George Szell leads taut, energetic, and texturally detailed performances of both symphonies–no surprise to anyone familiar with the other discs in this series. Victor Carr Jr
Editorial Reviews - Amazon.com
George Szell's Beethoven Ninth is not the sort of cosmic display that Wilhelm Furtwängler and other members of the German "Romantic" school made of it, but taken on its own terms it's a lean and mean performance full of power and drama. The Cleveland Orchestra plays with its customary expertise and Szell caps the performance with a smoking rendition of the finale–great choral singing, and an irresistible forward momentum. A great performance. –David Hurwitz
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
For decades Szell's Beethoven cycle has been justly hailed as one of the best on discs, and the reasons are clear: lively and dramatic interpretations that are true to the Beethovenian spirit married to simply spectacular orchestral playing.
Victor Carr Jr.
Szell's performances are very satisfying indeed. His Brahms is robust in strong movements, yet expressive in quiet ones, even if not so deeply embtional as we hear from some conductors. He practically never allows any mannerisms of interpretation… As to the playing, it is very fine; and it is good to be reminded again of this orchestra's soaring violins, its distinguished solo playing, its corporate discipline and rhythm. Very thrilling Brahms. T. H. Gramophone 1973
The excellence of these two famous performances hasn't diminished a bit over time. George Szell's Beethoven Fifth exists in three versions: this one; another with the Cleveland Orchestra on Sony; and (finest of all) one with the Vienna Philharmonic live from the Salzburg Festival on Orfeo. Talk about an embarrassment of riches! It's really pointless to dwell on minute variations in interpretation or playing: all three recordings represent a surpassingly high level of achievement, from the taught opening and generously "con moto" Andante, right through the grim scherzo to the explosive finale. It's simply great Beethoven….
Shostakovich's Second and Eleventh Symphonies are both inspired by Russian revolutions. The Eleventh Symphony, "The Year 1905", marks the bloody revolution of its namesake year. It is an astonishingly atmospheric symphony, of cinematic breadth, especially the second movement which depicts the Bloody Sunday massacre in St Petersburg.
“Emil Gilels stands out as giant among giants,” wrote Gramophone when the Odessa-born pianist died in 1985. “In terms of virtuosity he was second to none, yet his leonine power was tempered by a delicacy and poetry that few have matched and none has surpassed.” Beethoven was at the heart of Gilels’ repertoire and in 1968 he recorded this complete cycle of the composer’s piano concerto with the Cleveland Orchestra and its long-standing maestro, another musical titan of the era, George Szell.