George Szell Plays and Conducts Mozart

George Szell

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George Szell Plays and Conducts Mozart Review

by James Leonard

"The borderline is very thin between clarity and coolness, self-discipline and severity," conductor George Szell once remarked to a friend. "There exists different nuances of warmth -- from the chaste warmth of Mozart to the sensuous warmth of Tchaikovsky." Chaste warmth are the watchwords of this fabulous collection of Szell's Mozart recordings for Columbia made from the late '40s through the mid-'60s. Featuring not only his stereo recordings of six symphonies but his earlier monaural recordings of three symphonies as well as recordings of diverse overtures, divertimentos, serenades, and concertos with the Cleveland Orchestra plus recordings of four violin sonatas with violinist Rafael Druian and the two piano quartets with members of the Budapest Quartet, this 10-disc collection is a veritable cornucopia of chaste warmth. What exactly is chaste warmth? Listen to the strings -- to their slim vibrato, to their tight attacks, to their crisp releases. Listen to the winds -- to their pure intonation, to their bright colors, to their warm blend. Listen to the brass -- to their brilliant clarity, to their reserved strength, to their poised power. But most of all, listen to Szell's interpretations as either a conductor or a pianist -- to the matchless lucidity of their articulation, to the ideal lyricism of their phrasing, to the perfect balance of their sonorities, to the consummate musicality of their insights. This is, beyond all argument, Mozart playing of the highest order and anyone who loves the little man from Salzburg should hear these performances, especially in Sony's superlative remastering.

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