New book spotlights one of Cleveland Orchestra’s most important conductors

Posted on: July 29, 2011

In Wednesday’s (7/27) Plain Dealer, Zachary Lewis writes, “So much of what we now take for granted about the Cleveland Orchestra traces back to George Szell: musical fastidiousness, high audition standards and open invitations to halls and festivals around the globe. … Michael Charry’s new biography, ‘George Szell: A Life of Music,’ is long overdue. Others have written extensively about the larger-than-life orchestra director, but Charry, a former assistant conductor here, is the first to complete a full text on an artist who indisputably resides in the musical pantheon.  Szell’s tenure at the helm of the orchestra from 1946 to 1970 is widely credited for elevating the ensemble to its place among the so-called ‘Big Five’ in the U.S., ranking alongside the greatest groups in Europe. … Szell could be downright cruel at home. In his dealings with musicians, he was fiercely autocratic, dictating not just how and what the artists played but also what they ate, wore and did in their spare time. … Few directors could get away with such behavior today, but Szell’s power rested on the strength of the final product. Of the countless reviews Charry quotes, only a small handful are less than glowing, and most only charge Szell with excessive rehearsal.”

Posted July 29, 2011