Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Columbia SAX 2467

SAX 2467

Richard Strauss: Also Sprach Zarathustra, Till Eulenspiegel

Lorin Maazel, conductor

Philharmonia Orchestra

Pressing:  ES1

YAX 951-13
YAX 952-13

Condition:  NM

Performance:  10/10

Sound:  8/10


I was pleasantly surprised to discover that this album is a fantastic record, both for its repertoire as well as its sound quality.  Here is a young Lorin Maazel with the Philharmonia Orchestra giving exciting interpretations of two well known Richard Strauss tone poems.  I never really listened to the Strauss tone poems growing up, but lately I've come to really appreciate them (my favorite has to be Death and Transfiguration, or Tod und Verklarung in German).  When it comes to Also Sprach, I think many classical vinyl collectors think about the Reiner 1954 RCA Living Stereo version being a reference (and the very first stereo recording of this work), alongside other recordings by Karajan with the Vienna Philharmonic (the one actually used in the movie 2001:  A Space Odyssey) and Zubin Mehta, both on Decca.  I have never owned the Reiner recording in its vinyl incarnation, but I have the SACD release which came out in the early 2000s.  I can only imagine that the vinyl version is even more stunning.  This Maazel recording has been out of print for a long time, but when I last checked Amazon.com this morning, it appears that at least the Also Sprach has been issued on 24-bit remastered CD.  Cover art is entirely different from this one (I think it is the cover from the US Angel release), which is too bad, because this cover with Maazel mid-air conducting is cooler and classier.  Sound quality for this LP is excellent on my system.  Be sure to turn up the volume when the neighbors are away.  Runs for around $50-100 for an excellent or near mint copy on Ebay.


  1. I have the SXLP 30133 Concert Classic reissue of this LP. I like the performance and it is quite different from Karajan and Reiner. The sound is also very nice on the original blue label (no ring).

  2. Thanks for your comment! I agree. I previously never thought of Maazel as a great Strauss interpreter, but this recording makes me think twice about that. Yes, the sound is actually quite good on this LP! I'd bet that the Concert Classic reissue is probably pretty similar in quality, even if die-hard collectors might argue otherwise. I have the Classics for Pleasure reissue of Markevitch's stereo LP of The Rite of Spring, and it's very enjoyable.

  3. I don't speak classical as well as I should (not trained musician), but the Maazel sounds quite romantic and a contrast to the Von Karajan performance used for the movie 2001.

    I suspect the second and third label EMI (non-Columbia) pressings to be superior to the original gold and cream pressings along with the early 20000 series Concert Classics. I've got a presumably early black and white postage stamp EMI of Hiawatha's Wedding Feast which destroys the gold and cream (my only original). Much more drive and tightness in the bass, and the chorus does not break up! I awaiting my first Blue and Silver pressing any day (Peter and the Wolf). I am a bit budget and Columbia SAX prices are staggering.

  4. My experience has been a little different. I find the original white and gold EMI pressings to be excellent. I have several and can attest to their outstanding audiophile quality. There are a few, though, that do not sound good. These include, in my collection at least, many of the early Sir Thomas Beecham recordings. For some reason, there is a lot of distortion at higher volumes, so there is a significant lack of clarity when the music gets very dynamic. I'm not sure if this has to do with not adhering to RIAA parameters. The white/gold recordings of Rudolf Kempe, Rafael Kubelik, Efrem Kurtz, and Arthur Rodzinski are some of my favorites. Very dynamic music, well recorded. However, the later EMI recordings of the 1970s, all postage stamp pressings, are also quite excellent.

    I agree that Columbia SAX prices are highly inflated by the market, especially Ebay and private dealers. I had to pay pretty dearly for my own collection. For the music alone, I would say that some of the CD reissues have been pretty decent, far less expensive though perhaps without some of the warm analogue sound.

    Are you in the US?

  5. I am in Ohio.

    Not surprising on the Beecham barn burners. My Hiawatha B&W does not have the breakup of my gold and cream. I'll have to be on the hunt for a nice Beecham on the second or third label since I have little Beecham (except on Capitol and late Angel, Balakierev One).

    I've been doing big orders from the UK, but I am about tapped out because of the shipping costs. Some dealers want $17 per LP. I was able to finagle 14 lp's at about $5 each shipping from one of these guys. You need to get about 6-8 at a time to get the shipping down. When your spending $50 and up on an LP you just kind of factor it into the bid. I am pretty determined to get mine for about $10 delivered per LP. Not much of the early no ring pressings show up in the US. I may try to amass some more big orders by late fall which seems to be a good time to buy. I am overwhelmed with all my recent arrivals.

    About ready to vacation the rest of the week in Chautauqua Institute, NY and here some live music, though afraid it will be another round of bag popping at the end of the 1812 overture on the 4th.

