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
The benchmark performance of Slavonic Dances - now remastered!
"Exuberant, elegant and marvelously played …The charisma of the playing is unforgettable and …the warm acoustics of Severance Hall ensure the consistency of the orchestral sound." - Penguin Guide
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
After a slew of second-rate Slavonic Dances recordings, it's gratifying to once again make acquaintance with this classic Szell reading. Yes, the sound's a bit harsh and shallow, but boy, you just don't find performances as exciting and well played as these every day. Szell conducts enthusiastically and enlivens the music with a natural poetic inflection and nuance, while the Cleveland Orchestra takes to these pieces as if bred to play them. Listen to the delightfully bright woodwind tone in Op. 46 Nos. 1, 3, and 4, the sweetly singing strings in Op. 72 No. 1, the dancing lilt of Op. 46 No. 6, or the beautifully sculpted phrasing of Op. 72 No. 8. Plus, Szell is the only conductor on disc to play the opening repeat of Op. 72 No. 7 after the introductory bars (which otherwise is an awkward "restart" that, in the score or no, makes little musical sense). No matter which Slavonic Dances recording you own (even great ones like Kubelik, and Neumann) you simply must not do with out this magnificent Essential Classics release.
–Victor Carr Jr. classicstoday.com
Editorial Reviews - Amazon.com
The brilliant, energetic readings of Robert Casadesus and George Szell set a standard for this repertory that has yet to be surpassed. Dramatic and tightly wound, but never dry or unsmiling, these accounts combine grace and lucidity with an almost operatic lyricism, and remain among the most satisfying and evocative in the catalog. The sound is dry but firm and detailed, and Sony has done an excellent job of remastering. –Ted Libbey
For this Fifth Symphony is one of the great ones: magnificently played (of course), urgent and dynamic in the first movement, passionate but always flowing in the second, elegant in the waltz, and triumphant but never needlessly bombastic in the finale… This is a release that Szell fans will surely want to acquire, assuming of course that you don't already own one of its prior incarnations. - David Hirwitz
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