Saturday, August 31, 2013

Columbia SAX 2352 Oistrakh Trio Plays Beethoven's Archduke Trio

Columbia SAX 2352

Beethoven: Archduke Trio Op. 97

David Oistrakh Trio:
David Oistrakh, violin
Sviatoslav Knushevitsky, cello
Lev Oborin, piano

Date first published: 1959

Pressing: ED1

Condition: NM

YAX 211-5
YAX 212-6

Performance: 8/10

Sound: 6/10

Price range: $40-560, mean $265 on popsike

Comments:  The David Oistrakh Trio, consisting of Oistrakh on violin, Sviatoslav Knushevitsky on cello, and Lev Oborin* on piano, was formed in 1940 and produced a number of recordings**, including these three stereo recordings for EMI/Columbia:  SAX 2281 (Schubert Trio in B-flat), SAX 2352 (this one), and SBO 2753 (Beethoven Triple Concerto, 10" LP).  All three of these records are relatively rare and expensive.

This is a fine performance of Beethoven's Trio No. 7, Op. 97 "Archduke".  On the front cover of the album, we have depicted the dedicatee of Beethoven's trio, the Archduke Rudolf of Austria, also an amateur pianist and composition student of Beethoven.  The photo on the back cover of the album shows the musicians seated apart by at least a few feet; however, spatial separation of instruments on the recording sounded much closer.  At times, I wondered if I had purchased a mono record by accident.  Overall, the sound is warm but a little dry.  For the amount of money which I'd paid for this album, I was hoping for something a little better than this.  I guess this is what one should expect for a chamber music recording in early stereo from 1959.  If you are interested in checking this album out, I'd advise you to first take a listen to EMI Classics for Pleasure reissue CFP 40006, then decide whether or not investing in the SAX is worth it.

As vinyl alternatives, I would suggest the recordings of Stern-Rose-Istomin Trio (CBS), the Trio di Trieste (Deutsche Grammophon), and the Beaux Arts Trio (Philips).  There are several digital alternatives as well.  I like the Beethoven trio recordings of the Florestan Trio (Hyperion) and Gryphon Trio (Analekta).

*Interesting facts:  Lev Oborin was the winner of the first International Chopin Piano Competition in 1927.  He was also the dedicatee of Khachaturian's Piano Concerto.

**Many of these have been reissued on CD as a Brilliant Classics Historic Russian Archives boxed set "Oistrakh Trio Edition".

EMI ASD 289 Kurtz's Nutcracker Suite, A Reference Recording


Tchaikovsky: The Nutcracker (Suite from the Ballet)

Efrem Kurtz, conductor
Philharmonia Orchestra

Pressing: EW1 (white/gold)

Condition: EX

Date first published: 1958

2YEA 81-1
2YEA 82-2

Performance: 10/10

Sound: 9/10

Price range: $26-201, mean $62 on popsike

Comments: There are dozens of recordings of Tchaikovsky's The Nutcracker, both in its ballet entirety as well as in its suite form, both on vinyl and on CD, but this recording with Efrem Kurtz directing the Philharmonia is my favorite.  Kurtz, Russian-born but later a naturalized American, was a great interpreter of Russian music (recorded Prokofiev, Shostakovich, Rimsky-Korsakov, Khachaturian, and Kabalevsky on EMI), and his performances of the Tchaikovsky ballets on EMI/HMV have always been well regarded.  As I stated in an earlier post (, some of the finest sounding early EMI stereo records were those made by Kurtz (one of the 4 K's) and the Philharmonia.  In my opinion, this is one of them.

Since I purchased this album more than 10 years ago, I have always been impressed with the warm, analog tube sound of this recording.  Recorded in 1958 in Kingsway Hall, you can really appreciate the famed acoustics of this venue.  Each time I listen I feel like I'm sitting midway back in the concert hall.  There is plenty of air surrounding the orchestra:  just listen to the trumpets as they sound the opening notes of the Marche on side 1.  The soundstage is reasonably wide but more noticeably deep.  Orchestral balance is excellent.  Dynamic range is wide, and the minimal surface noise also allows you to appreciate the detail of the recording in softer musical passages.

The beauty is that this record is pretty common, so you shouldn't have a hard time locating a copy on either Ebay or from a dealer in the UK.  Even the white and gold label first pressing can be purchased for less than some of the more expensive ASDs, which, in my opinion, actually don't sound as good (see price range above).  I have not heard the semi-circle second label pressing, but I would wager that it wouldn't leave much to be desired.  I believe that my co-blogger Meles has recently purchased a second pressing, and I'll be very interested in hearing his assessment.  Kurtz's Tchaikovsky ballet recordings have fortunately been remastered and are available on a 2 CD compilation from the company formerly known as EMI. 

