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Highlights From Ring Of The Nibelungs (Szell) SACD

5.0 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Audio CD (10 April 2000)
  • Please Note: Requires SACD-compatible hardware
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Format: SACD
  • Label: Sony Classical
  • ASIN: B000044U19
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 551,194 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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This is the first remastered SACD that I have bought. The original recordings were made in 1962 and 1968 and the master tapes have been directly transfered onto SACD. I was a little worried that the tape hiss from the old analogue tapes may have been very noticeable - but there is next to none.
The performances by Szell and the Cleveland Orchestra blaze with white-heat intensity - I have never heard such playing in the concert hall let alone CD. If you have never heard these recordings and have invested in SACD, this is the Wagner collection to have. I was transported to the gates of Valhalla!
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I agree with Mr Redpath from Kinloss ! do not hesitate to buy this SACD. Recording quality is first class,and generally speaking so are the performances. The problem for me is whats gone before! With Siegfried's funeral music i miss the "supercharged attack" and sheer drama, as peformed by the L.P.O.under Charles Mackerras;LP CFP 40008 1972,and regarding Die Meistersinger Von Nurnburg, it is the sensationally thrilling account by the New York Philharmonic under Bernstein (CBS 72870 LP),that i cannot get out of my head! As you can probably realise, it's all a matter of taste,and it's why i don't hesitate to recommend this SACD to all.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: HASH(0x9aa74fc0) out of 5 stars 9 reviews
57 of 57 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9a3f8450) out of 5 stars Outstanding; a true classic 4 Oct. 2001
By David A. Kemp - Published on Amazon.com
George Szell (1897-1970), one of the greatest conductors of the twentieth century, was born in Budapest, studied piano, conducting, and composing in Vienna and Berlin, and learned his craft as a conductor in the opera houses of Europe. World War II brought him to America, where he conducted at the Metropolitan Opera (1942-1946), and finally led the Cleveland Orchestra from 1946 until his death, "molding the ensemble into one of the world's finest," as the Harvard Biographical Dictionary of Music notes. Szell and the Cleveland became as distinguished a collaboration as Toscanini and the NBC or Karajan and the Berlin Philharmonic. Szell brought the Cleveland Orchestra to such a peak of perfection that many good judges considered the Cleveland under Szell the premier conductor/orchestra team in the world.
In the late 1950s and the 1960s, the procession of marvelous Szell recordings with the Cleveland Orchestra that came rolling out of Severance Hall became for discerning music lovers a benchmark of excellence; many of them have never been surpassed. (My own list of these nonpareils would include the complete Beethoven symphonies, the complete Beethoven piano concertos with Leon Fleisher, the Beethoven overtures, the Mahler Fourth Symphony, Strauss's Don Quixote, the Dvorak Slavonic Dances, and the Wagner disc under review here, but there are plenty of other worthy candidates from the extensive Szell/Cleveland discography). Szell's hallmarks as an interpreter were vigor, tension, clarity; avoidance of extremes, excess, and eccentricity; complete lack of sentimentality; and masterful control of an orchestra that had become awesomely virtuosic and perfectly responsive in his hands. In sum, a typical Szell/Cleveland performance was taut, disciplined, bristling with energy, insight, and conviction, and immaculately played. His performances virtually never sounded routine, usually had a fresh-minted quality, and had a way of unfolding with an uncanny sense of rightness, of inevitability, conveying the impression that this is the way this music ought to be played.
This CD contains the six orchestral excerpts from Wagner's Ring that Szell and the Cleveland recorded in 1968. To these have been added two substantial excerpts from non-Ring Wagner operas, Die Meistersinger and Tristan und Isolde, recorded in 1962. All the performances are superb, as fine as any in the catalog. The sound is good, clear and full, if not up to the best standards of today. The Penguin Guide to Compact Discs, in reviewing this reecording, awarded it their highest honor, a rosette, and said of it: "The orchestral playing here is in a very special class. Its virtuosity is breathtaking. Szell generates the greatest tension . . . and the improvement in [sound] quality with the latest remastering for CD is little short of miraculous. This is worthy of Szell's extraordinary achievement in Cleveland in the 1960s."
42 of 42 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9aae4e7c) out of 5 stars A classic Szell recording beautifully restored 25 Jan. 2002
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
There is very little to add to the excellent preceding review on this recording. I would just add an observation that the DSD transfer onto SACD brings a far greater level of realism and transparency as compared to the original LP or any subsequent CD transfer. We get as close as we likely ever will to hearing Szell's original intentions in the studio, which were obscured by Columbia's notoriously poor transfers of the original reel-to-reel master tape onto LP. In those days Columbia would artificially boost the mid-range on a recording to make it sound better on mediocre equipment -- not exactly an audiophile technique! This DSD transfer, by contrast, is untampered electronically, not even by noise reduction, which is also notorious for robbing analogue recordings from this vintage of their ambience and warmth. The result is a small amount of tape hiss, which I will gladly accept to be given the chance to hear what Szell and his fabulous Clevelanders actually recorded.
16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9aa11618) out of 5 stars Greatly improved sound, excellent performances 17 Sept. 2004
By Alexander Leach - Published on Amazon.com
I have been comparing this (non-hybrid, stereo-only) Sony SACD with the old Sony/CBS CD set - the 2 discs Maestro series from 1990, I've never heard a more recent Essential Classics CD incarnation coupled with some Ormandy Wagner. I suspect that was the same remastering.

