Every major conductor, and most not-so-major ones, comes around to recording Eine kleine Nachtmusik, but not so many do it as well as George Szell and the Cleveland Orchestra strings. And let’s face it, you won’t find a period-instrument ensemble that plays with anything like this level of polish. The fact is, Szell’s conception of Mozart was not terribly far from “period” sensibilities: restrained use of vibrato, incisive rhythms, crisp ensemble, lively tempos, but also a welcome degree of warmth to the sound and of course incredible ensemble discipline and some of the best players on the planet. And he had real period instruments, meaning performers who owned top quality old violins and bows, not inferior modern reproductions of them. The result is as lovely a performance of Mozart’s perennially delicious Serenade as we are ever likely to hear.
Walton's Variations on a Theme of Hindemith is the symphonic masterpiece of his late years. Hindemith himself loved it… George Szell's performance is simply definitive. In fact, I would go out on a limb and say that purely in terms of the technical quality of the playing, this is one of the top ten classical recordings ever made. It's so close to perfection as to be beyond criticism. -Editorial Reviews - Amazon.com
Superb… Szell shows the utmost sensitivity to every facet of the music… His interpretation is backed by flawless playing by the Cleveland Orchestra. – The Gramophone
George Szell leads taut, energetic, and texturally detailed performances of both symphonies–no surprise to anyone familiar with the other discs in this series. Victor Carr Jr
Editorial Reviews - Amazon.com
George Szell's Beethoven Ninth is not the sort of cosmic display that Wilhelm Furtwängler and other members of the German "Romantic" school made of it, but taken on its own terms it's a lean and mean performance full of power and drama. The Cleveland Orchestra plays with its customary expertise and Szell caps the performance with a smoking rendition of the finale–great choral singing, and an irresistible forward momentum. A great performance. –David Hurwitz
George Szell brings classical lightness and drive to Beethoven's early symphony, all the while pointing up the composer's daring formal and harmonic inventiveness…. Szell's Pastorale is one of the great recordings, full of feeling and sinuous beauty. Victor Carr Jr
For decades Szell's Beethoven cycle has been justly hailed as one of the best on discs, and the reasons are clear: lively and dramatic interpretations that are true to the Beethovenian spirit married to simply spectacular orchestral playing.
Victor Carr Jr.
The benchmark recording of Beethoven Piano concertos with incomparable Leon Fleisher and George Szell.
As one customer form amazon.com wrote: “This is an outstanding recording. Leon Fleischer and George Szell are a match made in heaven. The standouts in this collection are the Beethoven 4th and the Mozart 25th. George Szell was one of the absolute best conductors of concerti. The musicality and ensemble playing are flawless. The recording of the Mozart 25th is the best I've ever heard. Don't overlook one of Mozart's later masterpieces played so flawlessly. This particular work comes off best with a large modern orchestra,like the CSO, as opposed to a smaller ensemble. Great performances!”
Other reviews from Amazon.com
The terms "classic" and "definitive", so overused that they are in danger of losing their meaning, absolutely apply to these recordings. The Fleisher/Szell Brahms Piano Concertos, recorded in 1958 and 1962, had not been available since their 1980s incarnation as Odyssey LPs. Now, in amazingly solid, vibrant remastered sound Sony has resurrected these mighty performances, which along with Fleisher's Beethoven concerto recordings, are vital documents of this pianist's early prowess - stunning technique, penetrating musicianship, and well-channeled passion. Szell's fiery, tempestuous reading of the Piano Concerto No. 1's orchestral score (with a riled up Cleveland Orchestra) has never been surpassed, let alone equaled, not even by Szell himself in his subsequent recordings. Fleisher and Szell present the Second Concerto in a grandly classical manner, relating it to Beethoven's Emperor and avoiding the massiveness and bulk of some more recent interpretations. Here the pianist tellingly combines wit and intelligence with a powerful sense of urgency. The same goes for the appended Waltzes and Handel Variations from 1956, which Fleisher plays with such brilliance that we can't wait for the next passage. Sony has jettisoned the original cardboard packaging for the more sturdy jewel box, hence this new review. Whether paper or plastic, get these great performances while you still can
- Victor Carr; Classicstoday.com