George Szell / The Cleveland Orchestra – Beethoven: Symphony No. 1 (Franklin Mint pressing, red vinyl)


# Composer: Ludwig van Beethoven
# Conductor: George Szell
# Orchestra: The Cleveland Orchestra
# Vinyl (1962 / 1981)
# Number of Discs: 1
# Format: Flac
# DR Analysis: DR 13
# Label: Franklin Mint Record Society – Record 87 of 100
# Size: 553MB (24/96) + 157MB (16/44.1)
# Recovery: 5%
# Scan: yes
# Server: FF, FP

Ever since I started posting rips from the Franklin Mint collection, people have been asking me to post a complete FM cycle of the Beethoven symphonies. Right before I upgraded the cartridge and preamp, I ripped all nine of them, with the full intent of posting them. Well, one thing led to another and they never got posted. Time to do something about that…

These will be posted on an “as I have time” basis, but I should have them all up fairly soon. Starting with Symphony No. 1 (of course), I’ll be posting them one by one on the front page. Each time I post a new one, I’ll bump the post to the top of the home page. As you would probably expect, the recordings will vary in sound quality. Some will be stereo, some will be mono. But all of them are highly listenable in their own right.

As always, if anyone has requests for other titles in this set, please add them to the comments or PM me directly.


What first breaks into my consciousness as I listen to the opening of the Symphony #1 is, “What fantastic first violins!” Actually, “What a fabulous first violin section!” They play as one, with enormous suppleness. The Philadelphia string section may have played more sumptuously, the Vienna Philharmonic with slightly more warmth, but you may not want either in a symphony so close to Haydn and Mozart. Keep in mind that the introduction, although beloved of musicologists, doesn’t usually constitute a high point of this symphony, but Szell’s traversal of it, with gorgeous wind solos, from the very beginning sets a standard higher than any other I’ve heard.

The first movement, lean and muscular, springs like a terrier. The second, a Haydnesque larghetto, verges on minuet, as scraps coalesce into a full melody with accompaniment. In this movement, the winds take one’s breath away. Their ensembles are perfect in their balance and fit, and extremely short solos of two notes suffice to establish these players as masters. The named Minuet is, of course, no minuet at all, but the first example of the full-blown Beethoven symphonic scherzo, an apotheosis of the hunt. We’re not in Haydnland any more. It’s got plenty of drive, although Szell doesn’t take it particularly fast. The crescendos move with inexorability, but they never, even at the climax, bluster. They succeed in part because the orchestra diminuendos seamlessly and in full dynamic control.

The trio, when it comes, features that fantastic Cleveland wind section and approaches, but never crosses into, sumptuousness. “Measure” is the key here, although it doesn’t preclude excitement. One can say the same for the finale, one of Beethoven’s wittiest. Here and there, Szell manages to bring out similarities between it and those of the Mozart #39 and #41. It begins tentatively with an idea that suddenly gathers and speeds up into the opening of the main idea, like a whip about to crack. Again, it has all the power any reasonable person wants and subtlety besides.

One really fine moment occurs at the climax of the opening allegro and the quiet transition to its repeat, all without a stumble or a sudden collapse. It’s as if you suddenly found yourself a few thousand feet lower, and yet with full support. Above all, Szell gives you a reading full of historical imagination. Beethoven probably did not hear this symphony in his head as Szell gives it to us, but it certainly conjures up the world of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. It takes a musician of immense culture to pull something like this off. – Steve Schwartz,

Track listing

01 – I. Adagio molto; Allegro co brio
02 – II. Andante cantabile con moto
03 – III. Menuetto: Allegro molto e vivace
04 – IV. Finale: Adagio; Allegro molto e vivace

You can see a listing of the entire Franklin Mint set here.

Ripping Info:

All vinyl is cleaned on a VPI 16.5

Technics SL1200-MK5 (modified)
– Rega RB300 arm with RB700 wiring
– Michell Tecnoweight
– SoundSupports armboard
– Trans-Fi Audio Reso-Mat
Shure V15VxMR (with Jico stylus)
SimAudio Moon 110LP preamp
Native Instruments Audio4DJ USB interface

Processing: Sound Forge 10, ClickRepair (manual mode only), iZotope RX2

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13 thoughts on “George Szell / The Cleveland Orchestra – Beethoven: Symphony No. 1 (Franklin Mint pressing, red vinyl)

  1. Night Owl,

    Just finished listening. What energy, what elan, what elegance! Loved every second of it. Thank you!



  2. Steve,
    Good job, man, it sounds great. One hardly hears Beethoven’s No. 1, much less this beautifully done by Szell and Cleveland. And your techy skills are much in evidence. Thanks for this beauty,

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