Friday, August 30, 2013

This Week's Collector's Weekly List

1) Devy Erlih Bach 6 Sonates Et Partitas Ades 13054/55/56 Mega Rare 3lp Set Mint - $1,225 (2 bids)
2) Columbia Sax2323 - Tchaikovsky - Violin Concerto - Leonid Kogan - Silvestri - $821 (16 bids)
3) Mitsuko Uchida Mozart Complete Piano Sonatas - 7 Lp Set Philips Digital - Mint - $361 (4 bids)
4) Henri Honnegger - Bach 6 Suites For Cello - Orig Telefunken 3 Lp Box Issue - $294 (1 bid)
5) Viktoria Mullova Lp Works For Solo Violin Bach Philips 420948-1 Near Mint Disc - $239 (7 bids)
6) Bach: Suites No.1 & 4- Solo Cello By Andre Levy- Lumen Ld 3.447 Lp Ex - $224 (6 bids)
7) Beethoven: Symphony No.3 "eroica" - Wilhelm Furtwangler- Urania Urlp 7095 Lp - $202 (6 bids)
8) Mint Johanna Martzy Bach Sonatas & Partitas 3lp Lexington - $183 (5 bids)
9) +hmv Alp 1286-7 *red/gold* Futwangler /beethoven* Choral Symphony *bayreuth* 2lp - $160 (7 bids)
10) Philips Hi-fi Stereo Orig 1st Beethoven Cello Sonatas Rostropovich Richter - $155 (1 bid)
11) Martzy - Brahms: Solo Sonatas 3 & 4 Columbia 33cx 1287 Blue/gold - Record Only - $136 (7 bids)
12) Rosalyn Tureck:js Bach Solo Piano Pieces:emi Asd 372:orig W/g:nm+ - $131 (2 bids)
13) Esther Nyffenegger:schubert/schumann/
mendelss/brahms Vcl Son:armida En-151-3:nm+ - $130 (1 bid)
14) +sxl 2087-90 Wbg Ed1 *kleiber /mozart* Le Nozze Di Figaro *vpo *4 Lp Original - $125 (11 bids)
15) Annlies Schmidt De Neveu Bach Solo Cello Suites German Private Press 3lp Mint - $121 (8 bids)
16) Decca Lxt2951-53 - Bach - The Unaccompanied Violin Sonatas - Emil Telmanyi - $113 (9 bids)
17) Mint 1985 W. German Philips Ltd 10 Cds Box-set Piano Alfred Brendel Bach-mozart - $107 (18 bids)
18) Ducretet-thomson - 270 C 099 - Ravel - Sonata - Tzigane - Habanera - Devy Erlih - $105 (7 bids)
19) Jascha Heifetz Tchaikovsky Barbirolli 4x 78trs Hmv D.b 8282/5 12" Mint Booklet - $100 (1 bid)
20) Archiv Ed.1 Bach Matthew Matthaus Passion Karl Richter 4 Lp Sapm 198 009/12 Nm - $99 (1 bid)
21) Philips 412230-1 Dig: Schubert, Schumann, Maisky, Argerich - $99 (1 bid)
22) Gioconda De Vito Violin Bach Mozart Kubelik Audiophile Asd 429 - Sealed - $91 (1 bid)
23) Otto Klemperer Beethoven No.9 Orig B/s Sax 2276/7 Uk-1958 2-lps Nm - $91 (10 bids)
24) Violin Bach 6 Sonatas Partitas Denes Kovacs 3lp Mint - $89 (1 bid)
25) Tchaikovsky, 1812 Overture Lacquers Box Set - $88 (4 bids)
26) Ducretet-thomson - 270 C 106 - Beethoven - Diabelli Variations - Yvonne Lefebure - $87 (6 bids)
27) Johanna Martzy 10” Dgg 16119 Lp Mozart Violin Superb Mint Disc Final Upgrade - $86 (2 bids)
28) Asd 433 (w&g): Cluytens/ Berlin Po: Beethoven - Symphony No.6 "pastoral" - $79 (22 bids)
29) Telefunken Tw 30214: Wieniawski, Fajn Violin, Kollegorskaja Piano - $79 (1 bid)
30) Mercury Living Presence Sr 90370 Bach Janos Starker Rfr-1/rfr-1 Rare Promo Nm - $75 (4 bids)
31) Mega Rare Lili Kraus Pasquier "mozart" Discophiles Df 164 Piano Org. Shrink Nm - $70 (4 bids)
32) Rca Sd Lsc 2129 1s1s Heifetz, Tschaikowsky Violin Concerto, Reiner, Cso - $67 (3 bids)
33) Asd 278 G/c - Tchaikovsky / Mendelssohn - Violin Concertos - Ferras / Silvestri - $65 (3 bids)
34) Schubert, Bridge Arpeggione Sonata - Rostropovich, Britten - Sxl 6426 Nb Uk - $61 (4 bids)
35) +sax 2373 *blue/silver* Klemperer /beethoven* Symphony No.5 *mint -unplayed - $60 (6 bids)
36) Sr90121 Mercury Living Presence Colorback Fr1/1 Orig Mozart Eine Kleine Dorati - $60 (1 bid)
37) +sax 2354 *blue/silver* Klemperer /beethoven* Symphony No.4 *nm -stunning - $57 (7 bids)
38) Hmv Falp572-78 - Beethoven - The Complete Symphonies - Carl Schuricht - $56 (2 bids)
39) Herbie Hancock Paul Chamber Inventions And Demensions. Blue Note Blp 4147 - $53 (3 bids)
40) Karajan Beethoven 9 Symphonies Ed1 Dgg Skl 101-108 Stereo 8lp-box 11/62 Nm - $52 (2 bids)

Thursday, August 29, 2013

EMI ASD 509 Big Sounding Russian from Pretre and the RPO


Russian Orchestral Masterpieces

Georges Pretre, conductor
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra

Pressing: ER1 (semi-circle)

Condition: NM

2YEA 655-4
2YEA 656-4

Performance: 10/10

Sound: 9/10

Price range: $31-182, mean $100 on popsike

Comments:  This record reproduces work for work the exact same program that we performed in the Northwestern University Philharmonia for our spring concert in 1998.  This album is essentially the album of Russian orchestral masterpieces, and I'm hard pressed to find another album which brings together all of these magnificent works.  Side 1 opens with the fiery energy of Borodin's Polvtsian Dances from Prince Igor and keeps the heat on with Mussorgsky's A Night on Bald Mountain.  These two were also on Columbia SAX 2327, but rather than Rimsky-Korsakov's Russian Easter Overture, we get on side 2 In the Steppes of Central Asia -- one of the most beautiful Russian orchestral pieces -- and finish with the crowd-pleaser Capriccio Espagnol.  Folks, it doesn't get any better than this.  The Royal Philharmonic under the direction of Georges Pretre really shine on this album.  They produce a big sound, which I feel is really critical for these works to have their desired impact, and the instrumental solos, of which there are many in these various works, are delivered with precision.

