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George Szell Great Conductors

G-Various Szell Audio CD
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
Price: CDN$ 36.95
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Disc: 1
1. Fra Diavolo: Overture
2. I. Allegro Con Brio
3. II. Adagio
4. III. Allegretto Grazioso - Molto Vivace
5. IV. Allegro Ma Non Troppo
6. De L'aube A Midi Sur La Mer: Les Trent
7. II. Jeux De Vagues: Allegro
8. III. Dialogue Du Vent Et De La Mer: Anime Et Tumultueux
9. Irmelin: Prelude
Disc: 2
1. L'Italiana In Algeri: Overture
2. I. Andante - Allegro Con Anima
3. II. Andante Cantabile, Con Alcuna Licenza - Moderato Con Anima - Andante Mosso - Allegro Non Troppo - Tempo I
4. III. Valse. Allegro Moderato
5. IV. Finale. Andante Maestoso - Allegro Vivace - Molto Vivace - Moderato Assai E Molto Maestoso - Presto
6. Vorspiel Zum I. Aufzug
7. Walzer 'Delirious Waltz'

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Most helpful customer reviews
It's sad that the "Great Conductors of the 20th Century" reissue series has not gotten more attention, because it has my vote for the best reissue program thus far of the 21st Century. Drawing from the archives of all the major classical labels (EMI, Sony, BMG, DG, Decca, Philips, Supraphon, etc.), EMI and IMG Artists have assembled a wonderful series of affordable two-disc sets by the leading conductors of the last century. And unlike its counterpart, "The Great Pianists of the 20th Century," which are basically compilations of material already available on other CDs, the "Great Conductors" features rare and, for the most part, previously unreleased performances! And as if that wasn't enough, the most recent volumes (beginning with no. 26) are now available at mid-line instead of full-price!
This particular CD, Volume 33, features the great George Szell, who made the Cleveland Orchestra into one of the world's best during his nearly twenty-five year tenure (1946-1970). Unlike many of the conductors featured in this series, the majority of Szell's great stereo performances have been reissued on CD, either by Sony or EMI. As a result, you would think there wouldn't be any worthwhile unreleased material left. Well, guess again, and since the track information is not abundantly clear above, allow me to tell what is contained in this fine collection.
Disc one begins with Auber's "Fra Diavolo" Overture (from 1957 with the Cleveland Orchestra). Next is a terrific account of Dvorak's 8th Symphony (Cleveland Orchestra, 1970) made for EMI only months before the conductor's death. Unfortunately, this performance has been readily available for years on an EMI Double Forte title (the first disc in that set being the "Emperor" Concerto with Gilels), though it is currently unavailable domestically.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.0 out of 5 stars  3 reviews
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Truly a "Great Conductor" but check out his major recordings first Dec 23 2005
By Kevin Orth - Published on Amazon.com
I would concur with Mr. Richman's thorough and excellent review in almost every aspect; this series is one of the best ever done in the field of classical music and I've enjoyed, to varying degrees, every title in it that I've listened to or bought so far.

However, in the case of conductors like George Szell, who was one of the most celebrated maestros of his time and who recorded extensively for several labels, these compilations serve as interesting "dessert platters" for collectors who already own the basic, and in Szell's case, often benchmark recordings of the basic repertoire.

For forgotten, lesser known or more historical conductors this series is really more essential. But in the case of Szell, who made dozens of definitive recordings of everything in the repertoire from Haydn to Walton, a disc like this becomes something of a hodge-podge. For reasons of space there is no Mozart or Beethoven, which is almost unforgivable considering Szell's mastery of those two composers. No Schumann (if you could buy only one Szell disc it should be the complete Schumann symphonies with Cleveland on Sony Classical), no concerti (even though his violin and piano concerto recordings of Brahms, Grieg, Mozart, Schumann and Beethoven are the consistently finest of any conductor I've ever heard) and certainly no room for his reference recordings of Strauss and Mahler with amazing singers like Elisabeth Schwzarzkopf and Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau....

True, you do get a sampling of Szell's mastery of the Slavic fare here. The Dvorak is great, but listening to this live Tchaikovsky 5th with a committed but obviously lesser (wobbly entries, intonation problems and sometimes wandering rhythms that probably had Szell steaming) orchestra than the Cleveland just makes me want to listen to my old classic Columbia vinyl record of the 5th recorded in Severance Hall again.

