The terms "classic" and "definitive", so overused that they are in danger of losing their meaning, absolutely apply to these recordings. The Fleisher/Szell Brahms Piano Concertos, recorded in 1958 and 1962, had not been available since their 1980s incarnation as Odyssey LPs. Now, in amazingly solid, vibrant remastered sound Sony has resurrected these mighty performances, which along with Fleisher's Beethoven concerto recordings, are vital documents of this pianist's early prowess - stunning technique, penetrating musicianship, and well-channeled passion. Szell's fiery, tempestuous reading of the Piano Concerto No. 1's orchestral score (with a riled up Cleveland Orchestra) has never been surpassed, let alone equaled, not even by Szell himself in his subsequent recordings. Fleisher and Szell present the Second Concerto in a grandly classical manner, relating it to Beethoven's Emperor and avoiding the massiveness and bulk of some more recent interpretations. Here the pianist tellingly combines wit and intelligence with a powerful sense of urgency. The same goes for the appended Waltzes and Handel Variations from 1956, which Fleisher plays with such brilliance that we can't wait for the next passage. Sony has jettisoned the original cardboard packaging for the more sturdy jewel box, hence this new review. Whether paper or plastic, get these great performances while you still can
- Victor Carr; Classicstoday.com
The benchmark recording of Beethoven Piano concertos with incomparable Leon Fleisher and George Szell.
As one customer form amazon.com wrote: “This is an outstanding recording. Leon Fleischer and George Szell are a match made in heaven. The standouts in this collection are the Beethoven 4th and the Mozart 25th. George Szell was one of the absolute best conductors of concerti. The musicality and ensemble playing are flawless. The recording of the Mozart 25th is the best I've ever heard. Don't overlook one of Mozart's later masterpieces played so flawlessly. This particular work comes off best with a large modern orchestra,like the CSO, as opposed to a smaller ensemble. Great performances!”
Other reviews from Amazon.com
George Szell (1897-1970), one of the greatest conductors of the twentieth century, was born in Budapest, studied piano, conducting, and composing in Vienna and Berlin, and learned his craft as a conductor in the opera houses of Europe. World War II brought him to America, where he conducted at the Metropolitan Opera (1942-1946), and finally led the Cleveland Orchestra from 1946 until his death, "molding the ensemble into one of the world's finest," as the Harvard Biographical Dictionary of Music notes. Szell and the Cleveland became as distinguished a collaboration as Toscanini and the NBC or Karajan and the Berlin Philharmonic. Szell brought the Cleveland Orchestra to such a peak of perfection that many good judges considered the Cleveland under Szell the premier conductor/orchestra team in the world.
I can't think of any professional performer who wouldn't be glad to claim Graffman's tremendously solid, albeit simpler pianism. Indeed, Graffman's sense of forward sweep and sustaining power within long, introspective passages score over what Van Cliburn halfheartedly delivered in his own recording with the Boston Symphony a few years later…Reissued through Arkivmusic.com's "on demand" program, this disc is well worth hearing. -Jed Distler; classicstoday.com
George Szell brings classical lightness and drive to Beethoven's early symphony, all the while pointing up the composer's daring formal and harmonic inventiveness…. Szell's Pastorale is one of the great recordings, full of feeling and sinuous beauty. Victor Carr Jr
One of the great Hungarian conductors, Szell quickly transformed a middling Midwestern orchestra into one of the nation's Big Five.
George Szell's Philips Concertgebouw legacy includes some distinguished recordings, with the scintillating Midsummer Night's Dream suite taking pride of place. Few if any rivals can match the ''Scherzo'' (not even Szell's later Cleveland recording is as buoyant or precise), while the Overture is extraordinarily well drilled and the ''Nocturne'', although cool, has a genuine sense of repose. The Schubert Rosamunde excerpts display all the drive and textural clarity that Szell habitually brought to, say, the Great C major Symphony…
Every major conductor, and most not-so-major ones, comes around to recording Eine kleine Nachtmusik, but not so many do it as well as George Szell and the Cleveland Orchestra strings. And let’s face it, you won’t find a period-instrument ensemble that plays with anything like this level of polish. The fact is, Szell’s conception of Mozart was not terribly far from “period” sensibilities: restrained use of vibrato, incisive rhythms, crisp ensemble, lively tempos, but also a welcome degree of warmth to the sound and of course incredible ensemble discipline and some of the best players on the planet. And he had real period instruments, meaning performers who owned top quality old violins and bows, not inferior modern reproductions of them. The result is as lovely a performance of Mozart’s perennially delicious Serenade as we are ever likely to hear.