The sound on this album is exemplary of the best of early 1960s tube sound.  Keep in mind, this is a second pressing, not the original white and gold, which I am going to rave about -- it's that good.  One thing you'll notice right away is how quiet the surfaces are.  Surface noise is almost nonexistent, allowing the listener to really be able to appreciate the music in quieter passages.  Instrumental solos, such as the harp in the fourth movement of Capriccio Espagnol, are clearly heard.  Cymbal crashes have a wonderful but natural impact and resonance, and this is really appreciable in the Polovtsian Dances as well as A Night on Bald Mountain.  I don't know if I've truly noticed this effect on other recordings, including that of Matacic and the Philharmonia, and that was one feature which made this album sonically unique for me.  Bass is perhaps not the absolute deepest but it is powerful.  Just listen to the bass drum on beat one of the opening measures of the final movement of the Polovtsian Dances, and you'll know what I am talking about.  Reproduction of the brass instruments throughout the record is clear and resonant.  Treble to my ears was just right, natural sounding and not too bright.  One nice example here is how you can clearly hear the high E harmonics played by the first violins in the fourth movement of Capriccio Espagnol.  Hall acoustics give just the right amount of air to the recording.  In summary, this album is a huge success in my mind and establishes itself as one of my all time favorite EMI ASD records and the Russian orchestral album to own.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

London CS 6205 French Overtures

London CS 6205
(Decca SXL 2263)

French Overtures

Ernest Ansermet, conductor
L'Orchestre de la Suisse Romande

Pressing: ED1, Blueback

Condition: NM

ZAL 5021-2E
ZAL 5022-1E

Performance: 10/10

Sound: 7/10

Price range: $26-116, mean $44 on popsike

Comments:   This is one fun London/Decca*!  Here we have a collection of some of the most popular French overtures of the 19th century, including Lalo's Le Roi D'Ys, Auber's Le Domino Noir and Fra Diavolo, Herold's Zampa, Offenbach's La Belle Helene and Orpheus in the Underworld.  The music is light, lively and spirited, and overall quite uplifting.  Ansermet and his L'Orchestre de la Suisse Romande deliver here, providing the right amount of lyricism (with a few nice string and wind solos) in the slower passages and plenty of gusto and energy in the more dynamic ones.

The sound here is quite excellent, though not quite tops.  The sound stage is very wide and deep, one of the widest I've heard on a London/Decca, and the hall acoustics provide some nice reverberation, which adds to the effect of all the cymbal crashes, drum rolls, and brass lines that punctuate the overtures.  Listening on my Beyerdynamic T1's powered by a PS Audio GCHA headphone amp -- a combo which tends to really expose any deficiency with a recording -- I sensed a bit of murkiness and harshness in the strings during loud passages.  This could be an equipment issue rather a recording or pressing issue, which I will have to confirm on loudspeakers tomorrow.  Nevertheless, dynamic range was wide, and this is definitely an album for which you want to turn up the volume when your neighbors aren't home.  Recommended for both the sound and the fun factor.

*Moon & Gray in the book FFSS rated this album an 8 for performance and 8 for sound for a total of 16 out of 20 points.

08/29/2013 8:32 AM Addendum:  This album sounds more natural on my loudspeakers.  While that lack of clarity and harshness in the strings that I heard on my headphones is still present, it is less noticeable, and one is more drawn by the smoother, more open sound.  This record still remains in my top 10 list of favorite London/Deccas.

Vote for Your Favorite SAX's

A poll will be showing up on the sidebar. Vote as much as you like. If a favored SAX is not on the list please comment on this post! Remember to check everything you want to vote for before submitting your vote (or edit to make additions later). Here is the raw list including reissues:
SAX2253 Debussy: Claire de Lune/Suk/Wieiawski
Oistrakh Yampolsky SREG2019 SAXO2253

SAX2263 Dvorak: Cello Concerto/Fame: Elegie Philh Susskind Starker

CFP40070 $600

SAX2304 Mozart: Concerto 3/Prokofiev Concerto 2 Philh Galliera Oistrakh
SXLP30086p SXLP30155p $830

SAX2307 Brahms: Violin Concerto Philh Kondrashin Kugan SREG1095 SXLP30063

SAX2315 Beethoven: Violin Concerto FNRO Cluytens Oistrakh
$400 $90 $50
SAX2323 Tchaikovsky: Violin Concerto/Meditation PCO Silvestri Kogan

CFP 40083 $3000 $400
SAX2327 Borodin: Prince lgor/Moussorgsky/Rimsky-K Philh Matacic SREG 1049 SXLP30070

SAX2329 Lalo: Symphonie EspagnolfTchaikovsky Philh Kondrashin Kugan

CFP 40040 $7500

SAX2335 Mozart: Piano Concertos 20/23 Philh Boult Annie Fischer
$230 $35
SAX2350 Brahms: Symphony 4 Philh Klemperer

ASD2708 SXLP30214
$200 $10
SAX2352 Beethoven: Archduke Trio D Oistrakh Knushevitsky Oborin

MFP2117 CFP40006 $400

SAX2375 Prokofiev: Peter & Wolf/E Mozart: Toy Sym Philh Karajan

$120 $10 $10
SAX2386 Beethoven: Violin Concerto PCO Silvestri Kogan SAXF 162 CS 2132 - Connoisseur Society VIC-28088 Japan CVD 850 CFP 139 $10000

SAX2393 Mendelssohn: Midsummer nights dream Philh Klemperer

$150 $20 $10
SAX2394 Ravel: Piano Concerto in G/Conc for Left Hand PCO Cluytens Francois

CFP 40071 $400 $50
SAX2398 Mendelssohn: Symphony 4 Philh Klemperer

$125 $15 $10
SAX2411 Brahms: Violin Concerto ONRF Klemperer Oistrakh

SXLP30264 CFP 4398 $450 $30 $5
SAX2441 Mahler: Symphony 4 Philh Klemperer Schwarzkopf ASD2799

