Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Columbia SAX 2355 Great Russian from Andre Cluytens

SAX 2355
Rimsky-Korsakov: Capriccio Espagnol
Borodin: In the Steppes of Central Asia
Ravel: La Valse

Andre Cluytens, conductor
Philharmonia Orchestra
Pressing:  ED1
Condition:  EX

Stampers: YAX 362-5,

YAX 363-2

Performance:  8/10

Sound:  7/10

Price range:  $88-750, mean $360 on popsike

Comments:  Andre Cluytens was a highly gifted Belgan conductor who sadly passed away too young.  He left a treasure of wonderful recordings on the EMI and Columbia labels, many of which are in mono but some of the best of which are in early stereo.  Take, for instance, his 4 LP series of Ravel's orchestral works (SAX 2476-2479), which are some of the most beautiful renditions of these works on record.  Try to find those for less than top dollar, and you might be searching for the rest of your life.  As single LPs or in the coveted boxed set, these generally sell for hundreds of dollars on Ebay.  If you aren't a die hard originals collector, you may find just as must satisfaction -- if not more -- from the EMI Testament reissue of the complete boxed set, which can be purchased from Acoustic Sounds for less than $150.  I got it used but in like new condition for $100, and I haven't regretted the purchase since.  Very quiet surfaces with very dynamic music.  I am a huge Ravel fan, and this set is glorious.  Jean Martinon's Ravel, also on EMI, is a strong competitor.  Another example is Cluytens recording with Samson Francois of the Ravel Piano Concertos -- a benchmark recording which also fetches hundreds of dollars on the collectors' market (but also available remastered as a Great Recordings of the Century EMI CD for less than $10).

This is one of the recordings Cluytens did of Russian orchestral music, and it works.  The track listing includes one of my all-time favorites (which we played in high school as well as college orchestra), Rimsky-Korsakov's Capriccio Espagnol, Mussorgsky's Night on Bare Mountain, Borodin's In the Steppes of Central Asia, and the single non-Russian work, Ravel's La Valse.  The performances are lively and dynamic.  Capriccio Espagnol and Night on Bare Mountain are exciting.  The sound on this record, at least on my system, puts us further back in the concert hall.  Dynamic range is pretty good though not the final word, since I would've liked a little more bass. 

Also available on CD on EMI's budget label.


  1. The blue and silver is the only pressing available. Glad it is not top of the heap for sound at least. And to think their are blue and silvers that cost over 10 times the price. Ugh.

  2. Yes, I know what you mean. The $750 is an outlier, in my opinion. Most of them sell for a couple of hundred. I really like Cluytens, so I was compelled to get this one and was able to work out a deal with the seller.