Thursday, June 7, 2012

June 7

June 7 is the 115th birthday of the Hungarian-born conductor George Szell. He was the brilliant, intense and extremely demanding music director of the Cleveland Symphony Orchestra from 1946 to 1970. Szell fastidiously honed “the Cleveland sound” into a model of transparency, openness and precision, largely achieved through endless rehearsals. His recordings of the standard classical repertoire are considered among the best ever recorded. His debut in the United States was with the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra in 1930. TIME magazine’s profile in 1963 was at best a mixed blessing: “no one is more devoutly convinced of Cleveland's orchestral supremacy than Szell himself, to whom all the excitement is a glowing reflection of his own musical genius. … He arrived in Cleveland in 1946, pruned and rebuilt the orchestra, educated its audience, charmed its angels, and terrified everyone, until he reached a point of supreme control and superb accomplishment. … [H]e calls his orchestra ‘this glorious instrument—an instrument that perfectly reflects my musical ideals.’”

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