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From child prodigy pianist and composer to world-renowned conductor, Szell's career spanned seven decades, and he led most of the great orchestras and opera companies of the world, including the New York Philharmonic, the NBC and Chicago Symphonies, the Berlin Philharmonic, the Vienna Philharmonic and Opera, and the Concertgebouw Orchestra. Under Szell's baton, the orchestra developed into one of the world's greatest ensembles, recording extensively and touring triumphantly in the United States, Europe, the Soviet Union, South Korea, and Japan.

Michael Charry, a conductor who worked with Szell and interviewed him, his family, and his associates over several decades, draws on this first-hand material and correspondence, orchestra records, reviews, and other archival sources to construct a lively and balanced portrait of Szell's life and work from his birth in in Budapest to his death in in Cleveland. Charry details Szell's personal and musical qualities, his recordings and broadcast concerts, his approach to the great works of the orchestral repertoire, and his famous orchestrational changes and interpretation of the symphonies of Robert Schumann.

George Szell

The book also lists Szell's conducting repertoire and includes a comprehensive discography. In highlighting Szell's legacy as a teacher and mentor as well as his contributions to orchestral and opera history, this biography will be of lasting interest to concert-goers, music lovers, conductors, musicians inspired by Szell's many great performances, and new generations who will come to know those performances through Szell's recorded legacy.

Straightforward and erudite.

This thorough biography of one of the most important figures on the American classical scene in the post-World War II era is a valuable contribution to the literature on classical music. Charry makes a convincing case for admiring his subject's skill in musical matters without concealing Szell's many personality flaws. Charry has done excellent work in illuminating this overshadowed facet of Szell's career.

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Charry's tribute reflects the scope and brilliance of Szell's career, in the careful detailing of his performances and music critics' opinions of them. I was especially impressed by Mr.

Article excerpt

ISBN Among the public emblems that symbolize some great cities are various iconic architectural and engineering wonders like the Eiffel Tower and the Golden Gate Bridge, while other municipalities take pride in championship sports teams. In fact, the Cleveland Orchestra has been at or near the pinnacle of classical orchestras for over a half century, including the more than four decades since the death of the conductor who transformed a moderately [End Page ] good regional group into a power-house ensemble with few peers.

And like his adopted city of Cleveland among other major United States metropolises, that conductor, George Szell — , has often been overlooked or taken for granted when the greatest conductors of the twentieth century are mentioned.

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Anyone who might have thought of Szell as merely a provincial conductor who built his career in Cleveland will have to reconsider their misconceptions after reading this book. At age ten Szell made his debut as a pianist in Vienna, followed by other well-received appearances throughout Europe; he was also a promising composer, who by age fifteen had a contract with Universal Edition.

Still, his talent was such that he spent most of his time surrounded by colleagues who were several years older; and growing up in an adult world, he never really developed a good sense of empathy for the feelings of others p. Although he soon gave up performing, his prodigious skills at sight-reading and especially playing scores at the keyboard would serve him well for the rest of his life and become the subject of numerous anecdotes throughout his career. As a natural talent on the podium, Szell never had formal lessons in conducting.

Rather, he learned on the job as a rehearsal pianist-coach-conductor in the opera house.


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