Sunday, July 28, 2013

Columbia SAX 2393 A Midsummer for mid-summer

SAX 2393

Mendelssohn:  A Midsummer Night's Dream

Otto Klemperer, conductor
Philharmonia Orchestra and Chorus
Pressing:  ED2
Condition:  EX


YAX 539-6 
YAX 540-8

Performance:  7/10

Sound:  7/10

Price range:  $24-450, mean $168 on popsike

Comments: I think that many vinyl classical audiophiles would say that the analog reference recording of Mendelssohn's A Midsummer Night's Dream is the London/Decca recording with Peter Maag and the LSO.  Considered one of the best Deccas and with original copies priced accordingly, it's pretty hard to beat.  However, this Columbia SAX recording with Otto Klemperer is definitely one worth considering, not to mention that it is also one of the rarer Columbia SAX recordings, especially in its turquoise/silver incarnation.  I have the semi-circle second pressing and a magic notes third pressing; both are very nice sounding.  Tempos didn't sound sluggish upon first listening but when I did a comparison to the timings on the Maag recording, the differences were quite astonishing.  Here are the numbers:

Introduction -- Maag 11:55, Klemperer 13:20
Scherzo -- Maag 4:27, Klemperer 5:35
Ye Spotted Snakes -- Maag 4:23, Klemperer 4:48
Intermezzo -- Maag 3:31, Klemperer 4:03
Nocturne -- Maag 6:25, Klemperer 7:10
Wedding March -- Maag 4:37, Klemperer 5:06
Dance of the Clowns -- Maag 1:46, Klemperer 1:55
Finale -- Maag 4:00, Klemperer 5:03

So Klemperer is quite a bit slower on most of the movements.  Nevertheless, I still found the recording to be quite enjoyable.  Textures (particularly with the winds) are quite clear, something for which Klemperer was well known.  I liked the crisp playing of both winds and strings in the Scherzo movement.  You also get Heather Harper and Janet Baker on vocals, who sing beautifully in "Ye Spotted Snakes" and are backed nicely by the Philharmonia Chorus.  If you are willing to settle for a second or third pressing while paying less, I don't think you'll be disappointed.  This recording is also available on CD, and you can pick it up in the recent Klemperer boxed set entitled "Otto Klemperer:  Romantic Symphonies". 


  1. I have never listened to a SAX copy of this but I own the Concert Classics reissue (SXLP) and it is a really good sounding LP. Sometimes I prefer the 70's EMI reissues to their original SAXs counterparts (a good example is the Klemperer recording of the Mahler second. I own the second SAX label and the first dog in stamp. I prefer the dog in stamp in every sense). My first copy of this recording was a japanese EMI Toshiba CD reissue, and the SXLP surpasses it clearly. This doesn't always hapen as these japanese CD reissues uses to be very good.

    1. Thanks for your comment! I think Meles would agree with you on the 3rd label SAXes .. he definitely prefers them to the second label. I have yet to listen to enough SXLP reissues of SAXes to make a fair comparison but I understand that many may be superior to the originals.

    2. tocateclass is referring SAX title reissues at full price under ASD. Not many of these exist unfortunately. Any later pressing can be very fine. I am discovering that the second label SAX ("magic") sometimes will have a Blue and Silver matrix and sometimes the third label SAX ("notes") will have "magic" matrices. Some of the later SAX pressings have a very distintive sound that is very much like the ASD postage stamps except that it is much more extended sounding and sonically akin to Columiba Studio Two stereo. In the matrices these will still be a single number. If they have a G after the number they may be very close to the postage stamp sound which is a little darkish in comparison, but wonderful. I can't say which I prefer, but the postage stamp ASD label is a much safer bet. I've found quite a few second label SAX to be objectionable, so I have a phobia that needs to be addressed by asidous study of EMI matrices.