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Pno Cto 5/Sym 8/32 Vars In

G-Cleveland Orch Gilels/Szell Audio CD
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Disc: 1
1. Pno Con No.5 in E flat, Op.73 'Emperor': I. Allegro
2. Pno Con No.5 in E flat, Op.73 'Emperor': II. Adagio un poco mosso
3. Pno Con No.5 in E flat, Op.73 'Emperor': III. Rondo (Allegro-Piu allegro)
4. 32 Vars in c on an Original Theme, WoO80
5. 12 Vars in A on a Russian Theme from Wranitzky's 'Das Waldmadchen', WoO71
6. 6 Vars in D on a Turkish March from 'The Ruins of Athens', Op.76
Disc: 2
1. Sym No.8 in G, Op.88: I. Allegro con brio
2. Sym No.8 in G, Op.88: II. Adagio
3. Sym No.8 in G, Op.88: III. Allegretto grazioso
4. Sym No.8 in G, Op.88: IV. Allegro ma non troppo
5. Slavonic Dance in e, Op.72 No.2
6. Slavonic Dance in A flat, Op.46 No.3

Product Description

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This is a very weird coupling, unified only by the fact that EMI wanted to do something with a few of their "leftover" George Szell recordings. This somewhat cavalier treatment does not, however, detract from their artistic merit, for both the Beethoven and the Dvorák performances are pretty magnificent. And since the price is "two for one," just grab this set and consider the extra disc a worthwhile bonus. --David Hurwitz

