Thursday, March 7, 2013

Columbia SAX 5292

SAX 5292

Brahms Symphony No. 4

George Szell, conductor
The Cleveland Orchestra

Pressing:  ES1

Condition:  VG++ to EX

YAX 3349-1G
YAX 3350-3G 

Performance:  10/10

Sound:  7/10 


George Szell and the Cleveland Orchestra recorded all four of the Brahms symphonies ranging from the late 1950s to mid 1960s.  To my knowledge, in the US, the 1st symphony was released in stereo on the Epic label (which was owned by Columbia) as Epic BC1010.  Symphony No. 3 was released in stereo on Columbia MS 6685 with the first pressing being a "2-eye".  I don't know the catalog numbers for Nos. 2 and 4, but the whole series of 4 symphonies was released as a Columbia boxed set D3S 758.  British Columbia/EMI released these symphonies in the U.K. as part of the SAX series, and these are all quite rare and, if you've been following their status on Ebay, quite valuable.  I have the 1st, 2nd, and 4th symphonies but am still working on getting the 3rd.  I do have the 3rd as the U.S. Columbia release, and I might say that it sounds pretty darn good.  Rumor has it that the U.K. pressings are superior to the U.S ones, but I have to throw doubt into this.  For one, I know that some of Szell's UK releases were made from U.K. stampers, but some of them were also stamped using the Epic stampers.  I suspect that some of his recordings were remastered in the U.K. from the original tapes, whereas others may have simply used the U.S. stampers with perhaps higher quality vinyl.  I'm not sure what the answer is, but if you can shed light onto this topic, please enlighten us all.  In any case, I listened to No. 4 this morning, and it is excellent.  Performance is crisp and disciplined, as one might expect from Szell and the Clevelanders, and sound quality is, if not quite exemplary, still excellent.  My copy is pretty clean with the occasional crackle or two on side 2.  Brahms' 4th is my favorite of his symphonies, and I love the Academic Festival Overture, having played the 1st violin part in high school orchestra, so this record is a real treat for me.



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