The centenary of the founding of the Cleveland Orchestra was apparently cause for Sony Classical to remember with a CD complete edition of recordings produced at those days for the American label Columbia and CBS Records emphatically to the great orchestra teacher George Szell who deceased in 1970. The positive message for fans of high-resolution downloads is: At least a small part of the remastered Szell recordings is available at sampling rates of 96 and 192 kHz and further recordings with these sampling rates are to follow. This is extremely enjoyable, although it must be realized that technical deficiencies, such as sometimes suboptimal thickened captured mids or woodwind inserts erupting from the stereo panorama, are at best mitigated by the remastering. However, exaggerated highs and suppressed lows known from the vinyl versions have been brought back into balance to a great extent and there are also recordings from the sixties, which do not sound their age, such as the fourth symphony by Gustav Mahler very excellently recorded and remastered to today's possible sound level. And despite all the scrutinizing of technically sub-optimal, already historical recordings, it should not be forgotten that just as always, recordings that have not been optimally realized are still being brought onto the market today. Although a successful recording technique that is up to date is always desirable and pleasing - what matters most, however, is the artistic achievement that is documented by the recording, and in this discipline recordings with George Szell and his Cleveland Orchestra are cream of the top and in no small measure stay unsurpassed in the environment of competition.
One of the interpretive gems in the Szell discography documented on Columbia / CBS is, in addition to the fourth Mahler symphony already mentioned as recording technique highlight, the recording of all Slavonic dances by Dvorák. Just like the Mahler recording, the Dvorák recording has been a long-running favorite of the catalog for over fifty years. And rightly so. The Hungarian-born and hence Dvorák-phile per birth, George Szell, who was opera chief in Prague at the end of the thirties, directing at that time the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra in the famous recording of Dvorák’s cello concerto with Pablo Casals, animates his Cleveland Orchestra, which he directed for over a quarter of a century and forming it - some claim as an unyielding martinet à la Toscanini - probably into the best ensemble of its kind, to an interpretation rippling with energy and liveliness, which owing to the accuracy of execution owing nothing to the rousing, colorful composition. Cleveland's elite orchestra, with its chamber-music playing style and unmatched homogenous string sound, delivers Dvorák's bohemianly exhilarating dances to perfection.
As a fan of the team Szell / Cleveland Orchestra you do not want to miss any of the already available recordings in high-resolution download format. Especially not the Brahms symphonies and Strauss's symphony Domestica. Should Sony Classical respond to requests for future Szell-releases: The five Beethoven and two Brahms piano concertos with Leon Fleisher and the Concerto for Orchestra by Béla Bartók are an absolute must to be published in HiRes-Audio.
The Cleveland Orchestra
George Szell, conductor