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Strauss: Don Quixote / Horn Concerto 1 / Don Juan
Richard Strauss, George Szell, Cleveland Orchestra
Strauss: Don Quixote / Horn Concerto 1 / Don Juan
Genre: Classical
 
  •  Track Listings (17) - Disc #1

George Szell, although a friend and colleague of Strauss, was not an uncritical admirer of his music. Then again, Szell was probably not an uncritical admirer of anything. That's why he is arguably one of this century's ...  more »

     
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George Szell, although a friend and colleague of Strauss, was not an uncritical admirer of his music. Then again, Szell was probably not an uncritical admirer of anything. That's why he is arguably one of this century's two or three greatest conductors. Don Quixote is widely regarded as Strauss's finest tone poem. For this series of "fantastic variations of a theme of knightly character," the orchestra is typically large, with even a part for wind machine. Much of the writing, however, is very intimate. The Don himself is represented by a solo cello, Sancho by the viola and tenor tuba. This sort of "expanded chamber orchestra" writing is exactly the sort of thing that Szell and Cleveland did better than anyone. The results are, quite simply, unbeatable. --David Hurwitz

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CD Reviews

Superb Strauss
R. J. Claster | Van Nuys, CA United States | 06/23/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Szell is not one of your Strauss conductors who seeks to wallow in the overt sensuousness of his orchestral textures, as Karajan tends to do, or mellow the music out (as if they were composed after Der Rosenkavalier, not before). After all, the major Strauss tone poems were products of his young manhood, and Szell's approach is rather to emphasize the dramatic vitality of these scores and also, to make the often complex lines stand out clearly. More specifically, I find his Don Juan to be the most exciting performance I have yet heard, even more so than Reiner's 1954 recording, for it has more cumulative power, and moreover, is in much better sound (sonically, the '54 Reiner is a lot muddier sounding than his contemporaneous recordings of Ein Heldenleben and Also sprach Zarathustra, both of which have excellent sound). As for Quixote, this performance is swifter, tauter and more sharply etched than either Reiner-Chicago or Karajan's performance on EMI with Rostropovich. It is a pity that Kempe's classic Berlin account with Tortelier is no longer available because that performance combines drama and vividness of textures with a warmth and humanity that somewhat eludes Szell. Finally, the very youthful horn concerto is played immaculately. Highly recommended!"
Szell's Great Richard Strauss recordings
John Kwok | New York, NY USA | 12/03/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)

"This CD unites Szell's finest recordings of Richard Strauss' music with the Cleveland Orchestra; the oldest dates from the early 1960's. These are exceptional performances; Szell's interpretations of Don Quixote and Don Juan are quite simply the finest I have heard. All three recordings are replete with the clear, brisk playing of the Clevelanders, especially with regards to the string and wind sections. Pierre Fournier, one of the 20th Century's greatest cellists, plays with much passion and warmth in his solo passages during "Don Quixote". The Horn Concerto with Myron Bloom as soloist is another splendid performance. Once more, the sound quality is exceptional due to the latest state of the art digital image bit remastering. Fans of George Szell, The Cleveland Orchestra, and Richard Strauss' music will definitely want this CD."
Indispensable evergreen
Jurgen Lawrenz | Sydney, Australia | 05/04/2010
(5 out of 5 stars)

"In the last 60-70 years, there have been many recordings of Don Quixote; but in the final reckoning there are are only three "contenders" -- performances that are each in their own way "just right" and not subject to improvement: Strauss: Don Quixote; Schumann: Cello Concerto / Rostropovich, Karajan, et al; Kempe Conducts Richard Strauss: Volume 3 and this present issue. To separate these as to their virtues is futile and unproductive. Frankly, you are best advised to have all three. Clearly Szell's 1962 recording is not as clear and luminous as the others; but I have to say (as a personal reaction) that this is probably the best-recorded of his discs ever to leave the CBS stable. In fact, you can compare Quixote with Juan on the same album: the latter is top-heavy, with screeching trumpets and fiddles, and I wish they had found another fill-up than this. In contrast, Myron Bloom's mellifluous horn is a joy to listen to.
Orchestra and direction apart -- very lush with Karajan; more dramatic and pointed with both Kempe and Szell -- there is the hero to consider. Fournier may be maginally the best. Hard to put into words: but there is an ineffable touch of noble sentiment to his playing, while Tortelier is more gutsy and earthy, and Rostropovich a little on the larger-than-life side. On all counts, this is a worthwhile investment, guaranteed to give pleasure for the rest of your life.
A note on my prejudices to end (so that you can see where I come from): In any head-on confrontation between Karajan and Szell, I would in 9 out of 10 cases go for Karajan. Don't for one minute believe that Karajan was any less fastidious (or tyrannical) than Szell! And he nearly always enjoyed better sound engineering. But here I would concede that Szell is by a hair-breadth margin the better of the two. So now: go for it! (If you can: I hear the album is being discontinued)."