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Reviews: Strauss: Till Eulenspiegel, Don Juan etc. - Cleveland Orchestra/Szell

Reviews: 4

Site review by akiralx October 8, 2004
Performance:   Sonics:
These performances have been around on Sony's Essential Classics series for a while - the sound on this stereo non-hybrid SACD is a clear improvement with little or no hiss and a wide dynamic range. No small achievement for recordings made in 1957. They certainly belie their age.

Szell's Till is superb, technically immaculate with razor-sharp precision, while Don Juan is also played wonderfully, with great passion and sweep - though I do feel he rushes this work slightly, in particular the central reflective passage. Other conductors like Kempe have perhaps brought greater sensual allure to this work, but Szell's interpretation has its place as a foil to more expansive readings.

For Tod und Verklarung however I do prefer Karajan's first DG recording which has a spiritual dimension not really matched by Szell and his orchestra here - but this is still a fine performance, make no doubt.

Review by seth September 25, 2004 (5 of 7 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:
On LP, then CD, and now SACD, this is easily one of the most enjoyable Strauss tone poem compilations. Szell's Strauss differs noticeably from most conductors' take on the composer's music. The performances here are taunt, swift, transparent and urgent. Too often conductors play up the Strauss' sonorities, creating a big lush sound to the point that their interpretation becomes all about the texture.

Out of the many devoted Strauss conductors during Strauss' lifetime, Szell was his favorite. After hearing Szell conduct "Don Juan" once, Strauss said that he could now die a happy man. Talk about a ringing endorsement! (Incidentally, Szell conducted half of the world premier recording of "Don Juan" because Strauss showed up late to the recording session. After hearing the playback, Strauss said it was good enough to be sold under his name; he didn't think he could do any better)

Sonically this disc is superb, offering night and day differences over past CD and LP incarnations. The music simply bursts out of the speakers with an impressive dynamic range. The sound is extremely clean, especially in the highs. Despite being one of Epic's earliest stereo recordings (3/57), this is one of the best sounding Szell SACDs (probably due to it being recorded at the Masonic Temple instead of the acoustically dry Severance Hall).

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Review by Jonalogic July 18, 2010 (3 of 3 found this review helpful)
Performance:   
This is definitely one of the better-sounding Epic transfers by Sony. It is, in fact, difficult to believe sometimes that it's 53 years old! It is clear, transparent and nicely focussed, with good dynamic range and even - in Til - some deep bass. Only a slight 'etched' quality and roughness to the upper strings and brass betrays its vintage. But this does not detract from the wondrous performances.

As usual, the extreme virtuosity of Szell and the Cleveland is displayed in the service of the music, not for any self-serving or grandiose purpose (Karajan please note).

Don Juan, in particular, is played with a swagger and intensity that amazes; if the opening bars don't raise the hairs on the back of your neck, then you're probably dead... However, the Don's tender and gentler moments are just as well served.

This is where Til, by contrast, suffers slightly; the whole piece is fairly hard-driven, and does not altogether bring out Til's more humane side- as a result, his gory end is, perhaps, less tragic. I find it difficult to imagine George Szell ever smiling, let alone engaged in a 'merry prank' and maybe this is reflected here!

Unlike the other reviewer, I don't find any lack of the spiritual dimension in the Death and Transfiguration. I'm not a fan of Karajan, though, and haven't heard his reading.

So, here we have a great transfer of great music, phenomenally played. Now I only have one question to Sony. Where are is the sublime Szell reading of the Walton/Hindemith variations, please? Ditto the Hindemith/Symphonic Metamorphoses. You know it makes sense...

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Review by EdBoxer June 9, 2012 (4 of 5 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:
These performances by Szell and the Cleveland Orchestra are classic Strauss recordings. Szell was an apprentice to Strauss and Strauss highly approved of Szell’s performances of his works.

The Cleveland Orchestra plays marvelously. Listen to the string tone in the finale of Todt und Verklärung. Perfectly phrased and perfectly in tune floating over the rest of the orchestra like a Caballé pianissimo. No other performance I have heard captures the "Sighs" in Todt und Verklärung quite as magically. Or the miraculous brass in Till Eulenspiegel. And, as always with Szell, every voice can be heard.

The sound improvement in the SACD is wonderful. A prime example is the opening of Tod und Verklärung. On the LP, the Great Performances CD and the Essential Classics CD, the first few bars were barely audible and muddy. Now they are crystal clear.

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