$200 $25 $10
SAX2454/5 Bruckner: Symphony 7 Philh Klemperer

$400 $30
SAX2463 Debussy: La Mar/Nocturnes Philh Giulini
$165 $25
SAX2476-79 Ravel: Orch Works V1: Daphnis & Chloe PCO Cluytens CFP 40376 CFP 40375 CFP 40093 CFP 40036 CFP 40323 $400

SAX2485 Schumann: Piano Concerto/Liszt Piano Com: 1 Philh Klemperer Fischer

$300 $50
SAX2497 Tchaikovsky: Symphony 5 Philh Klemperer

$130 $20 $15

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

A SAX Baker's Dozen That Really Cooks


One of the issues with determining what are the best Columbia's is cost.  If one were to accumulate copies of every pressing of each SAX one would spend over $84,000!  You could probably hit $100,000 adding most of the reissues.  LP price is of course determined by supply and demand.  Price alone is not an indicator of record quality.  If a very good record is in low supply, the price can be very high.  A great record in large supply may cost much less money.

One of the points of this blog is to help better inform the savvy collector so they may get the most pleasure from their acquisitions.  So in that vein, I am providing the most expensive SAX issues that also were also pressed on the semi-circle and magic notes labels (magic notes has an ASD-like postage stamp on a red label).  This wealth of pressings indicates that many of these LP's were sold. What follows is this list of popular releases that despite the large supply, still fetch high prices.  I did take some editorial control of this and all of Mr. Klemperer's Mozart Symphonies were cut from the list (several have been reviewed on this site).

SAX 2411
Brahms: Violin Concerto

ONRF, Klemperer, Oistrakh

$450      Popsike Entries: 239

I'd favor the Magic Notes pressing at $5.  One might also try Concert Classic SXLP30264, Classics for Pleasure CFP 4398, or the semi-circle at $30.  Many more options with this LP than with the Szell Beethoven 9 at $2000 for the Blue and Silver as one's only choice.
Update (3/3/2014):
Played this last night and as detailed below in the 3/2 updates once again I was amazed by the later Notes pressing (pictured left). I played three other records I had on notes label:
SAX 5266 Haydn 100 & 102, Klemperer
SAX 2436 Mozart 35 & 36, Klemperer
SAX 2421 Ballet Music from Opera, Karajan

All had the great extended sound as detailed in the updates below. SAX 2421 was very impressive. Sonically, the Notes pressings are basically Columbia Studio 2 Stereo pressings. Recent improvements in sound floor with some diode upgrades (mentioned with the Schubert update  below) have also improved the sound of the second label, magic notes pressings. The Magic are completely unobjectionable now with a nice warmth, but they do not have the treble extension of the Studio 2 Stereo and Notes label sound which makes them sound less dynamic. I would expect the blue and silver pressings to suffer also in comparison, but they do have a much more magical sound. To be blunt, and given sound floor provisos, I prefer the sound of every one of these Notes pressings to my current favorite blue and silver, the extremely magical Peter and the Wolf below. All that being said, these are not the finest EMI pressings. I have a few early black and white stamp pressings of SAX material on ASD that have a more pristine sound and better noise floor performance (ASD 2863 Dvorak 9, Karajan and ASD 2835 Poulenc Organ Con.) These were both original SAX releases and the Poulenc is so good that I've been playing for months not even realizing its SAX roots. These two are definantly very, very fine, but I've just begun listening to later pressings. I expect that it will not be a simple matter in that it looks likely that different vintages of original recording will sound better on different pressings. EMI wa an amazing label with a wealth of excellent pressings.


SAX 2315

Beethoven: Violin Concerto

FNRO, Cluytens, Oistrakh

$400      Popsike Entries: 433

The Concert Classic SXLP30168 is out of the Chevrons, so I'd favor the Magic Notes at $50. Semi-circle $90.  See the review on this site (Columbia SAX 2315 Oistrakh's Classic Beethoven)

Note:  Chevron SXLP label is blue without postage stamp.  The Chevrons are the little V shaped symbols all over the label.

SAX 2417

Weber: Overtures 

Philh, Klemperer

$400      Popsike Entries: 21

Well so much for the power of spreadsheets as this only shows 21 entries in Popsike. I'd say this sold quite a few of the latter pressings and very few Blue and Silver. I'd grab a Magic Notes pressing for $10. Semi is $33.

SAX 2316-7

Donizetti: Lucia di Lammermoor

Philh, Callas

$650      Popsike Entries: 81

The SLS5166 is a very late reissue which might not have enough of the beloved SAX midrange. Magic Notes  at $40 has my reissue money. Semi $50 .

SAX 2412-4

Bellini: Norma 

La Scala, Serafin, Callas

$900      Popsike Entries: 102

The SLS5186 is a very late reissue which might not have enough of the beloved SAX midrange. Magic Notes  at $50 has my reissue money. Semi $100.

SAX 2441

Mahler: Symphony 4

Philh, Klemperer, Schwarzkopf

$200      Popsike Entries: 96

I believe Klemperer's performance here is held in the highest regard.

I'd favor the Magic Notes for $10, but ASD 2799 color stamp of this would have similar sound to a Chevron Concert Classic Pressing and would have a heavier bass experience than any of the SAX.  It would be a very safe bet.  Semi $25.
Update (3/2/2014):
I now have the ASD ($6 to my door) and it delivers a nice warm, defined sound with hints of tube magic and a decent sound floor.  I like the LP, but also will nab a Notes pressing (see my updates below on this list).

