembles, but can't be characterized as Chicago Symphony training ensembles.
 

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There was a 15-month lockout there before the orchestra accepted a major cut in benefits and pay in January 2014.

http://https://www.startribune.com/jan-15-minnesota-orchestra-deal-ends-15-month-lockout/240153421/

I must respectfully disagree with you about the Chicago Symphony and other major American orchestras. If you look at their current roster, it is a very nationwide and international bunch. Principal flutist Stefan Hoskuldsson was trained in his native Iceland and was principal flutist at the Met for many years, a nice guy and fine player. Concertmaster Robert Chen is a Juilliard alum from Taiwan. Principal violist Li-Kuo Chang is from China and studied at Eastman. Other players come from all over the US and the world and many are Juilliard, Eastman or Curtis alums, including the current principal bassoonist Keith Buncke, a Curtis alum from Portland, Oregon. A member of the horn section, Daniel Gingrich, is a Chicago area native and Civic Orchestra alum who has been with the orchestra since 1975. I remember him from my days in Chicago in the early 80s. But I'm not sure how many more there are these days.

The leading 'training' orchestra in the US today no doubt is the New World Symphony in Florida, where young players can remain a maximum of four seasons before they must seek employment elsewhere. You can find its alumni in major (and minor) orchestras throughout the US, including the Chicago Symphony.

I have a cousin who was a section leader in the Chicago Youth Symphony and played in the Civic Orchestra as well. Those are good ensembles, but can't be characterized as Chicago Symphony training ensembles.
There are certainly students of CSO members or former members in the orchestra, esp in the brass. yes, they have drawn on musicians from all over, but the sound has been preserved to a very high degree. One has only to look at how long, and how many candidates have been tried out for principal orchestra positions before a permanent appointment was made - trumpet, horn, oboe, bassoon, flute - the associate principals have covered the first chair positions for years in some cases - Ridenour, Gingrich, Buchman. They know what they want....you must play that style....
I played gigs with Bll Buchman when he was a student at Brown University...same with Sue [Drake] Gaunt, horn - I used to hire her regularly to play in one of my orchestras....she went to New World Symphony, then onto professional positions, ending up in CSO.

Keep in mind, also - that orchestras like ViennaPO, BerlinPO have international members as well...one has only to look at the rosters...for a time, the principal trombone in VPO was Ian Bousfield, who had gone there from the LondonSO!! principal bassoonist Sophie Dervaux is French!! VPO tends to "stay at home" but not entirely.
The BPO is considerably more cosmopolitan - there are French, Australian, Japanese, English principals in strings and woodwinds. they learn to play with that tone and style of performance.
The RCBO is probably most cosmopolitan of the three - here the Asiatics have joined in the strings, the winds have Russians, Spanish, Italians, Uruguayan, English members, several as principals...
again, the orchestras are going to maintain their style and sound as much as possible and they will draw on the best talent they can find....
 

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I would like to return to George Szell and also touch upon the issue of homogeneity of orchestra. I am going to make two statements. Your opinions please.

Obvious some like Szell,some do not. The statement is;Most of the Szell recordings are between the late 1950’ s until his death in 1970. Many(a large major) have control to be regarded as contenders to be amongst what is known as “reference recordings.”
Would you agree to disagree to that statement?

The Cleveland Orchestra still is influenced by Szell. 50 years after his death. Three music directors;Lorin Maazel,Christopher Von Dohnanyi,Franz Welser Most. Your thoughts please
 

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I would like to return to George Szell and also touch upon the issue of homogeneity of orchestra. I am going to make two statements. Your opinions please.

Obvious some like Szell,some do not. The statement is;Most of the Szell recordings are between the late 1950' s until his death in 1970. Many(a large major) have control to be regarded as contenders to be amongst what is known as "reference recordings."
Would you agree to disagree to that statement?

The Cleveland Orchestra still is influenced by Szell. 50 years after his death. Three music directors;Lorin Maazel,Christopher Von Dohnanyi,Franz Welser Most. Your thoughts please
Just my very humble opinion, but the Cleveland Orchestra today is nothing like what it was under Szell. The discipline and precision he was able to attain at his best is no longer there, even if today's players are as good or better. I don't think that's anything to moan and groan about, though. Things change.
 

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Just my very humble opinion, but the Cleveland Orchestra today is nothing like what it was under Szell. The discipline and precision he was able to attain at his best is no longer there, even if today's players are as good or better. I don't think that's anything to moan and groan about, though. Things change.
Agreed...I don't know if it was Maazel or Dohnanyi, or both, but the sound of the orchestra really changed...I heard them in Boston Symphony Hall, performing Bruckner 7 under Dohnanyi early 80s [??]....The woodwinds sounded good, but lacked that tight ensemble; I was really disappointed, esp in the brass ensemble sound....under Szell - you had focus, clarity, brilliance - on the big chord sonorities, you could hear the individual pitches and the movement of voices within those chords...under Dohnanyi, we heard a rather unfocused, diffuse sort of quality, you couldn't hear the changes...ie - at the conclusion of mvt I, which has all the E major chords, the voices rising up the chord degrees - you heard lots of E major, but the changes were indistinguishable...it sounded like some Middle European or German group..it was sonically blurry, it had lost that clarity.
Szell would never have accepted that....
 

