SZELL, GEORGE (7 June 1897-30 July 1970), internationally renowned conductor and music director of the CLEVELAND ORCHESTRA, was born in Budapest to George Charles and Margarite Harmat Szell, and grew up in Vienna, studying with Mandyczewski (theory), J. B. Foerster and Max Reger (composition), and Richard Robert (piano).
He made his debut as pianist at 10, playing his own music. His conducting debut came at 16 with the Vienna State Opera Orchestra. Two years later, Szell was engaged by Richard Strauss for the staff of the Berlin State Opera House. He subsequently held other conducting posts, and was general musical director of the German Opera and Philharmonic of Prague and director of the Scottish Natl. Orchestra.
He became music director of the Cleveland Orchestra in 1946, continuing in that position until his death. With the orchestra, he toured the U.S. and Canada, Europe (1957, 1959), and the Far East just before his death in 1970. He was known as a stern taskmaster, bordering at times on the tyrannical, but was greatly respected by fellow musicians. At the time of his death, the Cleveland Orchestra had gained its stature as one of the finest in the world. Szell held honorary degrees from Western Reserve University (see CASE WESTERN RESERVE UNIVERSITY) and Oberlin College, and was a Chevalier of the French Legion of Honor. His recordings with the Cleveland Orchestra are among the best symphonic documents of their era.
Szell was married twice: Olga Band was his first wife; he married Helene (Schulz) Teltsch in 1938 and was stepfather to her sons Thomas and John Teltsch.
Grossman, F. Karl. A History of Music in Cleveland (1972).