SAX 2393

Mendelssohn: Midsummer Nights Dream 

Philh, Klemperer

$150      Popsike Entries: 90

Magic Notes is my reissue of choice at $10. Concert Classic SXLP30191 would be out of the Chevrons.  Semi $20 (see its review here, Columbia SAX 2393 A Midsummer for mid-summer)

SAX 2397

Schubert: Symphony 9 

Philh. Klemperer

$150      Popsike Entries: 86

I'd go for the Magic Notes at $15. Semi $30.
Update (3/2/2014):
I've got the notes pressing in hand now ($8 delivered). At first I was disappointed with this LP (and other notes pressings) as the sound was too bright and not musical. That has reversed with recent sound floor improvements to my system, particularly diode upgrades with hexfred's and Schottky's. I highly suggest modernizing equipment diodes to these (similar results possible with circuitry mods to older diodes, but changing the diode is better and a minimal parts expense). These changes have lowered the sound floor a lot and the final change to the Schottky's eliminated all ringing and overshoot clearing up an amazing amount of has from the sound while a more detailed soundstage.  The net result is that the record under review has excellent clarity and definition.  Combined with a better sound floor, and this notes pressing is a real contender.  I'll be comparing this with the Speaker's Corner Decca Schumann Great Symphony and update.

SAX 2497

Tchaikovsky: Symphony 5 

Philh, Klemperer

$130      Popsike Entries: 50

Based on the Amazon reviews this is a fairly desirable performance.

I'd favor Magic Notes at $15.  Semi $20.

SAX 2398

Mendelssohn: Symphony 4 

Philh, Klemperer

$125      Popsike Entries: 111

Again I'd favor the Magic Notes at $10 as the reissue of choice.  Concert Classic SXLP30178 would offer a bassier sound with a big soundstage, but it is out of the Chevrons, so midrange may not be as good as the SAX. Semi $15.
Update (3/2/2014):
$8 delivered for the notes pressing. Another record transformed by the diode change in the update above. I will say that the notes pressing is a very similar to the stunning Studio 2 Stereo releases done by Columbia at the same time. My TWO 221, Stereo Showpieces (Silvestri) on this label has a very defined presentation also, but their is a large distinction; the Studio 2's are original recordings from the late 60's, not reissues of golden age material (1955-1963). The last gasp from the Columbia classical group and they go out with a bang (the original Klavier's Masssent Le Cid was Studio 2 Stereo, TWO 350.) For some reason the SAX reissues won't sing without modern diode performance, but the Studio 2's do well. I really liked the Schumann 4 I listened to last night.

SAX 2375

Prokofiev: Peter & Wolf; Mozart: Toy Symphony

Philh, Karajan

$120      Popsike Entries: 29

I will personally vouch that this is a very nice record (I own the Blue and Silver).  Magic notes would be my top reissue at $10.  Semi $10.

SAX 2494

Tchaikovsky: Symphony 4 

Philh, Klemperer

$120      Popsike Entries: 49

Klemperer has some regard for his Tchaikovsky. Magic Notes reissue of choice at $20. Semi $20.

SAX 2389

Mozart: Eine Kleine Nachtmusik; Handel-Harty: Water Music 


$100      Popsike Entries: 48

I will personally vouch for the Magic Notes pressing as the reissue of choice as I own it. Concert Classic SXLP30161 is out of the Chrevrons. Semi $20.

I would love to have a Blue and Silver of this. The Magic Notes I suspect images much like the Blue and Silver, but without as much magic in the air.
Update (3/2/2014):
I now also have a Magic pressing (semi) on hand to compare with my beloved notes pressing, an experiment that cost me $8. It does not have the surreal treble extension and sound floor performance of the Notes pressing. AQL has a copy of the notes and just does not like the performances. I absolutely love them and they work very well with the sound. This is syrupy Karajan at his best and is a nice contrast with a more faithful interpretation or original instrument performance. A nice counterpoint to my original instrument Harmonia Mundi LP with McCegan and the Philharmonia Baroque doing Water Music (Supreme Recordings Demi-God no less). The London Szell Water Music is not something I recommend at all (big orchestra sound, austere interpretation that is all wrong).

Summary Comments:
The number of Popsike entries is a key metric, but be advised Popsike only records sales of $25 or above.  Popsike can be very deceiving on lower priced LP's.  Even with that proviso, I'd say the two Oistrakh LP's at the top of the list must really be something given the supply and the prices they command.  Luckily for cheapskates, reissues abound.

I'd point out the two opera entries.  For opera, the number of Popsike entries is impressive though bear in mind that Popsike was able to pick up the reissues well because they were pricier for these multiple LP sets.

I will also point out that my reissue recommendations are guesses at this point.  Chevrons Concert Classic pressings have been consistently good and retain a tube like flavor.  My Magic Notes of SAX 2389 is impressive, but I believe the originals with Columbia SAX will almost always better the SAX later labels.

Hopefully this is a stimulating list for the site as only one of the LP's have been reviewed so far.

The Cream of the SAX Crop (Top $)

SAX 2329
Lalo: Symphonie Espagnole; Tchaikovsky: Serenade Melancolique


Kiril Kondrashin



Only alternative British pressing is the Classics for Pleasure CFP 40040.

SAX 2323
Tchaikovsky: Violin Concerto/Meditation

Paris Conservatoire Orchestra

Constantin Silvestri, Leonid Kogan



Alternative British pressings in the SAX 2nd label (semi-circle) at $400.  Classics for Pleasure CFP 40083 also available.

SAX 2307
Brahms: Violin Concerto


Kiril Kondrashin, Leonid Kogan



For those a budget try the Regal SREG1095 or the Concert Classic SXLP30063.

SAX 2512/3
Beethoven: Symphony 9; Wagner: Mastersingers Prelude

Cleveland Orchestra
George Szell



Only the Blue and Silver pressing is available.

SAX 2531
Sonatas for 2 Violins

Leonid Kogan, Elizabeth Gilels



ODEON pressing available at small discount.

