Szell, George

Szell, George sĕl [key], 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 Orchestra, 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.

See biography by M. Charry (2011).

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