Saturday, February 2, 2013

Columbia SAX 2252



Columbia SAX 2252
Beethoven "Emperor" Concerto

Emil Gilels, piano
Leopold Ludwig, conductor
Philharmonia Orchestra

Pressing:  ES1

Stampers:
Side 1 YAX 8-12
Side 2 YAX 9-10

Condition:  EX

Performance:  7/10
Sound:  6/10

Comments:
This is the very first record in the Columbia SAX series.  I have discovered that the earliest SAX records came in covers that were laminated on both the front and back.  This is in contrast to some of the later releases, which were laminated on only the front side.  All of these covers were printed by Garrod & Lofthouse, Ltd.  This cover is quite elegant, if I may say so.  The performance here is also great but not my personal reference recording.  As far as vinyl recordings go, I think I still prefer either Wilhelm Kempf on DGG or Hans Richter-Haaser on EMI/Columbia (SAX 2422).  The sound on this recording is pretty decent but not as great as some of the best SAXes I've heard.  Surfaces are pretty quiet on my copy.  Listening to this recording, you get the feeling that you are sitting a number of rows back in the concert hall.  The sound of the piano is lovely and blends in well with the orchestra.  Clarity of the recording overall could be better, as there is some murkiness in the strings.  This is a majestic start (no pun intended) to the SAX series.  Gilels would go on to re-record the Beethoven concertos with George Szell in the late 1960s.

Addendum 10/12/14:  On repeat listening to this album, I found myself less enchanted with the sound than I did previously.  This time I also allowed myself to listen through very revealing headphones.  The album has frequent distortion, more so on side 1 than on side 2, and this significantly detracted from the enjoyment, at least to my ears.  Good performance, but not one of the better sounding SAXes.

4 comments:

  1. It is great that you are doing this blog. I've been looking for discussion on the internet and found little on Columbia/EMI.

    I've got second label of this first Columbia and do not like the sound at all.

    I am bowled over by the sound of Barenboim, Klemperer on this piece (ASD 2500). Amazing sound. (I would presume a lot of discrete transistors were in the recording chain by this point.) The sound is so imperious that I can't comment on the performance.

    Its hard to listen long enough to the Gilels as the sound is so bad in comparison, so I can't comment on the performance.

    On my system EMI and Columbia recordings and pressings all have excellent bass. This gives more drive to the proceedings and seems to be very helpful with old school classical, Brahms, Beethoven, Mozart, etc. Vintage RCA, London, and Mercury do not seem to do as well conveying these works. The EMI family with its great artists has been a great find. The EMI recordings seem to lock in with the bass and hall sound which makes for great impact on my system. I love these labels.

    In the US, most pressings are later Big Dog or ring pressings (white ring around outside of label for ASD, other rings on other labels... though CSD may have had the ring much earlier with a small postage stamp (contemporary with the second and third labels, the semi-circle and postage stamp pressings with no ring.) I like the second and third pressings on EMI.

    For Columbia they may have been using the same tube cutting amps the whole time. The later SAX take a hit when switched from all tube recording chain. It seems with EMI you get great sound on there later reissues of tube recordings (50s and early 60s). I don't like ring pressings as much, but they still are very good (Big Dog, too diffuse sounding). Saint-Saens Organ Symphony Classic for Pleasure is just awesome and I've got the second CFP label on that. I don't like ring pressings of no ring postage stamp original recordings. Ring pressings are acceptable, if the original recording was early (64 and back).

    These are my second label SAX duds (disappointing sound):
    SAX 2252 Beethoven PC5
    SAX 2486 Mozart 40, 41 Klemperer
    SAX 5254 Mozart VC4&5, Milstein (this has some sonic merit)
    SAX 5276 Franck Sym. D, Klemperer
    SAN 179 Mahler Song of the Earth, Klemperer (gold label UK Angel with YAX subnumbering, like many Columbia SAX)

    For some reason my two final postage stamp SAX labels have great to decent sound. Grasping at straws as to why this is, but perhaps Columbia did do some remastering with second label reissues of the blue and silver albums. With postage stamp SAX, no remastering, so one has a chance to get Blue and Silver sound. Really guessing on Columbia SAX due to a lack of data points. First blue and silver due any day. I am out $40 and got a deal. I will be relistening to my duds as some recent tube changes in my system may put these recordings in a more favorable light.

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  2. Thank you so much for your kind words. I'm very pleased to hear that you find the blog worthwhile and will continue to keep it going. I felt the same way as you. There really was not much information on Columbia/EMI recordings on the web and I wanted to see if I could try to contribute to what was available. Now I'm no professional critic, but I've listened to a lot of music in my 34 years of life, so maybe that counts for something.

    I hope you enjoy your blue and silver. I have not heard the Peter and the Wolf record, but one of my friends had the record and enjoyed it. I hope it doesn't spark a fever to collect all the SAX records!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Thank you so much for your kind words. I'm very pleased to hear that you find the blog worthwhile and will continue to keep it going. I felt the same way as you. There really was not much information on Columbia/EMI recordings on the web and I wanted to see if I could try to contribute to what was available. Now I'm no professional critic, but I've listened to a lot of music in my 34 years of life, so maybe that counts for something.

    I hope you enjoy your blue and silver. I have not heard the Peter and the Wolf record, but one of my friends had the record and enjoyed it. I hope it doesn't spark a fever to collect all the SAX records!

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    Replies
    1. Well discussion of these LPs is sorely needed. Columbia is easily the highest priced label. The Electric Recording Company is set to do some very pricey reissues. I believe to truly appreciate the EMI/Columbia sound requires a system that can reproduce tight clean bass. My own system was shamed by a local audiophile's bass performance and I've been working to resolve the issue. I have quite a few of the later EMI's (many TAS list LPs) and have always thought they had potential and an interesting sound in the bass. As I was in the middle of cleaning up my own system's bass performance it was natural to revisit some of these recordings. I was astounded by the sound and strong bass in my early pressings and have been investigating since. I initially bought a handful of further candidates to solidify my impressions. In the last month I've bought three dozen more. Many have not arrived with the bulk of them showing up in the last week. I have gone EMI/Columbia happy. The Peter and the Wolf is my latest and greatest acquisition and hopefully will give me insight into whether I need a case of SAX fever. I'd say I've been very happy with about 80% of these buys.

      I also want to update on the duds. Listened with audiophile friend tonight and the duds are duds. Even the above Milstein ($200 on ebay this Spring) was really bad. The Milstein was an original pressing on the second label. I've not heard a bad ASD.

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