SAX 2253

David Oistrakh, Vladimir Yampolsky



The British Regal SREG2019 is available. French SAXO2253 available at substantial discount.

SAX 2510
Beethoven: Symphony 7; Wagner: Tannhauser

Cleveland Orchestra
George Szell



Just the Blue and Silver.

SAX 2508
Beethoven: Violin Concerto

Erich Leinsdorf, Nathan Milstein



The semi-circle SAX can be had for $100.

SAX 2304
Mozart: Concerto 3; Prokofiev: Concerto 2


Alceo Galliera, David Oistrakh



The Mozart can be had on Concert Classic SXLP30086.  The Prokofiev on SXLP30155. Both are available in the desirable Chevrons blue label.

SAX 2386
Beethoven: Violin Concerto

Paris Conservatoire Orchestra

Constantin Silvestri, Leonid Kogan



Also on SAXF 162, CS 2132 - Connoisseur Society, VIC-28088 Japan, CVD 850, and the British Classics for Pleasure CFP 139. The Connoisseur Society pressing is an oddity and may be in error, but it is the same principals.

Final Comments:
These are the most expensive SAX, but may not be the best as supply and demand play a big role in price.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Welcoming a New Blogger

I just wanted to welcome a new official blogger to this website!  Meles has been a significant contributor to this site since he discovered it only a couple of months ago and brings several years of experience collecting and listening to classical records as well as setting up audiophile sound systems.  He has dedicated a great deal of time to researching the various reissues of EMI ASD and EMI/Columbia albums and will be able to provide readers with information about less expensive but no less excellent sounding alternatives to the high-priced originals.  I hope you will look forward to reading more of and commenting on his personal insight into the wonderful world of classical and jazz recordings.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Decca SXL 6025 Beethoven Overtures with Lorin Maazel

Decca SXL 6025

Beethoven Overtures:
Leonore 1, 2, & 3

Lorin Maazel, conductor
Israel Philharmonic Orchestra

Pressing: ED1

Condition: EX+

ZAL 5587-5W
ZAL 5588-2G

Performance: 8/10

Sound: 6/10

Price range: $25-94, mean $53 on popsike

Comments:  This 1962 recording by the Israel Philharmonic conducted by the young Lorin Maazel presents us with the set of all four overtures Beethoven wrote for the opera Fidelio. Beethoven apparently struggled to come up with a satisfactory version of this overture, producing four different iterations over a span of nine years:  Leonore No. 2 (1805), Leonore No. 3 (1806), Leonore No. 1 (1808), and Fidelio for the revival of the opera (1814).  Frankly, these have never topped my list of favorite Beethoven overtures -- Egmont, Coriolan, and Creatures of Prometheus are my preferences -- but I picked up this record while trying to collect some of Maazel's earliest stereo recordings on Decca, EMI/Columbia, and Deutsche Grammophon.  The performances of the IPO are fine.

The sound stage is pretty wide on this album, and overall presentation is a little more laid back.  You feel like you are sitting some rows back in the concert hall.  Unfortunately, this record suffers from the characteristics of some of the early Decca FFSS pressings.  The frequency range, in spite of being "full frequency stereophonic sound", sounded a bit constricted on my system.  Treble was bright, even a bit shrill, and lacked smoothness.  In the more dynamic, climactic passages of music, I sensed a lack of clarity and picked up some distortion, particularly in the sound of the brass instruments.  On the other end, bass felt shallow and lacked fullness.  As you can see from the label, this is a first pressing ("Original Recording By" at the 10 o'clock position).  I wonder if later pressings or any reissues solved this issue with the treble.  A nice Decca, but not one of the essential ones, at least in its ED1 FFSS pressing.


