An acclaimed reading, but it doesn't reach for Beethoven's s
Santa Fe Listener | Santa Fe, NM USA | 01/03/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Given how much one listener's tastes can change, I have to remind myself that when it came out on LP in the early Sixties, I really admired Szell's Pastorale Sym. It was cut from the same mold as Toscanini's but seemed less intense and hectic (two qualities that haven't worn well in Toscanini's approach). Szell's reading hasn't changed--it's a model of disciplined ensemble, perfect balance, and impeccable taste--but I must have, becasue I keep missing the humor, warmth, and expressed joy in this symphony. Scine those are all subjective qualities, I won't offer them as anything else.
The Pastorale is a particularly difficult work for many conductors, and the gorgeous playing here is quite relazed, especially for Szell. He outdoes great competitors like Karajan (fast and bloodless), Giulini (heavy-handed), Bohm (dawdles) and Klemperer (stiff). All made renowned recordings of this symphony, so Szell has given us an outstanding CD, no doubt. Sony certainly should remaster it, but compared to the original LP on Epic, this transfer is quite an improvement. As for a five-star recommendation, no one bids fair to improve upon Bruno Walter with the Columbia Sym., also on Sony, and for sheer depth of expression there are a number of Furtwangler performances, all slow and in poor-to-middling mono."
Landmark Pastoral Performance
Michael B. Richman | Portland, Maine USA | 03/31/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I bought the Sony Essential Classics disc of this Beethoven title, and the one coupling Beethoven Symphonies No. 2 and No. 5, in order to get CD performances of the first two Beethoven symphonies. I just never could find a decent disc that coupled the first two symphonies, and owning so many other Beethoven symphonies already, I didn't want to buy a boxed set of the cycle just for his two earliest efforts. The way I looked at it, for the cost of one full-price CD coupling the first two Beethoven symphonies, I could buy these two budget line discs and get two famous readings of Beethoven's seminal symphonies, the 5th and 6th, tossed in as a bonus.Of course, most of you will be purchasing this title for the 6th, or Pastoral Symphony as it is also known, and not the 1st, so I guess it would be prudent to speak of the merits of this landmark performance by George Szell and the Cleveland Orchestra. While I am not the most qualified person to compare and contrast the subtleties of recordings by different artists or orchestras, I do feel comfortable doing it with such a familiar piece as Beethoven's 6th. For the record, I own four performances of what is one the greatest symphonies ever written, the Pastoral -- Bohm's delightful account on DG Originals, Bernstein's coupling with the 8th as part of the "Bernstein Century" series, an old copy of Toscanini's Beethoven Cycle on vinyl (which I grew up on), and now this Szell title. All of these recordings have their subtle differences, the most notable being the way Bernstein draws out the first two movements in his performance with the New York Philharmonic. But with the exception of the Toscanini, which is an older set recorded in mono, any of the three titles (Bohm, Bernstein or Szell) will make for a wonderful addition to any classical collection, beginner or advanced. If anything distinguishes the Szell from the other two (aside from the fact that this disc is budget line and the other two are mid-price) is his consistent, straightforward, lean and mean readings of the great works, from Haydn to Schumann and Beethoven to Brahms. Sorry for the pun, but Szell is always a great buy."