Still, this is a series I like and the Szell disc is an absolute essential to any survey of the 20th century's great maestros. But it's no starting place for newcomers interested in checking out titans like Bruno Walter, Fritz Reiner or George Szell.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Conductors of 20th Century = Best Reissues of the 21st Oct. 3 2003
By Michael B. Richman - Published on Amazon.com
It's sad that the "Great Conductors of the 20th Century" reissue series has not gotten more attention, because it has my vote for the best reissue program thus far of the 21st Century. Drawing from the archives of all the major classical labels (EMI, Sony, BMG, DG, Decca, Philips, Supraphon, etc.), EMI and IMG Artists have assembled a wonderful series of affordable two-disc sets by the leading conductors of the last century. And unlike its counterpart, "The Great Pianists of the 20th Century," which are basically compilations of material already available on other CDs, the "Great Conductors" features rare and, for the most part, previously unreleased performances! And as if that wasn't enough, the most recent volumes (beginning with no. 26) are now available at mid-line instead of full-price!
This particular CD, Volume 33, features the great George Szell, who made the Cleveland Orchestra into one of the world's best during his nearly twenty-five year tenure (1946-1970). Unlike many of the conductors featured in this series, the majority of Szell's great stereo performances have been reissued on CD, either by Sony or EMI. As a result, you would think there wouldn't be any worthwhile unreleased material left. Well, guess again, and since the track information is not abundantly clear above, allow me to tell what is contained in this fine collection.
Disc one begins with Auber's "Fra Diavolo" Overture (from 1957 with the Cleveland Orchestra). Next is a terrific account of Dvorak's 8th Symphony (Cleveland Orchestra, 1970) made for EMI only months before the conductor's death. Unfortunately, this performance has been readily available for years on an EMI Double Forte title (the first disc in that set being the "Emperor" Concerto with Gilels), though it is currently unavailable domestically. Disc one concludes with a 1962 live studio recording (for broadcast) of Debussy's "La Mer" with the Koln RSO, and a rare (for the conductor) Delius performance -- the Prelude from "Irmelin" (Cleveland, 1956).
Disc two starts with Rossini's "L'Italiana in Algeri" Overture (Cleveland, 1967), then shifts gears to, what for me, is the highlight of this collection (since I already owned the aforementioned Dvorak), Tchaikovsky's 5th Symphony. Szell's famous account with the Cleveland Orchestra first released in 1960 (and currently available on CD in two forms -- by itself as a "Great Performances" title, or as part of a two-disc set in the Sony Essential Classics "Take 2" series) is one of the greatest performances of the work ever made. This live studio recording (originally for radio broadcast) from 1966 with the Koln RSO while sadly not as good (but it's close!), is nonetheless compelling for comparative purposes. Next is the collection's only mono recording, a 1954 account of the Prelude to Act I of Wagner's "Die Meistersinger von Nurnberg" with the New York Philharmonic. Disc two finishes with a Strauss Waltz, "Delirien," from 1962 with Szell's old buddies from Cleveland.
Whether you are a serious collector of classical music or a beginner, the "Great Conductors of the 20th Century" has something for everyone. If the prized, rare performances previously unreleased on CD (or ever!) doesn't excite you, then use this as an opportunity to check out one of the greatest conductors ever recorded. Chances are, since stores are offering increasingly homogenized classical music sections, this conductor isn't even in your collection. And that would truly be a shame.
3 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A good deal of tense, unsmiling music, if that's the Szell you love Dec 29 2005
By Santa Fe Listener - Published on Amazon.com
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George Szell's eminence was at its brightest the day he died and has dimmed steadily ever since. He was a scowling martinet on the podium, but thanks to the halo cast by Toscanini, Szell's precise, clipped, emotionally cold conducting was received as great. Since then the tide has turned (against Toscanini as well), and Szell's faults--lack of emotional depth, rhythmic inflexibility, and aloofness from the audience--have counted against him rather heavily. This 2-CD collection hardly shows him at his best--it's a fair portrait only if you don't mind the omission of Beethoven, Haydn, Mozart, Mendelssohn, and Richard Strauss, Szell's best composers after Dvorak.

CD 1 begins with a clipped, aaustere Fra Diavolo Overture with his Cleveland Orch. (1957) that is about as low temperature as it gets. The following Dvorak Eighth (1970), made when Szell was in sseroius physical decline, is wan and lackluster, especially considering the excellent version Szell made for CBS earlier. The EMI sonics are quite weak to boot, making the brass in particular sound tinny and thin. La Mer from a live broadcast in Cologne (1962) is also listless and dull; the compilers' only reason for picking it must have been to prove that Szell wasn't always stiff and brusque in French music. The sound is just good enough, as is the orchestra. CD 1 ends with a trifle, Irmelin: Prelude by Delius (1956) that actually wears a melodic smile on its face--it's the most relaxed performance in the whole set.

CD 2 begins with a classic Szell reading, Rossini's Italian Girl in Algiers Over. (1957), from a Cleveland disc that was a top choice in its day and still sounds very good, especially in terms of razor-sharp ensemble. As with Toscanini, Szell could tear off a Rossini overture quite thrillingly. We're back in Cologne for a live Tchaikovsky Fifth (1966) that Szell fans will recognize for its sharp contours, absence of romantic indulgence, and rhythmic intensity. The Cologne radio orchestra is no match for Cleveland, but if you don't mind the lack of Slavic moodiness, this is probably the best single thing here. I find the performance remote, cold, and objective. A mono Prelude to Die Meistersinger with the NY Phil. (1954) is straightforward and unexceptional, though clean and clear. CD 2 ends with a Strauss Delirium Waltz from Cleveland (1962) that makes up for lack of joy with dramatic incisiveness when called for and a relaxed attitude--it's a highlight of the set.

I doubt that anyone would mistkae me for a great lover of George Szell, but during his heyday I bought every recording and am surprised to hear how much I've changed. Three stars is a bit begrudging; it represents how much enjoyment I got from this collection, however.
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