Friday, August 23, 2013

This Week's Collector's Weekly

1) Rolf Looser (bach) Cello Suites Swiss Private 3 Lp Set Only 500 Made Vinyl Mint - $510 (2 bids)
2) Oistrakh & Yampolsky - Encores Columbia Sax 2253 Blue & Silver Orig Press - $223 (9 bids)
3) Pierre Fournier Schumann Cello Tchaikovsky Columbia Sax 2282 Blue Silver Uk - $204 (10 bids)
4) Large Collection Job Lot Of 41 Decca Sxl Audiophile Classical Lp's Tas - $141 (3 bids)
5) Tchaikovsky "pathetique" Stereo England Martinon /vienna Phil. Black Decca/nrm+ - $125 (1 bid)
6) Rls 739 Ginette Neveu The Complete Recorded Legacy: Sibelius/brahms/strauss Etc - $107 (8 bids)
7) Sax 2389 Ed1 B/s Uk Mozart Eine Kleine Nachtmusik-handel-harty Water Music - $106 (34 bids)
8) Mfsl Sealed Queen A Night At The Opera Original Master Recording Mobile Fidelity - $104 (2 bids)
9) Decca Sxl 6035 Rare Lp Bruch Hindermith Ed1 Ffss Orig Rec By Wbg 1963 Oistrakh - $103 (2 bids)
10) Huge Lot Victrola Records 1902-1940ish Orchestra, Jazz, Classical, Yiddish - $96 (6 bids)
11) John Lennon And Yoko Ono Two Virgins Vintage Lp Never Opened Still In Cello - $85 (1 bid)
12) Asd 2436 Semi-circle Brahms Cello Sonatas Du Pre Barenboim Hmv Stereo Uk 1968 Lp - $79 (5 bids)
13) Mega Rare Young Mitsuko Uchida 1972 Chopin Piano Sonatas - $78 (4 bids)
14) Knappertbusch / Wagner Die Walkure / Decca Sxl 2074-5 Wbg Ed1 - $75 (1 bid)
15) Ansermet / Beethoven Symp. No 5 / Decca Sxl 2003 Wbg Ed1 Bb - $70 (1 bid)
16) Ruggiero Ricci / Prokofiev Violin Concertos / London-decca Ffss Wbg Bb Cs 6059 - $70 (1 bid)
17) Campoli / Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto / London-decca Ffss Wbg Bb Cs 6011, 1e/1e - $69 (3 bids)
18) Philips Mono,3 Lp,ed1, Bach: Sonatas For Solo Violin Grumiaux, Nm - $69 (5 bids)
19) * Melodia - Schubert - Arpeggione Sonata - Khomitser * - $68 (1 bid)
20) David Oistrakh Trio Schubert Trio No.1 Orig Sax 2281 Uk-1958 Lp Ex+ - $67 (5 bids)
21) Classical Lp Michael Rabin "magic Bow" Hollywood Bowl Symphony / Felix Slatkin - $67 (3 bids)
22) Furtwangler Societe Lp Beethoven 3 Eroica F 666 848 M N Mint Private De Germany - $64 (10 bids)
23) Lxt 2651-56, Uk Orig. Wagner: Parsifall, Knappertsbusch, Bayreth Festival 51, Nm - $60 (1 bid)
24) Ed1 Dgg French/german Limited Numbered Box 11 Lp Kempff Beethoven Piano Sonatas - $60 (2 bids)
25) Beethoven 9th. Sym. - Wilhelm Furtwangler - Alp 1286-87 Gold 1st. Uk Press - $59 (5 bids)
26) Wilson Audio Beethoven Stravinsky Hyperion Knight Audiophile Nm- Nr Outstanding - $58 (4 bids)
27) Carl Orff Carmina Burana Telarc Digital Stereo Dg 10056/57 2lp Germany *clean* - $56 (14 bids)
28) Bach (henryk Szeryng) 6 Sonatas & Partitas For Solo Violin Dgg Promo Box Set - $55 (2 bids)
29) Henryk Szeryng - 4 Great Violin Concertos Mercury Living Presence Stereo 3 Lp - $54 (3 bids)
30) Respighi: Feste Romane Mfsl Uhqr-near Mint Classical - $52 (2 bids)
31) Maurice Gendron Bach 6 Suites For Cello Solo Japan Stereo - $50 (1 bid)
32) Kostelanetz: Virtuoso Debussy, Dvorak Philips Minigroove S 04630 L Ed1 Huf Nm/m - $50 (1 bid)
33) Kostelanetz: Bravo Schubert, Strauss. Philips Minigroove S 04632 L Ed1 Huf Nm/m - $50 (1 bid)
34) Yves Nat Rare France 11 Lp Box Set Beethoven Complete Piano Sonatas - $50 (1 bid)
35) Ruggiero Ricci / Sibelius Violin Concerto / London-decca Ffss Wbg Bb Cs 6067 - $50 (1 bid)
36) Saphir 2lps - Bach Suites For Cello Solo - Reine Flachot Nm - $50 (1 bid)
37) Dgg 1960 Stereo Beethoven Ferenc Fricsay Symphony No.9 2 Lp Slpm 138 002/003 Nm - $49 (1 bid)
38) 1957 1a1a Decca Press Jascha Heifetz Rózsa, Spohr Tchaïkovsky Violin Nm - $47 (1 bid)
39) Janos Starker Dvorak Antal Dorati Mercury 35mm Magnetic Film Records Sr 90303 - $46 (14 bids)
40) Dick Wagner And The Frosts Sunshine Date Michigan Psych Garage Rare Listen - $46 (2 bids)

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Columbia SAX 5254

SAX 5254

Mozart Violin Concertos Nos. 4 and 5

Nathan Milstein, violin
The Philharmonia Orchestra

Pressing: ED1

Condition: NM

Performance: 10/10

Sound: 7/10

Price range: $48-257, mean $149 on popsike

Comments: This album was published in 1965 and released in the U.S. as Angel 36007.  Notice how the matrix numbers on this SAX are in fact the same as the Angel stampers, which makes me wonder if this performance was recorded for U.S. Angel/Capitol and then repressed in the UK for EMI/Columbia.  Any insight into this question would be most welcome.  It would be interesting to be able to compare the Angel with the UK Columbia release.

Milstein's artistry and beautiful singing tone are the centerpiece of this record.  Here he performs and presumably directs (no conductor is listed) Mozart's 4th and 5th violin concertos with the Philharmonia Orchestra.  The 4th violin concerto has always been my favorite of the five.  Both concertos are given wonderful performances. Milstein is placed center stage, and his violin at times takes on a lifelike quality on this recording.  If you listen very carefully, you can just make out Milstein's breathing just before he begins a new phrase.  I'm not sure if microphone placement was altered between the recording sessions of the two concertos, because the sound of the soloist and orchestra on Concerto No. 5 (side 2) seems to be a bit more recessed to my ears than on No. 4 (side 1), which sounded a bit more forward.  The sound stage is nice and wide, though again, more so on side 1 than on side 2.  I don't know if it was an issue with my pressing, but in spite of the vinyl visually appearing near mint, there was another discrepancy in the sound quality between side 1 and side 2, this time negative.  While the sound of both sides was very good, there was a significantly greater amount of distortion and lack of clarity when the orchestra crescendoed or played at louder volumes on side 1.  This was limited to the sound of the orchestra -- strings in particular -- and the sound of Milstein's violin was not affected by this.  At times, it was just too much and detracted from the enjoyment of the music.  This was not the case on side 2, which had no problems with clarity at any volume.  Winds had a remarkable clarity and were nicely separated from the strings in both concertos.  Overall, another of Nathan Milstein's fine stereo recordings, but the album would've been even better with improved sound quality as I mentioned before.