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An interesting biographical note about Szell - early on in his musical endeavors, he took up the horn.....he loved the horn and really wanted to ex-Szell [sorry, couldn't resist :devil::lol:] on it as his personal instrument....But, apparently, he just lacked the "chops"....try as he might, he simply could not master the tricky instrument.
However, his love, interest, [obsession??], with it persisted throughout his life....he loved the horn, and always wanted lots of loud horns in his interpretations of various works....if you listen to much Szell, you'll hear it....
I heard Szell/Cleveland perform a Beethoven 7th once, he used 6 horns!! yeh, they were loud!! I think he used 5 or 6 for Eroica, as well...
Myron [Mike] Bloom, the excellent Cleveland principal horn under Szell relates how Szell was always asking him questions, going over matters related to the horn section - quite detailed - <<How would he play that passage?? F or Bb horn?? which parts would the assistant cover?? How do we get this or that effect?? and so forth>>....Bloom didn't mind, but surmised that Szell never could let go of the challenge of the horn, one of the few things at which he had failed....

A funny Szell story involving horns -
rehearsing a Beethoven Sym [had to be #9 - it uses 4 horns] - the scherzo - rocking along - 3/4 in 1 - Szell stops abruptly - agitated - glares back at the horn section - <<Third horn [who is counting rests] - What are you doing??!! What's going on back there??>>
3rd Horn player - [mystified, bewildered] <<er....I'm counting rests, I have 48 measures rest, I'm counting, then I'll make my entrance>>
Szell - <<What?? 48 measures rest?? ....let's see [looks in score] - well, OK, then - but don't look so STUPID!!]

Might have been the same 3rd horn musician in a not very funny story - the incumbent 3rd horn heard thru the musicians' grapevine that a horn player from another orchestra was going to become 3rd horn with Cleveland....he'd heard nothing from Szell....he went to ask the Maestro what was up - Szell assured him, nothing's up, don't worry, it's all fine....
About 2 weeks later, the horn player got his pink slip, and was out!! Szell was not a nice person....
 

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Thank you to those who gave their thoughts to my last post about Szell. I asked two questions and the responses seemed to be more geared towards the second question. I would like to repost my first question and await any opinions from the TC community.

Obviously,some like Szell,some do not. My statement is;Most of the Szell recordings are between the late 1950’’s until his death in 1970. Many(a large majority) have come to be regarded as contenders to be amongst what is know as “reference recordings. “

Thank you
 

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It depends who you ask. People who like clarity and precision - Hurwitz for example - will recommend Szell for everything. Hurwitz said recently that Szell is the "Mozart guy," i.e. the reference for Mozart's last six symphonies. Nobody else would say the same, but they would say he is among the best alongside Walter, Klemperer, Bernstein, Mackerras, etc. I find Szell to be a bit stiff in Mozart. His Haffner is excellent, perfect for his energetic exhuberance.

There is broad consensus that Szell's Eroica is among the best alongside Klemperer, Kleiber, Toscanini, and Furtwangler. Not so much the other symphonies, though some including Hurwitz champion his live 5th on Orfeo. His Brahms has many admirers, but again I think it is stiff next to Abbado, Klemperer, Jochum, Karajan, and Walter.

Most admired are his Dvorak final three symphonies. I'll admit that I do not know these particular recordings very well. I do like his celebrated Slavonic Dances, even if they are not as idiomatic as Talich. But the sound quality is fantastic.

I am an especially big admirer of his R. Strauss - Tod und Verklarung, Don Juan, Till Eulenspiegel, Don Quixote with Fournier. These I think can confidently be recommended as reference versions. Orchestral tone poems with their emphasis on brilliance and color work well with Szell.

He didn't record much Bruckner and sounded stiff in the one I heard (I think the 8th). His Mahler 4th is considered by many to be THE version, as well as his 6th to a lesser extent. But for me in Mahler of all composers, Szell's cool approach doesn't work so well. I prefer the warmth and passion of Barbirolli and Bernstein.

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I've just listened to Szell's cold, mechanical, stiff, clinical, robotic, simplistic, two-dimensional (add other negatives here) recording of Sibelius 2 with the Concertgebouw. It was good to recall how brilliantly Szell gets the perfect forward momentum (oh, I mean how relentlessly driven, flat, rushed, excessive, cool and detached he is). Next up will be his harsh, uncompromising, micromanaged, emotionless, automated, impersonal, cursory, persistent, steely, dogged, remote, unfeeling, icy, stoic, stoney, heartless, hollow and phlegmatic Eroica. Then I'm off to beat a bag of kittens with a baseball bat. :devil:
 

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I've just listened to Szell's cold, mechanical, stiff, clinical, robotic, simplistic, two-dimensional (add other negatives here) recording of Sibelius 2 with the Concertgebouw. It was good to recall how brilliantly Szell gets the perfect forward momentum (oh, I mean how relentlessly driven, flat, rushed, excessive, cool and detached he is). Next up will be his harsh, uncompromising, micromanaged, emotionless, automated, impersonal, cursory, persistent, steely, dogged, remote, unfeeling, icy, stoic, stoney, heartless, hollow and phlegmatic Eroica. Then I'm off to beat a bag of kittens with a baseball bat. :devil:
Interesting comment.
 
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