Yes, a good thing can come out of Cleveland ...

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slofstra
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Yes, a good thing can come out of Cleveland ...

Post by slofstra » Sat Jul 23, 2016 4:18 pm

although probably not last week.

I purchased a number of the small boxes from Sony's recent Masters series of re-issues, including this one with George Szell conducting the Cleveland Orchestra. You can't ever have too many Beethoven symphony performances, I thought, especially at this price ($12 US/ $15 CDN). And the few Cleveland Orchestra recordings I already have, I really treasure.

Image

This turns out to be one of my favourite traversals of the symphonies. The playing is excellent, and this orchestra hangs tight through the fast passages, and can produce an amazing amount of weight and oomph. The woodwinds and brass sound great, but it's the tight ensemble playing that truly distinguishes these performances.
I particularly liked the 3rd, 4th, 5th and 7th, which are all great performances.
The 1st and 2nd could use a lighter touch, but who cares.
The 6th was the one disappointment. There just wasn't the excitement and sense of drama that I like to hear. Szell is better on the alternate deep brooding and majesty that you find throughout the symphonies - in the 3rd movement of the 5th for example, or the opening movement of the 4th.

The 9th is very good, though far from the best. (1976, von Karajan, BPO, Tomawa-Sinto OR Gardiner). Anyway, Americans can't sing in German, at least not here. The Ninth is in a category of its own, so I'm not deterred by this in recommending the set as a whole.

What do you think? Would this make your top ten list of Beethoven symphony sets? Top three? Leaving the 9th out of the evaluation?

maestrob
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Re: Yes, a good thing can come out of Cleveland ...

Post by maestrob » Sun Jul 24, 2016 12:33 pm

Henry----

I grew up on Toscanini, HVK (1963) and George Szell's Beethoven, and I have a great admiration for all three. Szell's of course is a lighter approach than the heavier Berlin set, and Toscanini is in a class of his own, but Szell put forth a fine example of Beethoven's cycle that I admire to this day, especially the Eroica and the IXth, which, like HVK, clearly shows Toscanini's influence. I just listened to Szell's cycle a few months ago, and was glad to note that my favorable memories were not mistaken. The remastering on the set pictures above brings out the transparancy of the Clevelanders even better than the LPs, which sounded a bit dry to my ears IIRC.

Szell was a phenomenon in his day, and he made many fine recordings.

Heck148
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Re: Yes, a good thing can come out of Cleveland ...

Post by Heck148 » Mon Jul 25, 2016 8:02 am

slofstra wrote: What do you think? Would this make your top ten list of Beethoven symphony sets? Top three? Leaving the 9th out of the evaluation?
Szell was a fine conductor of Beethoven, and his orchestra is great, one of the best ever...I esp like Syms 2,4,6 and 7...his overtures are terrific also - esp the great Leonore #3...
Szell is sometimes criticized, with some justification, for being too restrained, to "tightened down"....but when he lets the orchestra go, and everyone is on...the results are quite spectacular...

slofstra
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Re: Yes, a good thing can come out of Cleveland ...

Post by slofstra » Tue Jul 26, 2016 8:25 am

Heck148 wrote:
slofstra wrote: What do you think? Would this make your top ten list of Beethoven symphony sets? Top three? Leaving the 9th out of the evaluation?
Szell was a fine conductor of Beethoven, and his orchestra is great, one of the best ever...I esp like Syms 2,4,6 and 7...his overtures are terrific also - esp the great Leonore #3...
Szell is sometimes criticized, with some justification, for being too restrained, to "tightened down"....but when he lets the orchestra go, and everyone is on...the results are quite spectacular...
I like the "tight" playing in this set. But, on the other hand, a bit of madness can be good too. The Rattle/VSO Beethoven set is like that, and although it might be too unbuttoned and sloppy for some, it is deliriously exciting to listen to. And HvK's 1976 9th has that quality, perhaps the one time von Karajan let his hair down.

slofstra
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Re: Yes, a good thing can come out of Cleveland ...

Post by slofstra » Tue Jul 26, 2016 8:28 am

maestrob wrote:Henry----

I grew up on Toscanini, HVK (1963) and George Szell's Beethoven, and I have a great admiration for all three. Szell's of course is a lighter approach than the heavier Berlin set, and Toscanini is in a class of his own, but Szell put forth a fine example of Beethoven's cycle that I admire to this day, especially the Eroica and the IXth, which, like HVK, clearly shows Toscanini's influence. I just listened to Szell's cycle a few months ago, and was glad to note that my favorable memories were not mistaken. The remastering on the set pictures above brings out the transparancy of the Clevelanders even better than the LPs, which sounded a bit dry to my ears IIRC.

Szell was a phenomenon in his day, and he made many fine recordings.
Indeed, the remastering is excellent and at $15 for the set, an unbeatable bargain.

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