Review: Szell’s tenure in Cleveland, in 106 CDs

Posted on: August 23, 2018

“When George Szell died, in 1970, he was revered for having built the Cleveland Orchestra into one of the world’s great ensembles in a 24-year tenure that began in 1946,” writes Allan Kozinn in Wednesday’s (8/22) Wall Street Journal. “The chemistry between [Szell and the orchestra] consistently yielded both heat and light. Their recordings for the Epic and CBS Masterworks labels, starting in 1947, were exemplary in their day, and they remain so now, a point Sony Classical makes vividly in its 106-CD ‘George Szell: The Complete Columbia Album Collection,’ out now…. Mammoth boxes like this, which have become plentiful lately … provide the eerie sense that you are holding the full shape and substance of a great musician’s career in your hands…. Szell’s specialty was the Romantic repertory. His Beethoven and Brahms Symphonies remain among the most tightly reasoned and precisely executed on the market, and his collaborations on those composers’ piano concertos, with Leon Fleisher, are still the gold standard…. Lately, the sweep of reductive history has elevated Arturo Toscanini, Leonard Bernstein and Herbert von Karajan to almost mythic status…. The new Sony box is a reminder, disc for disc, that Szell deserves a place in that pantheon.”

Posted August 23, 2018