George Szell

About George Szell

George Szell conducted with intelligence, precision, and authority and drew the highest musical standards from his orchestra. He was born György Széll in Budapest in 1897 and grew up in Vienna, where he was quickly recognized as a child prodigy as both pianist and composer. Between the wars, he pursued a successful career as an opera conductor in cities around Europe. In 1939, he settled in the U.S., and in 1946 became music director of the Cleveland Orchestra, a position he held for 24 years. Szell raised the standard and profile of the orchestra to world-class status through his disciplined approach and insistence on technical perfection. Szell did not have a wide repertoire; he only conducted the music he loved. Among his finest recordings are works by Schumann, Beethoven, Brahms, and Dvořák. He continued to make regular guest appearances with orchestras in America and Europe, including the New York Philharmonic and the Amsterdam Concertgebouw. He died of cancer in 1970, still in post at Cleveland. Szell’s studio recordings are considered definitive by many critics and listeners, though some considered them overly analytical and detailed. Since his death, many live recordings have appeared, which show a more lyrical and impulsive character on the concert stage.

Budapest, Hungary
June 7, 1897

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