The SACD replicates the second CD from that set (Ring excerpts plus the Tristan Prelude and Liebestod) and adds the Meistersinger Prelude, giving a total timing of 76'47.

I compared the tracks I know very well: the two Gotterdammerung excerpts. Unlike the other Szell SACD I have compared (Schumann Symphonies No 2 & 4, where the difference was discernible but slight), here the new disc sounds clearly different, and I think better.

On CD I always felt it was perhaps the slight aural 'edge' and hint of constriction that made these performances so thrilling (even though the sounds was rather flat in terms of front to back perspective), but this SACD removes that acerbity to some extent, to advantage I feel. There is much more depth to the sound and it is richer - and the orchestra sounds closer (perhaps even a tad smaller?) with greater detail. Strings sound more in focus. Maybe some of the ambience has changed, but perhaps this more realistically conveys the true acoustic of Severance Hall. Hearing the brief fanfare at 5'13ff in the Rhine Journey, here it is more rounded and realistic.

Tape hiss is absent from the SACD. In the Funeral March the advantage is clearer: the detail is much finer (the timpani strokes sound clearly at 2'55ff, whereas on CD they were blurred and the lighter ones inaudible).

For Wagnerians and Szell fans I think this SACD is worth getting as a supplement to the normal CD - I will of course retain the CDs as the SACD cannot be played elsewhere like the car changer.
16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9a9b0090) out of 5 stars Conversion 6 Mar. 2005
By Scott D. Harris - Published on Amazon.com
This is a very good recording of these works - all from Wagner's Nibelungen operas. Prior to purchasing this SACD, I did not totally agree with Szell's approach to Wagner. His approach, I thought, was too clear, too lacking on the bass line, and the accoustic at Severance Hall didn't help much. This SACD clarifies Szell in a very favorable way. Severance Hall doesn't sound nearly as bad of a place to record as I previously thought (though it's still debatable whether Szell's modifications to the hall in the late 50's were an improvement...) and the listener hears a much more balanced orchestral sonority, one which is without any congestion, clear as a bell, so to speak.

The performances themselves are top-flight - no question, by the late 1960's, the Cleveland Orchestra was the best orchestra in the U.S., outgunning everyone else. Szell lets the music speak for itself - no indulging in one's own self-centered interpretations here. Tempi are as specified and there are no orchestral rearrangements as there were in his Schumann recordings.

Now, if only Sony would release the rest of Szell's Wagner recordings on SACD, I'd be really happy to buy it.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9a5fbe58) out of 5 stars Not to be missed 2 Dec. 2004
By Dennis M. Desantis - Published on Amazon.com
Hard to believe that these old Columbia/Epic LPs had this kind of sound in them. The sound stage is deep and wide and the string sound truly analogue. I find some of the ring excerpts not particularly to my liking musically, but the Tristan Prelude? A great recording by any measure. I was mesmerized by Szell's performance and have listened many, many times. SACD is so phenomenal. No ear fatigue and musically so involving. I haven't enjoyed listening so much since my LP days. This is the full measure of digital sound.
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