"Something that bothers me is the way people on this site criticize the recordings of the great conductors of the 20th century as if they were done by amateur musicians. Bohm, Karajan, Szell, Solti, Bernstein, Furtwangler, Ormandy, Klieber, Jochum, Toscanini, Klemperer, Walter; these were the great men of the greatest age of recorded music. These were the giants and legends struggling to find meaning in Beethoven when Beethoven still mattered to everyone. Now very few people care about classical music (at least in the United States), and interest in it is seen as elitist. Maybe part of the reason is that a lot of the people who listen are pompous and try to tell everyone not what's good and what's not, but rather who is good and who's not (i.e. "Bernstein is the most overrated conductor of the 20th century" or "Toscanini's conducting isn't emotionally searching"). Okay, that's my diatribe against the jerks on this site who try to dissuade you from making up your own mind. Now to this recording. I'm 24 now, and Beethoven has been my favorite composer since my father gave me a copy of Muti's cycle 11 years ago. My father grew up with the cycle by Szell and I used to listen to his childhood cycle on his record player. Even at a young age I knew there was something very special about Szell. If you like the 9th taken at swift tempos, than you will love this recording. If you like it played more slowly, this is not the recording for you. I like it both ways once I adjust my mind and try to go along with the conductor's vision. Szell's conducting is austere yet magisterial. This is Beethoven the king as compared to Furtwangler's romantic hero Beethoven. One thing I appreciate about Szell is the precision he demands of his orchestra. Everyone is playing together at the maestro's tempo and on the maestro's page. The recording is good for its age. All the instruments are clear (I especially love the percussion in the second movement). Overall, this is a wonderful recording of the greatest of all symphonies by the greatest of all symphonists. The price is also very attractive. Bravo maestro Szell, bravo Cleveland Orchestra, and bravo Sony."
Michael B. Richman | Portland, Maine USA | 01/13/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"In the 1950s and 60s, CBS/Columbia (now Sony Classical) had the great fortune to have three of America's best orchestras and their conductors on their recording roster -- Leonard Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic, Eugene Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra, and George Szell and the Cleveland Orchestra. Nearly a half-century later, only Leonard Bernstein remains a name that even the non-classical music world knows. But in the world of the compact disc, this is a wonderful thing, because while Leonard Bernstein analog stereo recordings sell at mid-price, classic performances by Ormandy and Szell are regulated to the budget line. Well, my friends there is justice in the world because the vast majority of these "budget line" recordings are not only amazing, but some are still considered definitive more than 40 years later! One such definitive performance is this Szell recording of Beethoven's 9th Symphony, and in fact the whole cycle is still something at which to marvel. Never did something of such high quality come at such a small price. Enjoy!"
Great performance, horrid sound
J. Gillon | North Carolina | 03/23/2007
(3 out of 5 stars)
"The Szell cycle on LP was my inaugural classical music purchase in the early 70s. I know these are great performances, but the sound quality here is no better than my vinyl discs produced when I abandoned them in the mid 80s. If you're just looking for a great, brisk 9th, try Gunter Wand and the NDR. If you're looking for a complete set, you can spend the extra $ and get the more recently remastered Szell cycle (ASIN: B0002CHK6I - I haven't heard these iterations but reviews suggest they're a huge improvement over previous remasterings). Or you can save some money and purchase the world class Zinman/Tonhalle cycle for a fraction of the price.
Five stars for the wonderful memories. Two stars off for really poor audio quality."
De lo mejor!!
felipe | Chile | 11/22/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"George Szell al igual que Eugene Ormandy fueron los grandes de su epoca, claro que postergados por la fama de idolos como Karajan, Bernstein y otros, pero sin lugar a dudas lo máximo en dirección orquestal. Este CD que incluye una portentosa 9ª sinfonia no tiene comparación es ciertamente genial, increiblemente arrolladora, es como Szell pulcra y recta, una grabación sin igual, de verdad una sinfonia coral como quisieramos oir siempre, es majestuosa y potente, vibrante, elocuente y sin exagerar cercana a la perfección. Los primeros acordes nos muestran el primer fulgor de la gran orquesta de Cleveland, el scherzo es fortissimo, el adagio bello, y para finalizar coro y orquesta en una presentación incomparable. Se añade la overtura Fidelio (una de las que se conocen) muy alegre y vivaz. De Szell se dice que ensaya hasta la espontaneidad, en esta sinfonia es sencillamente inigualable."
"Goldilocks" Recording of the Ninth
Neil Cotiaux | North Canton, Ohio United States | 11/02/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"After spending about one-half hour reading dozens of reviews of various recordings of the Ninth including the reviews posted here, I settled upon this treatment. I am not in the least disappointed, and for me, where it counts - in the second and third movements - I am absolutely delighted.
Throughout this performance, we witness an abundance of balance: of pace, movement by movement; of instrumentation; and importantly, between orchestra and chorus in the final two movements. Cleveland does not dawdle where it should sprint, but it does not race helter-skelter and lose nuance, either; and in the third movement, all the subtle juices are squeezed out slowly and allowed to flow emotionally. It's a wonderful feeling to sense an electric charge (or two) from their interpretation of the second (one of the best I've heard), then pull back and let Cleveland's shadings in the third cascade over you.
As a contrarian who has for some reason never genuinely been excited about the role of the chorus and its counterpoint with the orchestra (yes, a watershed in musical history that leaves many enraptured), I will simply state that the balance between orchestra and the forceful yet not overpowering vocals is carefully and pleasingly executed. The one major reservation that I had going into this purchase was Sony's role, as I had been less than impressed with their work on Slatkin's take of The Planets and satisfied, but not delighted with a Bernstein retrospective; but Sony does Cleveland's sound full justice and provides both clarity and cleanliness.
In summary, "Goldilocks": Not too slow and not too fast in the appropriate places, just right in the mixing of sections of the orchestra and orchestra and voice, and on balance, clean and polished, given the state of the original recording."