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Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Among the best performances of both works July 15 2004
Format:Audio CD
I could save myself a lot of writing and opining and just strongly second everything Cantabile has written. I would add however that for someone who really likes the romantic side of Beethoven, Gilels may not be for you. His playing may seem cool and not very emotionally involved in the music. In this as with most piano literature, Gilels takes a more detached point of view and concentrates on clarity and balanced proportion of melody, harmony and rhythm, less on excitement or emotion, though not really lacking in either respect. His technique is prodigious. This can be thrilling, and here it certainly is, accompanied by a like-minded and similarly exacting conductor in Szell.
A word about the sound. Severance Hall, where Szell and Cleveland performed and recorded, is on the dry side acoustically (which in itself can be a good thing or not). Columbia/CBS, the label that made by far the greatest number of albums with Cleveland during the Szell years, tended to record more up close and goose up the dynamic and that accentuated the dryness, sometimes to the point of harshness. (Fortunately the CD reissues on Sony Classics have gone back to the original master tapes and restored a more natural balance to the sound.) EMI recorded this album, and they aimed for and got a more pleasing, balanced and I think warmer sound without sacrificing clarity. Bottom line, though more than thirty years old, this Gilels/Szell recording is among the best sonically because it doesn't get in the way of the performers, rather captures them at their best and most flattering.
I hope this adds something to what Cantabile wrote that may be helpful to anyone considering trying this CD.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.3 out of 5 stars  6 reviews
15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fine performances, poor programming by EMI Aug. 15 2001
By J. Buxton - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
This is another strange example of how classical music distribution at least in the U.S. just makes no sense. Currently EMI has chosen to distribute the Gilels/Szell/Cleveland Orchestra set of Beethoven Piano Concertos nos. 1-4 in the U.S., but NOT Concerto no. 5 "Emperor" which is contained here. This makes no logical sense. This last concerto along with Dvorak's Eighth is NOT out of print, but is simply not distributed in the U.S. I know it is available in Europe because I just purchased it in London. It is a shame EMI has chosen to break up the set of concertos because this "Emperor" is one of the best around today with crisp, detailed, characterful playing from Gilels and unusually sharp and energetic playing from the Cleveland Orchestra under Szell. Together with concertos 1-4 this set in my opinion rivals the Kovacevich/Davis set on Philips for its consistently good sound and glorious pianism. The Dvorak Eighth, although an unusual coupling, is very enjoyable. Szell recorded this symphony earlier for CBS Masterworks, and if you own that one there is no need to go for this one as they are almost identical readings. The only advantage here is the superior sound quality. Szell of course had a special affinity with Dvorak, and the central section of the third movement shows the Cleveland strings in all their glory and the folk song nature of this symphony comes through well. All in all these performances are recommended highly, but I have deducted one star for EMI's poor planning.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Among the best performances of both works July 15 2004
By Thomas E Gossard - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD|Verified Purchase
I could save myself a lot of writing and opining and just strongly second everything Cantabile has written. I would add however that for someone who really likes the romantic side of Beethoven, Gilels may not be for you. His playing may seem cool and not very emotionally involved in the music. In this as with most piano literature, Gilels takes a more detached point of view and concentrates on clarity and balanced proportion of melody, harmony and rhythm, less on excitement or emotion, though not really lacking in either respect. His technique is prodigious. This can be thrilling, and here it certainly is, accompanied by a like-minded and similarly exacting conductor in Szell.
A word about the sound. Severance Hall, where Szell and Cleveland performed and recorded, is on the dry side acoustically (which in itself can be a good thing or not). Columbia/CBS, the label that made by far the greatest number of albums with Cleveland during the Szell years, tended to record more up close and goose up the dynamic and that accentuated the dryness, sometimes to the point of harshness. (Fortunately the CD reissues on Sony Classics have gone back to the original master tapes and restored a more natural balance to the sound.) EMI recorded this album, and they aimed for and got a more pleasing, balanced and I think warmer sound without sacrificing clarity. Bottom line, though more than thirty years old, this Gilels/Szell recording is among the best sonically because it doesn't get in the way of the performers, rather captures them at their best and most flattering.
I hope this adds something to what Cantabile wrote that may be helpful to anyone considering trying this CD.
3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Famous last words May 6 2010
By Jurgen Lawrenz - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
Apart from the ridiculous idea of putting these works on one album, there are demerits in the performances as well. I recall Szell saying (or being quoted) that Gilels' last Beethoven concerto album was a thing of poor recording technology and justified a new recording. Famous last words! The orchestral sound on this recording is excessively hard, shrill and papery, which makes for very unpleasant listening. Then Szell, in his usual manner, drives the work like a steam engine running downhill -- no wonder Gilels felt singularly uninspired that day. Of his three modern stereo recordings, this is the worst. In fact, the old EMI recording even sounds better, despite the aged technology Beethoven : Piano Concertos 4 & 5 'Emperor'. The best of the threesome is, however, his Cologne recording with Gunter Wand conducting Beethoven: Piano Concerto in E flat Major, Op. 73; Ouverture Coriolan, Op. 62; Ouverture Fidelio, Op. 72. Some of the youthful exuberance is gone; it is more masterful than inspired; but at least it sounds good.
The Dvorak symphony has been extolled in the press. But this is my review, and I demur. I can't see anything especially "idiomatic" in this reading; it's just George Szell having a more relaxed day than usual. But this entailed repressing the brass, for which Dvorak wrote some glorious stuff in this work. Without the horns ringing out in their golden tones, I miss everything Dvorakian. Much better readings are not scarce-- one of them is Sawallisch with the Philadelphia Orchestra Dvorak: Symphonies 8 & 9.
Somehow I get the impression that EMI decided to package two of their mediocre recording together -- as if two wrongs made one right. Doesn't work for me!
5.0 out of 5 stars This is one of the finest recording duo of Szell and Gieles, but.... Dec 11 2012
By Musictu Myear - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD|Verified Purchase
Put this performances of Beethoven masterpiece against any others and you'll know why this is perfectly performed by all. Szell's calm and not rushed, but electrifying conducting of this orchestra is simply mesmerizing. But it is the piano playing of Gieles that is hailed as perhaps greatest performance of this fifth concerto, ever. As much as I love this important recording, the remastering of this original could seriously have been much better. I will say that I'm very thankful that this recording is available in a CD form after having only a record album for decades, but for publishing this disc without doing a better job in remastering, EMI should be ashamed and embarrased! .
2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Dvorak is enjoyable, but Gilels and Szell are undistinguished in the 'Emperor' June 8 2006
By Santa Fe Listener - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
Pace the two reviewers below who love these recordings, Gilels made a much more vigorous and involving version of the Emperor Concerto with Leopold Ludwig in 1957 (now an EMI Great Recording of the Century)), and Szell made a classic one with Leon Fleisher in the early Sixties for Columbia/Sony. Why this remake is so cautious, to the point of being tepid, no one knows. Gilels got more staid with age. The other four concertos in their complete Beethoven cycle for EMI are much the same, so clearly these two renowned artists agreed on the approach. Every movement is done with first-rate musicianship, but there's no spark or inner life--listen to how they sleepwalk through the slow movement and the lack of panache in the finale. Critics were less than impressed, as they remain to this day.

Szell counted Dvorak among his strongest composers, and Sony has reissued his Dvorak Eighth Sym. many times, including on their pretigious Masterworks Heritage line. This remake for EMI remains in the Szell style--precise, steady in tempo, and unsentimental--which for me is much less desirable than the warmer, heartfelt approach of Bruno Walter and Istvan Kertesz. But on its own terms it's impressive, and of course the Cleveland Orch. plays with beauty and great discipline--perhaps too much for this genial work. Szell's tempos had become a touch slack in old age, but the performance represents his cool, objective way quite faithfully.
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