Best Recording of the Firebird Suite Ever! Buy it Now!
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This recording of the Firebird Suite(1919)with George Szell and the Cleveland Orchestra is easily the greatest recording of this piece in history. Szell meticulously contains the orchestra in the ominous introduction and the ensuing flight and slow movement,making the beginning sound more menacing than any other recording and the slow parts absolutely beautiful. Then he lets the orchestra burst out in the Infernal Dance, hands down the most exciting Infernal Dance ever recorded,one that must be heard to be believed. Szell doesn't need to artificially speed up the tempo as the dance progresses to ratchet up false excitement;his steady tempos are just perfect and complement the virtuosity of this amazing orchestra, especially the brass.All but the most jaded will have their pulses pounding during this Infernal Dance.
(Go to classicstoday.com in the review of the recent Jarvi/Cincinnati Firebird on Telarc to see that they agree with my assessment of the Szell). The ensuing Lullaby is done beautifully and then Szell lets the orchestra rip loose again in the amazing Finale, which again doesn't resort to phony tempo increases to build excitement, but rather relies on the brilliant conducting of Szell and his unbelievable orchestra to create excitement. The Daphnis suite is one of the best I've heard and Ormandy's Petrouchka is flawless but the real treat here is the Firebird. Don't be tempted by the "hi-fi sound" of more recent recordings;sound can't compensate for performance quality. Even if you already own 100 recordings of this piece you must buy this one. The others will pale in comparison."
Solid Performances in Every Way
(5 out of 5 stars)
"These three performances of some of the 20th century's finest ballet scores are excellent, especially for the price. Ormandy's Petrushka perfectly balances the simplicity of the work's folk melodies with the frantic, macabre, atmosphere of the ballet's story. His slow tempos in several sections (The Shrovetide fair at the beginning for example), add a strength and bombast to the work that is lacking when it is hurried through. Szell's recording of the Firebird Suite is just as excellent. The Infernal Dance and Finale are particularly astounding, with the brasses of the Cleveland Orchestra tearing through the dance with energy and drive and putting majesty and triumph in the finale. Finally, there is the Daphnis et Chloe, which again is a solid performance. For the price of this CD and the excellence of the recordings, I highly recommend it."
Hugh Oliver | Provo, UT | 05/17/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Petrouchka really works better in its entirety. In its suite form many highlights are covered but the delightful and mysterious appearance of Petrouchka's ghost at the end is missing. Ormandy takes deliberate tempos throughout, perhaps too slow at times, but the playing of the Philadelphia Orchestra is wonderful. It's very easy to savor the detail that the slower tempos help to spotlight, plus the solo work is superb. One small complaint--the tuba solo in 'The Bear' is not played on tuba here; it sounds like it was done on euphonium. The main show of the CD, and the reason I bought it, is Szell and Cleveland's sizzling performance of the 1919 Firebird Suite. The transparency for which Szell is noted is in abundance, and when the score calls for the orchestra to cut loose--Wow! I've never heard 'Infernal Dance' brass playing as good as this. The trumpet section plays as one, with perfect matching on note lengths and articulation. The precision of the brass in rapidly tongued passages throughout the score is better than any performance of Firebird I've ever heard. Regarding the orchestra as a whole, it is rare to experience such control and excitement working perfectly together. I really can't come up with enough superlatives for this Firebird.
Szell's rendition of Daphnis and Chloe Suite No. 2 is also quite fine.
A comment about this CD's sound quality: I have noticed that many digital recordings have a very wide dynamic range, to the point that, unless one has very expensive, audiophile-type equipment, volume levels have to be adjusted to compensate. On these analog recordings, dating from 1961 and 1964, the sound seems to be just right. Soft passages have plenty of presence and loud passages have plenty of wallop. It would be nice to have more DDD classical recordings done as well as what we have here."
David Saemann | 07/10/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Eugene Ormandy's version of the Petrushka Suite is a bit heavy handed, but the solo playing throughout is terrific and the whole thing is quite idiomatic. Move on to Szell's version of the 1919 Firebird Suite, and you reach perfection itself. Other writers have noted that Szell had the ability to get the Cleveland Orchestra to assume the sound of whatever nation's orchestral music they played. In the Firebird, you could almost do a doubletake and think you're listening to the St. Petersburg Philharmonic. The trumpets make a blaring Russian sound, and the strings are lean and assertive. As an interpretation, Szell's will remind you of Ansermet's take on this work, which is as much as to say that it is highly idiomatic. The only performance I know that's comparable to this is Temirkanov's. In the Daphnis Suite, some tempos are rather fast, not suggesting languor enough, but as a whole the performance is agreeable. The sound throughout the CD is very good, and extremely striking in the Stravinsky. This CD is a great way to experience two of the greatest orchestras in history playing Stravinsky, even if the composer looked down on Ormandy--calling him a good conductor of Johann Strauss."