    I agree that the gold and cream are excellent. See my magnum opus elsewhere in the blog. Often they are the only game in town. For the money, when available, I'd highly recommend trying the second and third pressings. Also try ASD reissues of ASD and SAX material (also early SXLP 30000s). Its a lot easier for you to pick up a few more cheap reissues than for me to pick up the originals as you well know! I did one and the Hiawatha Gold and Cream lost to an early B&W which is darn good, but not the best emi I have.

    I am not a huge fan of later emi anything. If I am in a record store and they are $5 I might try them out, more if I really liked the title/music. The B&W pressings drive me nuts because they covered such a long period. No way to tell what you have. If the original release date was early on you could assume you have an early pressing. I will have to pickup some more B&W reissues. They should be pretty good. I got a CFP of Saint-Saens Organ Symphony, second CFP label, and it works very, very well. First side was great, I've yet to fully hear the second side. The usual dryness was not pervasive and the bass was really something on side one with very pleasing midrange. I got second place on the original very early second pressing. I'd like to get the first label CFP. It might be best. I don't think a gold and cream can deliver quite the bass of the later pressings and with this piece that is a big part of the sound.

  6. Let's see, I've got a bunch of columbia sax reissues as ASD's, SXLP's, and CFP's. None of them have any kind of break up whatsoever. SAX 2375, Peter and the Wolf, and low and behold there is breakup. Yeah, this is an issue with Blue and Silver pressings.

    I do not care for Ustinov's narration. The Toy Symphony is some entertaining tripe. A nice LP performance wise if you don't mind Ustinov.

    Other than the breakup issue, a very nice sounding LP. Sonically, the LP is pretty impressive. It is definitely different from the ASD/SXLP tube pressings. The bass has a little more definition. I find the record impressive, but it does not have staying power sonically compared to the reissue pressings. The Blue and Silver sound definitely has a lot of allure and I can see why people are after these. I hear a unique sound that I like very much.

    My warm up listen tonight was SXLP 30124, Mozart PC 21&22, Annie Fischer. I don't think this was technically released as an SAX, but Annie Fischer has several SAX albums of Mozart PC's. This was released mono. This pressing would be equivalent to a color stamp pressing of an ASD. I really like the performance of 22. The sound has a tubey roundness, but one quickly forgets this. Mesmerizing sound. It may not have some of the tube nicities in the treble of a blue and silver pressing, but I suspect these niceties are a sonic artifact of the blue and silver mastering. Otherwise, this LP sounds better than the above SAX 2375. Sonically, it wears well as it keeps you very involved. The instrumental definition is better on the SXLP reissue.

    I'll be watching for more Blue and Silver pressings, but I will not pay much for them. On a system with great bass definition the reissues may carry the day. I suspect if one is using single-ended amps, the SAX might carry the day. For me, I will be looking for reissues on the various EMI labels.

  7. Back from vacation, I see? I sincerely look forward to further discussion!

  8. Briefly back from vacation, then back on vacation. Now I am back for a while. My blasted car cost me 2 hours of Peter Grimes and caused me to completely miss the ballet. Caught Dawson Negro Folk Symphony which was excellent. Zero chamber music (blame the car again). Going back again in week 7 of the Season (Chautauqua NY) and we'll see how badly I can screw that up. My mind is not completely back in music mode as the old automobile decided that the odometer needed to die on the trip back and so this goes on a task list that I want to cross out some items on. Kind of like the cherry on top of a sundae (not an auto site, so don't ask!).

  9. I have the World Record Club reissue ST 935 which uses 14G/16G stampers. Performance and SQ are both excellent.

    The cover artwork is straight from 2001 A Space Odyssey.

    1. Looks like another great bargain buy from WRC!!

  10. SXLP is 14G/16G and excellent sounding and back on deck for a listen.

  11. It looks like all pressings are good on this one. The advantage of the SAX is that if it's a minter it's probably better than putting money in the bank nowadays.

    1. No kidding. I just took a look at that Kingsway Classics site (you sent me the link with the Mackerras Pictures), and I can see that they are charging premium prices for their SAXes. The Schumann 3rd with Szell that I posted a few days ago was going for GBP 225.

    2. This is one of the great Concert Classic reissues. I wonder which came out first. WRC or SXLP. Hearing a record like this is what amazes me about emi. The original must be something, but this reissue is just amazing. It very much has a great tube sound with great orchestral drive (an emi strength). My toes are tapping and baton is waving. A 10 for sound among Concert Classics and a solid 9 in my book. I would love to know what EMI was doing with their mastering at this time. My guess is that they were still using predominantly tubes for a much longer time than the other labels. Looking at the Electric Recording Company restoration of the Lyrec 1965 all tube model. It is amazing and I'd really like to know what they were doing. Despite the greatness of some of their efforts, the second pressings on SAX sound very (bad) early transistor to these ears. Really would like to know what was going on.