Szell, George

Szell, George

(sĕl), 1897–1970, American conductor and pianist, b. Budapest. He moved with his family to Vienna during his childhood and started his piano training at an early age studying at the State Academy of Music in Vienna and in Leipzig. Deciding on a career as a conductor, Szell assisted Richard Strauss at the Berlin State Opera, then held conducting posts in Strasbourg (1917), Prague (1919–21), Darmstadt (1922), and Düsseldorf (1922–24). He was the chief conductor of the Berlin State Opera from 1924 to 1930. Szell made his American debut (1930) with the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra. Settling in the United States in 1939, he taught at the New School for Social Research and at the Mannes School of Music in New York City and was principal conductor at the Metropolitan Opera (1942–46). In 1946 he became a U.S. citizen. From that year until his death he was musical director of the Cleveland OrchestraCleveland Orchestra,
one of the foremost orchestras in the United States. It gave its first performance in 1918 under Nikolai Sokoloff, who was conductor until 1933. In 1931, the orchestra moved from the Cleveland Masonic Temple into the Georgian-style Severance Hall, located in
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, which, under his leadership, became one of the world's finest orchestras. He took leave to conduct the Concertgebouw Orchestra of Amsterdam, and returned (1963) to the United States as guest conductor of the New York Philharmonic, for which he also acted as interim conductor during the period from 1969 to 1970. Szell's interpretations were marked by clarity and objective adherence to the composer's intentions.

Bibliography

See biography by M. Charry (2011).

Szell, George

(1897–1970) conductor; born in Budapest, Hungary. A child prodigy as pianist and composer, he made his conducting debut with the Berlin Philharmonic at age 17, conducting his own music. He went on to lead various opera orchestras including the Berlin State Opera (1924–29). After conducting the Scottish Orchestra in Glasgow for three years, he came to the U.S.A. in 1939 and guest-conducted widely. Named conductor of the Metropolitan Opera in 1944, he left two years later to take over the Cleveland Orchestra, which in the decades until his death he built into one of the great ensembles of the world, his interpretations marked by a remarkable clarity and elegance of playing—achieved by means of a famously dictatorial approach. During his Cleveland tenure Szell continued to guest-conduct worldwide, notably at the Salzburg Festivals (1949–68).
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