Little or nothing stands in the way of this sweeping account of Beethoven's Third ("Eroica") Symphony, though some might feel that in certain places during the first movement Szell is excessively driven. Some of the chords seem to be expressed with near vehemence, nevertheless, it is hard to deny that there is some measure of satisfaction with the kind of power and excitement generated by Szell, who appears to be in top form. In the ensuing funeral march that same feeling of power is wedded to an intense level of tragic and majestic expression. As in the first movement, horns assume a dominant role. At times, it seems, a kind of muted tension is present. Though different in some ways from Bohm's characterization, Szell's ceremony is nonetheless still very convincing. It displays high drama. Bohm's places greater emphasis on the sorrow of the occasion. When it comes to the scherzo, Szell has it hands down over Bohm, who just doesn't offer the former's intensity and tautness. Moreover, the Cleveland horns, once more, are commanding. Szell's forceful style advances straight to the final movement, where , for the most part, I favor Bohm's less driven and, I feel, more melodious rendition. But OH those Cleveland horns ! In the last movement, as the final sections approach, Szell uses them to impart an awesome sense of stature. The close is blazing, and the final chord is quickly bitten off. Interpretively, I prefer the sound of the more well rounded yet still emphatic final chord. In sum, though different in character from the Bohm/Vienna Philharmonic "Eroica" (see my review), I still consider the Szell/Cleveland to be among the best Beethoven Thirds.
In the Eighth, Szell again offers a concise reading, but though very well played, I find his view of this work a little too cut-and-dried. It won't do for repeated listening. By contrast, Bruno Walter's first two movements are more fluid and musical, but his third movement gets a little too "chummy" for me, and his third and fourth are a little too soft. My current choice in this symphony is the 1962 Karajan. When called for, he is able to combine the tautness and drive of Szell with the musicality of Walter. At times, his presentation seems a bit larger than life, but it has a sense of sweep that is attractive. Noteworthy also is the relaxed elegance Karajan brings to the third movement menuetto.