Choose the Conductor for The Cleveland Orchestra

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Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Tonight at 8 pm, WQXR brings you from Carnegie Hall a live broadcast of the Cleveland Orchestra conducted by its current music director, Franz Welser-Möst. For our Showdown today, we offered Cleveland Orchestra performances conducted by three previous music directors -- George Szell, Lorin Maazel and Christoph Von Dohnanyi -- of this great American orchestra.

You chose Szell as the person you wanted to hear on the podium today. At noon we played him leading the Cleveland Orchestra in Schubert's Symphony No. 9 in C major, "The Great."


More about Cleveland's music directors

George Szell: the Hungarian conductor was music director of the Cleveland Orchestra from 1946 to 1970, during which time he molded it into one of America's finest ensembles, acclaimed for its precision, clarity and chamber-like balances. A notorious taskmaster on the podium, he was noted for his recordings of Austro-German classics from Haydn to Richard Strauss, as well as modern composers like Bartok and Prokofiev. Read a biography.

Lorin Maazel: Well before his recent directorship of the New York Philharmonic, Lorin Maazel served as the Cleveland Orchestra's fifth music director, from 1972 to 1982. He favored a more lush, emotive sound in contrast to Szell's crisp precision. Among his accomplishments was the first complete recording of Gershwin's Porgy and Bess. Read a biography.

Christoph von Dohnányi: During the German conductor's directorship, from 1984 to 2002, he brought together elements of Szell's precision with Maazel's romantic leanings. His recordings with Cleveland spanned the music of Mozart, Brahms and Schubert to that of Ives and Lutoslawski. Read a biography.

Comments [10]

Richard Lushington from Flushing, New York

In my wildest dreams: to play my favorite piano concertos with the orchestra!

Ricardo, "corazon-de-leon" (Richard Lushington)


Jul. 11 2012 12:03 PM
Miles from Montclair, NJ

My vote is for George Szell who, for those of us who did not have the chance to hear him conduct live, left a legacy of remarkable recordings. Among the legends of the past, he was arguably one of the few who had an affinity for virtually every composer and musical style. Indeed, many of his recordings are still considered definitive, notwithstanding the proliferation of other interpretations of the same works since his death in 1970.

May. 23 2012 11:54 AM
Raymond Banacki from Brooklyn, New York

Supposedly, George Szell was "a tough cookie" - but he built a well-known regional orchestra into a world-class enterprise. He was an exacting and demanding taskmaster, they day, but he did manage to produce a glorious sound. If you could play any of George Szell's recordings of Mahler, Mozart or Tchaikovsky, I would be very grateful. But I do have a weakness for George Szell's work with the pianist, Robert Casadesus, on the Mozart Piano Concertos, especially the "Elvira Madigan".

May. 23 2012 11:24 AM
Nancy Little from Yonkers, New York

Having been born in Cleveland and gone to hear George Szell who was legendary at that time over 40 years ago (think he died in 1971) I can't help but want to hear him conduct the orchestra at 12 noon today! He made it what it is today, a treasure of an orchestra!

May. 23 2012 11:22 AM

I agree with other commenters here, I would prefer to know the piece you're offering by each of the maestros of the Cleveland Orchestra. But as a long-time admirer of that orchestra and having known someone who was mentored by a member of that group, anything you choose will undoubtedly be excellent.

May. 23 2012 11:21 AM
Martin from Brooklyn

Can't vote without knowing what each one is doing. When we go to a concert it is because we know what is being performed; the conductor of course is important but we don't go just because of the conductor. The most important thing is the music. If they were all doing the same piece it would make sense to make a choice on the basis of the interpretation. Voting without knowing the works being performed is a disappointment.

May. 23 2012 11:10 AM
Carol Luparella from Elmwood Park, NJ

Once again, you ask us to choose the performer rather than the music. How can I choose which conductor unless I know the piece they will be conducting? I agree with John that the music is more important than the performer; therefore, I cannot vote in this Showdown.

May. 23 2012 10:58 AM
Alan Forster from Brooklyn,New York

If you ever have the time, may i suggest that you play the:Mahler symphony #6 led by George Szell and the Cleveland orchestra.It was a live concert at severance hall on Oct 1967.In my opinion one of the greatest performances on disc.I have it on a Sony Essential Classics 1991.

May. 23 2012 10:45 AM
John Blasdale from Whippany NJ

I cannot choose the conductor unless I know the works they are leading. Usually the music is more important to me than the performer. Choosing the conductor (as here), unless I know the music that's offered, is a shot in the dark.

May. 23 2012 10:23 AM
Tom from Montclair, NJ

All through high school I used to listen to the Cleveland Orchestra concerts from the classical music station of my youth (WBFB, Rochester). This was 1967-1971, and the concerts were glorious. So, my vote is for George Szell.

May. 23 2012 09:24 AM

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