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Strauss: Don Juan, Op 20 / Death & Transfiguration / Til Eulenspiegel's Merry Pranks [Enhanced, Super Audio CD - DSD]

Strauss , George Szell , The Cleveland Orchestra Audio CD
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)

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Product Details

  • Orchestra: The Cleveland Orchestra
  • Conductor: George Szell
  • Composer: Strauss
  • Audio CD (January 11, 2000)
  • Please Note: Requires SACD-compatible hardware
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Format: Enhanced, Super Audio CD - DSD
  • Label: Sony
  • ASIN: B00003WGO0
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #326,281 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another Szell classic January 27, 2002
By A Customer
George Szell has been very well served in Sony Classical's reissues on SACD of classics from its back catalogue. This is another gem, comprising three of the great tone poems of Richard Strauss, as conducted by one of the greatest exponents of his orchestral music on record.
As with the others in this series, Sony's untampered DSD transfer lets us hear all of the musical information on the original master tapes, without any artificial noise reduction or processing. The high frequency notes and wide dynamic range which are so much better on SACD than conventional CD serve this music well. There is so much more to be heard than on the recent CD transfers and infinitely more than on the original LP. You can hear every bit of the orchestral texture in these complex scores, and the recordings are so realistic that you can even hear Szell vocalizing and audibly urging on his forces! Very highly recommended.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
After reading the other reviews,I decided to get this and am I glad I did. This is truly wonderful Strauss. I have owned Solti and Jarvi. Both are excellent. What this SACD only recording has over the others is Szell's interpretation and the immaculate playing of the Cleveland Orchestra. At nearly 50 years old, this is so much better than any of the new recordings out there.

The clarity is perfect. Very little hiss. All the choirs of the orchestra are clearly laid out. I truly enjoy the drive that Szell has in this reportoire. The horn section deserves raves for Don Juan. The solo horn in Till is spot on.

And while Death and Transfiguration may not have that emotional drive of Karajan, this one is delivered without the overt emotionalism that can ruin other interpretations.

Certainly a great recording.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Szell "Owns" This Music March 27, 2009
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This recording has always been a classic in the interpretation of these three Strauss tone poems, and it is even better now that it's available on SACD. The playback quality on this disc delevers sound which just about takes you to the absolute limits of the original recorded sound. It's still ADD, rather than DDD sound, but these performances are really the best of the best ever recorded. Szell's "Till Eulenspigel" is the funniest I've ever heard, and even though Szell may have not been noted for a sense of humor, I think the reason the humor comes through so well is based on the way Szell plays every note in just the way Strauss asks. The same is true of both "Don Juan" (the most swash-buckling version) and "Death and Transfiguration." This last piece is probably the most difficult to bring off since it's apt to sound overwrought, but Szell knows exactly how to mold each bar and each phrase for maximum meaning. A great, and essential, recording.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
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This is definitely one of the better-sounding Epic transfers by Sony. It is, in fact, difficult to believe sometimes that it's 53 years old! It is clear, transparent and nicely focussed, with good dynamic range and even - in Til - some deep bass. Only a slight 'etched' quality and roughness to the upper strings and brass betrays its vintage. But this does not detract from the wondrous performances.

As usual, the extreme virtuosity of Szell and the Cleveland is deployed in the service of the music, not for any self-serving or grandiose purpose (Karajan lovers please note).

Don Juan, in particular, is played with a swagger and intensity that amazes; if the opening bars don't raise the hairs on the back of your neck, then you're probably dead... However, the Don's tender and gentler moments are just as well served.

This is where Til, by contrast, suffers slightly; the whole piece is fairly hard-driven, and does not altogether bring out Til's more humane side- as a result, his gory end is, perhaps, less tragic. I find it difficult to imagine George Szell ever smiling, let alone engaged in a 'merry prank' and maybe this is reflected here!

The spiritual dimension in the Death and Transfiguration is fully laid bare; how strange to think that a precocious Strauss wrote this at the age of 25...

So, here we have a great transfer of great music, phenomenally played. Now I only have one question to Sony. Where is the sublime Szell reading of the Walton/Hindemith variations, please? Ditto the Hindemith/Symphonic Metamorphoses. You know it makes sense...
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I bought this album on the Masterworks Heritage Series, remastered from the original stereo recordings of 1961. I cannot tell if this is exactly the same reproduction as on the album under review; and it might make some difference to the sound. The original recording on LP, as well as the first issues on CD and mp3 were quite intolerable in terms of an unusual shrillness of all the higher decibels--violins, flutes, trumpets--a problem that has successfully been addressed on the Masterworks disc, which sounds quite pleasant compared to the other incarnations. The remastering engineers could evidently do nothing about the flat ambience, as if you're locked in a big cardboard box, but this is a problem that bedevils even the most modern digital recordings and has nothing do with technology, but the wilfulness of unmusical recording personnel.
So far so good, and my compliments to Sony for a fine clean-up job!
But once you're over the shock of hearing this album in its new dress, by the third time at the latest the fairyland reviews begin to look a bit ridiculous. There is no bargaining with the fact that this is an old recording and sounds old. As I will presently discuss in my comparisons.
The performances have to be weighed in the balance, after all, and now we have a very different issue. As far as orchestral discipline is concerned, I don't for one minute accept that Reiner was less of a tyrannical precisionist than Szell. So now I suggest you put Reiner's 1959 Don Juan on the platter and listen for a few minutes, then switch over. The impression you will receive is of a grand and sweeping surge, and then a tight, small scale and fussy reading that matches the speed, but not the coherence, of the other version.
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