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Reviews: Live in Tokyo 1970 - Szell

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Reviews: 4

Review by JW June 11, 2003 (3 of 3 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:
From a sonic point of view there is a Szell vs. Walter (on Sony) debate going which Walter's reissues are winning. The Szell's sound often strident and hard in the treble regions whereas the Walter SACD's have a smoother presentation. I have most of the Walters (and reviewed some of them here as well) and I basically steered clear of the Szell's. With one exception. This one!

Yes, there is some tape hiss audible (that has never put me off any SACD btw) and at times it can sound somewhat bright, but overall the sonics are pretty good for a 1970 live recording. The fact that the brass 'bites' actually works out well in this musical context. Talk about dynamic range, this one has it. I noticed further that at times there is a fairly sudden decay of notes that struck me as a recording issue rather than a hall characteristic. But this does not distract at all. I would not hesitate for a second using this SACD as a demo disc for the format.

Szell conducts the Cleveland orchestra playing Mozart's 40th and Sibelius' 2nd, plus a couple of excellent 'bonus' tracks by Weber and Liszt. The Sibelius really is a work of musical wonder. Large, subtle, dramatic, symphonic, subdued, tense - everything that can make orchestral music great. The performance here accentuates these characteristics. The connoisseurs highly regard this one, so don't take only my word for it.

The reading of the 40th is not necessarly a 'traditional' one. It's slightly more dynamic and uptempo than perhaps you are accustomed to from other recordings or live performances. It sounds like that to me. It's good, but I am not yet sure whether I prefer it like this or not. You can't go wrong with this JSACD so why not judge for yourself...


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Review by auld fellow November 5, 2006 (4 of 4 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:
These are live performance recordings, a situation which often leads to compromise in sonics. However, this 1970 performance still sounds very good, with only a bit of tape hiss and good balances.

Szell had recorded the Sibelius 2nd Symphony before, with the Amsterdam Concertgebouw Orch., back in the early 1960's. That was regarded as one of the better recordings the symphony had received--Szell's comprehension of the work's architecture and his firm grip on the various tempos made coherent a work that, in other hands, tended to sprawl a bit. But this concert recording with the Cleveland orchestra is simply on another level. When I first heard this performance played on a radio broadcast in 1974, I was convinced that I was hearing the finest performance of the Sibelius 2nd that I had ever heard, or was ever likely to hear. Hearing this SACD now, I am pleased to say that my judgement then was not just youthful enthusiasm; this is an extraordinary performance, both technically and musically.

There are times in live performances (rare, but it does happen, I have experienced it myself) when the musicians become inspired and perform on a level better than they thought they ever could. This is referred to as "playing over your head". Imagine what that was like for the Cleveland Orchestra during the Szell era! This recording captures such a moment. There is really nothing more to say.

The companion Mozart Symphony is also played extremely well, lacking only that extra dollop of inspiration found in the Sibelius. My only complaint is that this SACD is hard to get. I was only able to obtain it from the Japanese division of Their web site is rather daunting if you do not read Japanese (I do not), but I did manage to navigate my way to buying this SACD, and it did arrive in a fairly timely fashion, considering.

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Review by Jonalogic November 25, 2010 (4 of 5 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:
What a truly wondrous piece of music-making is here!

Try and recall that electricity which characterises the really great concerts - it's here in abundance, conveyed by the microphones to our ears 40 years later. Truly the magic of the gramophone...

I am familiar only with the sound of the Cleveland orchestra live on a few occasions when they visited London after Szell's death. But here we hear that great orchestra and conductor in their prime, with the added frisson of a live performance when they are clearly inspired to sublime music-making.

It starts unexceptionally, with a fine but not exactly earth-shattering Weber Oberon overture, and a lithe and transparent Mozart 40th. Then the magic happens. From the very first bars of the Sibelius second, it is clear that something extraordinary is happening. There follows a seismic performance, carved from granite, ice and fire. Anyone whoever said that Szell lacks passion, please listen to this.

Not only is the playing magnificent, of course, but the reading seems to grow and transform organically until the final orgasmic bars.


Quite naturally, it brings down the house. There then follows the encore of a Racoczy March characterised by swaggering virtuosity and volcanic intensity. Cue house collapse once again.

Oh dear, I haven't mentioned the sound, but it's really rather incidental here: a bit wiry in string tone, but not at all bad. It's good enough to allow the music to shine through, and that's all that really matters here.

Great music-making. That's all you need to know. And the recording is still readily available in Japan. So, what are you waiting for?

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Review by SnaggS April 27, 2012 (1 of 2 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:
Spirited performance, Szell gets stuck in, no whispy strings here. Sounds like a concert, a bit closer than the walter performances. Slightly brighter presentation which will please those who find some SACD's too smooth. However, it doesn't become strident, you can still tell the strings are using cat-gut.

Time to track down some more "concert" SACD's, now that I'm more familiar with classical music, I enjoy the mixture of material without getting lost. It feels like a saturday night out! (in).


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