1997 32¢ George Szell
Conductors and Composers
Issue Date: September 12, 1997
City: Cincinnati, OH
Printed By: Ashton-Potter (USA) Ltd
Printing Method: Lithographed
Born in Hungary, George Szell (1897-1970) grew up in Vienna, Austria. At age 11 he made his debut, performing a piano piece he had composed. Five years later he conducted the Vienna Symphony Orchestra, and then went on to perform, conduct, and compose with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra. From 1946 until his death, Szell conducted the Cleveland Symphony Orchestra, transforming it into one of the world’s greatest orchestras.
Szell demanded precision and clarity from the symphony, using brilliant technique to produce exceptionally powerful music. In fact, his orchestra achieved such incredible balance and clarity that many experts have compared its performances to chamber music.
Unlike many of his contemporaries, who were prone to showmanship and personalized emotionalism, Szell was strict in his interpretation of the pieces he performed. He closely followed the composer’s intentions in an exacting, classical manner. Once, when criticized for a reserved performance of Mozart, Szell replied, “I cannot pour chocolate sauce over asparagus.”
Although he played relatively little contemporary music, Szell did champion the compositions of Bartók, Janácek, and Walton.