George Szell

George Szell conducts Beethoven, Bruckner

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George Szell conducts Beethoven, Bruckner Review

by James Leonard

The truth of the matter is that the Dresden Staatskapelle was not altogether polished or entirely together during these live performances from the Salzburg Festivals of 1961 and 1965. The truth of the matter is that George Szell was not completely comfortable with the orchestra and that his conducting here was not always impeccable. The truth of the matter is that the sound of these live performances is not nearly in the same class as studio recordings from the same period and that, for some listeners, the audience's palpable presence may sometimes be intrusive. The truth of the matter is that if this sort of thing bothers you, you should stay away from these recordings. But the truth of the matter is that, in the end, none of this matters because, ultimately, these performances are what great musicmaking is all about -- passionately powerful, relentlessly intense, and overwhelmingly compelling. While the Staatskapelle and Szell may not be the match Rudolf Kempe and the Staatskapelle or Szell and the Cleveland, they are still consummate musicians who turn in performances of incredible strength, unbelievable concentration, and unbearable soulfulness. Because while it is true that there are better performances of all these works -- Szell's own Beethoven recordings with the Cleveland and the Staatskapelle's recording of Bruckner's Third with Eugen Jochum -- these performances, taken on their own, are as good as it gets in this world -- just not altogether polished or completely impeccable.

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