Szell's View Of Haydn's "London" Symphonies
John Kwok | New York, NY USA | 12/06/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is a collection of Szell's best 1950's and 1960's recordings of Haydn's "London" symphonies with the Cleveland Orchestra. Szell wields his ensemble so that it sounds more like a large chamber orchestra, than a full-fledged symphony orchestra of approximately 100 musicians. These are extermely well polished, riveting performances that hold up well against those conducted by the likes of Leonard Bernstein and Sir Colin Davis. The sound quality is exceptional due to the latest state-of-the-art digital remastering of the original stereo analogue recordings. Without question, this is an excellent CD to add to your collection."
Don't miss this one
Ryan Richards | Midland, MI United States | 02/15/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Although George Szell came to Haydn relatively late in his career, he produced some of the most definitive recordings of that master's work. Szell's keen ear for transparency of texture and rhythmic "punch" at key moments works to make his Haydn recordings truly illuminative, and this recording illustrates that quality perhaps better than any other (even though I take issue with one of the symphonies). Let me start with the 98th Symphony, Szell's interpretation of which I agree with the least. Technically the orchestra is extremely proficient (needless to say), and Szell imparts a vivacious energy with swift tempi and sharp attacks, but I just don't feel he plumbs the depths of this symphony and all its contradictions: the dark gravitas of the opening with the festive grandeur of the rest of the first movement, the pathos of the slow movement and the buoyancy of the minuet and finale. Listen to Adam Fischer's recording of this piece to hear what Szell's missing, particularly the cunning humor of the last couple minutes of the finale, where Haydn "breaks it down" at a slower tempo.
Otherwise, this disc is golden. This recording of the 97th Symphony is a different one than was released on Sony's Essential Classics label, coming from a recording session ten years earlier. Although the sound on this recording, as a result, doesn't have the immediacy or richness in the bass of the later effort, I find it more compelling for its marginally swifter tempi and greater sense of spontaneity and freedom - the orchestra doesn't sound as reined in as they would ten years later. It's a very compelling reading that brings to light all the carefully crafted quirks of Haydn's orchestration.
And the 99th Symphony on this CD is sublime, easily the best I've ever heard. Szell puts such careful attention into revealing all the small details in this symphony, and his approach works wonders - particularly in the finale, where the sheer number of notes often overwhelms interpretive points the conductor is trying to make. Not so here - Szell's orchestra is honed to razor-sharp precision, and they set each note firmly in place with a vivacity and confidence that's stunning. This CD is worth the purchase just for this symphony.
Sonically speaking, the 98th Symphony sounds noticeably better than either of the others (probably a result of its being recorded several years later), but all three are definitely listenable; certainly they've benefited from the remastering. If you want to hear Cleveland at the peak of its "Mozart Sound" applying their considerable talents to Haydn, this is the CD you don't want to miss."
The Genius Of Haydn, The Perfectionism Of Szell
Erik North | San Gabriel, CA USA | 08/17/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Though he could be something of a tyrant as a conductor (cut as he was from the same cloth as Arturo Toscanini), there is no question that the twenty-four seasons that George Szell spent as the music director of the Cleveland Orchestra, from 1946 until his death in July 1970, molded that once-provincial ensemble into an orchestra that rivalled its counterparts in Vienna and Berlin. Franz Joseph Haydn was one of those composers he put a special emphasis on, as can be evidenced on this recording.
Covered in this recording are three symphonies that fall roughly in the middle of Haydn's classic London symphonies, Nos. 97, 98, & 99. The first and last ones were recorded in 1957, at the time that Szell's impact on the orchestra began paying rich dividends; while No. 98 was recorded in October 1969, during Szell's final full season. As always with Szell, this recording shows how he had turned the Cleveland Orchestra into a well-callibrated machine without sounding like a soulless American clone of either the Vienna Philharmonic or the Berlin Philharmonic. Haydn's wit and compositional savvy shine on this recording, which Szell, who might be considered completely opposite in temperament from the composer, brings out in spades.
The remastering job done by CBS/Sony on these recordings, which date from up to half a century ago, is magnificent, recorded as they were at the orchestra's home at Severance Hall. Highly recommended to anyone interested in this conductor/orchestra combine, and the immortal genius of Haydn."