Reference recording:  Arthur Grumiaux, Colin Davis, LSO (Philips)

Monday, August 19, 2013

Columbia SAX 2539 From Bohemia With Love (from Szell)

SAX 2539

Bohemian Carnival

George Szell, conductor
The Cleveland Orchestra

Pressing: ED1 (semi-circle or magic notes first)

Condition: EX

BC 1248-A1
BC 1248-B1-E

Performance: 10/10

Sound: 7/10

Price range: $48-214, mean $141 on popsike

Comments:  This may just be my favorite compilation of Bohemian orchestral music on a single disc.  The repertoire is a nice and varied assortment of works by two dominant Czech composers:  Smetana's Moldau (or Vltava) and three dances from The Bartered Bride as well as Dvorak's Carnaval Overture and four Slavonic Dances (#1, 3, 10, 15).  All of these are performed superbly by the Cleveland Orchestra under the direction of George Szell.

Side 1 opens with the enchanting flute solo/duet which sets the stage for the sweeping theme of The Moldau, gorgeously played by the strings.  Orchestral textures are very clear throughout this piece, enabling the listener to appreciate the many wind and brass parts which enrich the string melodies.  The three dances from The Bartered Bride are light and joyous and are all equally enjoyable.  Side 2 gets off to a vibrant start with Dvorak's Carnaval Overture.  Szell's timing for this work (9:25) is a little longer than Reiner's (8:54), Silvestri's (9:17), and Bernstein's (8:59).  Szell's tempo for the first of the Slavonic Dances -- my favorite -- feels, in my opinion, perfect.  Other conductors often take this a little too fast (e.g. Jean Martinon with the LSO) or a little too slow (Bernstein and the NYP); not so here. 

I have not heard the U.S. Epic release of this album (though I probably should for direct comparison), but I thought that the sound quality on this record was very good but not quite up to EMI/Columbia's highest standards.  Not their fault exactly, considering that they licensed the recording from the U.S.  I listened to the record on both my loudspeakers and on my headphones.  Amplification was quite different for the two different systems, which could explain the difference in quality.  The record sounded more natural and transparent on my Von Schweikert VR-2's (powered by the Musical Fidelity M6i), more gritty and constricted on my Beyerdynamic T1's (powered by the PSAudio GCHA, which is likely to not be the best pair for the T1's).  In general, while dynamic range was pretty decent, I felt that clarity and an overall sense of hall presence could have been better.  Treble sounded a little bit bright to my ears. 

Importantly, though, the selling point of this album is its music.  The performances are simply wonderful.  Szell was well regarded as a conductor of Czech music, and this album is exemplary.  I only wish it had been recorded by English engineers for EMI!  For the budget conscious, since this record was licensed from Epic (and the matrix numbers on this pressing are Epic's), it might be worthwhile to try to find the U.S. Epic release for much cheaper before pulling the trigger on the SAX.  Most of this recording has also been released on CD.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Columbia SAX 2470-2

SAX 2470-2

Mozart: The "Haydn" Quartets

The Juilliard String Quartet:
Robert Mann, violin
Isidore Cohen, violin
Raphael Hillyer, viola
Claus Adams, cello

Pressing: ED1

Condition: EX+

BC 1246A-1
BC 1246B-2
BC 1247A-1
BC 1247B-2
BC 1248A-1
BC 1248B-2

Performance: 9/10

Sound: 7/10

Price range: $53-510, mean $285 on popsike

Comments:  I believe that the Juilliard String Quartet recorded Mozart's six "Haydn" Quartets at least twice, once in the early 1960s for Epic and then again with a different musician lineup for CBS in the mid 1970s.  Robert Mann (violin) and Raphael Hillyer (viola) played in both sets; Isidore Cohen (violin) and Claus Adam (cello) were replaced by Earl Carlyss (violin) and Joel Krosnick (cello) in the 1970s set [actually, Claus Adams is listed as the cellist for Quartets #18 and 19 of the second set].  This 3 LP Columbia SAX set consisted of the UK pressings of the Epic recordings issued by EMI/Columbia.  It is both relatively rare and quite expensive, as you can see from the popsike listing.  If you're yearning for a copy, Classical Vinyl in the UK has it on sale now for 320 GBP.

I have listened to both sets from the Juilliard, and in all honesty, it's hard for me to pick a clear winner.  Both are excellent, in my opinion.  The Epic set opens with the cheerful Quartet #14 in G major.  One of my first impressions was how tight the ensemble was; the quartet truly plays as a single organic entity.  Intonation is predominantly spot on.  Perhaps these observations come as no surprise, since these recordings were made following a series of international tours in Europe and Asia that the Juilliard Quartet made as "cultural ambassadors", so I think they had a lot of opportunities to find their groove.  The Adagio opening to Quartet #19 "Dissonant" is played with such beauty; I love the way the Juilliard has such control of their dynamics as they play those rising crescendos.  This very solemn but dramatic introduction paves the way for the Allegro which the Juilliard conveys with such joy and energy.  "The Hunt" is also given an excellent performance, and I especially enjoyed listening to the final movement in which the Juilliard Quartet turns up the heat.

The sound quality here is very good with a nice analog warmth and clarity to it.  Sitting in the sweet spot between my speakers, I was able to appreciate the spatial separation of instruments.

Notice that all the matrix numbers are the same ones used for U.S. Epic stampers (at least for the first pressing of the Epic equivalent).  This leads me to believe that these were not remastered by Columbia and were rather just pressed in the U.K.  I have done an A/B testing of the Columbia vs the Epic pressing of the same album (the photos of this album are shown below) and have to say that I do not hear any significant sonic difference.  Keep in mind, this is with a late, blue label Epic pressing.  Look at the price differential.  These Epic records can be had for a few dollars a pop.  Each of the Columbia issues sell for $100 or more.  This might be a prime example of how rarity trumps sound quality.  If you're going for this as a hard-core collector, that's one thing.  If you're going for the music, I think you'll be more than satisfied to get the US Epic releases.  While the later CBS set is available in digital as a budget boxed set from Sony, I have yet to see the entire Epic set released on CD. 

I've included scanned images of the booklet that is included in the boxed set for your reading pleasure.