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A treat for Szell fans28 Dec. 2013
- Published on Amazon.com
While this DVD doe not fill in any holes in Szell's discography -- he recorded all of these pieces in studio with Cleveland -- it does provide a rare opportunity to watch Szell conduct, and conduct an orchestra that wasn't the Cleveland Orchestra.
It's also especially fitting the one of the performances captured on video is Walton's "Hindemith Variations," and that Walton was present at this concert and called to stage to take a bow. The "Variations" was probably Szell's favorite contemporary piece of music. After he conducted it for the first time in Cleveland during the 62-63 season, he conducted it again in 4 out of the next 6 seasons. I doubt there are many other instances of a conductor programming a new piece of music season after season like it were a Beethoven symphony.
The interpretations of the three pieces on this DVD (also included are the Bruckner 3 and "Eine Kleine Nachtmusik") are not much different than the studio versions made with Cleveland (and they're a bit more polished thanks to being studio recordings).
Recorded sound is serviceable. The Walton and Mozart are from 12/68. While the sound is clear with a good bit of presence, there's a high pitched buzz throughout the performances. It's not that loud and becomes white noise after a little bit, but it is there. The Bruckner is from 6/66 and is coarser, with distortions -- most noticeable when the brass are playing loudly. The sound is unfortunately nowhere need as good as the quality of radio broadcast recordings from this era -- and ORF's tended to be pretty good.
In sum, this disc is for Szell fans -- they'll delight in getting to watch him conduct. For everyone else, stick with the Cleveland studio recordings of these pieces.