Sunday, August 4, 2013

Columbia SAX 2278 A Tale of Two G Minors

SAX 2278

Two Symphonies in G Minor

Otto Klemperer, conductor

Philharmonia Orchestra

Pressing: ED1
Condition:  NM

YAX 104-2
YAX 105-4

Performance: 9/10

Sound: 8/10

Price range: $39-325, mean $107 on popsike

Comments:  Whenever I hear the opening measures of Mozart's Symphony No. 25 in G minor, I am reminded of the opening minutes of the film Amadeus.  This may be one of my favorite openings to any symphonic work -- the syncopated repetitive G's played by the strings instantly conjure a sense of urgency that just draws you into the movement.  I remember playing this with our high school orchestra, and I can say that this piece is just as fun to perform as it is to hear.  Even though it is a "less mature" work than the Little G Minor symphony, I've always had a slightly greater liking for No. 25.  Well, with this album, you don't have to choose, because you get both.  Production quality to the record is very high and demonstrates the standards that British Columbia set back in the day.  Heavy, laminated cardboard cover with beautiful artistic front showing a copy of Mozart's manuscript and detailed liner notes by William Glock on the rear.  The recording is quite excellent with very nice clarity and dynamic range.  Hall acoustics can be well appreciated.  Klemperer does not lag in these performances; on the contrary, tempos are swift.  In fact, I don't know if I've heard a faster first movement to No. 25!  This is one of the most valuable -- if not the most valuable -- of Klemperer's EMI Mozart recordings, with SAX 2486 also fetching high prices (I just found out the last six symphonies were released as a French pressing only boxed set.)



  1. Loved this symphony since Amadeus and do not like performance and sound of my Neville Marriner on Argo (really disappointing considering he recorded for the movie). There just is not that much 25 on LP. I've had my eye on this LP for some time. SLS5048 has all the Klemperer Mozart on 6 LPs. Saw one sell on ebay for $20, but the problem was the seller claimed $50 shipping from the Netherlands! I've got my eye out for both. [Do you have SLS5048? I am curious as to which Mozart 40 is in the set as I have a later SAX with 40 and 41.]

    I see the sound ratings are getting conservative! "quite excellent with very nice clarity and dynamic range" equals a 4? 5's must be very special. This review very much appreciated.

    1. I think you are holding out on another Mozart 25 with this same performance on another SAX (5252). Any impressions on the relative sonics. SAX5252 is much cheaper. This might shed light on differences in mastering to tape and also cutting to disc. Would they have remastered the tape for 25? A good chance as it has been compressed from one side to the last 4 bands on side 2 of SAX 5252.
      A nice ad for it with only 20 seconds of the Nacht Musik on the other side:

    2. Just saw this comment again .... now you have the review of SAX 5252, too. No difference in sonics, at least no improvement to my ears. It's noticeable, because the other Mozart work on 5252 sounds far better and was recorded in 1966, as opposed to this one in the late 1950s.

  2. I actually do have SLS5048. I picked it up for $40 from Orpheus Classics in Boston before I bought these SAX recordings. Those are just as nice. Sound is clean, crisp, and dynamic. I'd say pick it up if you see it for not too much ... it'd be a bargain. To answer your question, the Mozart 40 is the same as the one on this SAX. The stampers on my postage stamp EMI are YAX 105-7, so almost the same as the one on the SAX.

    Thanks for paying so much attention to my reviews! Yes, I think my grading was influenced by our conversations. I think I was not being objective enough about my previous grading and have actually revised my previous grades to account for this. If I consider 5 to be the VERY BEST sounding recordings, then that is a real distinction and one which must be merited. There are a number of recordings which have blown me away, and I now consider these to be 5s. Perhaps I should make them 5+? Haha, maybe that would complicate matters. I just want to provide a review which is meaningful enough to potential buyers to help them with a decision. The caveat, of course, is that equipment may play a heavy hand in this, and so one needs to keep that in mind. What might not sound so outstanding on my system might be different on another's. However, I feel that if it does sound good on mine, I think that a comparable pressing in comparable condition will also sound pretty good on another system. I also don't want readers to necessarily think that just because these SAX albums are priced so expensively that they are all worth it. That is absolutely not the case.

  3. The system yesterday was all solid state (very large panel speakers though). Started out the proceedings with Classics for Pleasure CFP40053 Saint-Saens Organ Symphony (1st two movements), aka ASD585. It was very effective with a nice big sound. This pressing should be the equivalent to a later B&W pressing. Strings are not the usual B&W dry on this record, but they are not wonderful either. I was listening with one HD digophile and the host who has quite a bit of HD and surround material (the surround array is audiophile class equipment too). Next up, the Yehudi Brandenburg concerto 4 color stamp of ASD 328 was nice, but not as convincing as on my system. Strings were better than the previous LP, but did not have the beauty I get at home. We the jumped to sister LP, original Menuhin Haffner Serenade ASD627. It tried to have some upper string magic on that system, but had a dry tube sound that I hear on a few of these early semi-circle releases. Worse sound, but this LP is a lot better on my system (but still not nearly as good as the Brandenburg's). Quickly jumped ship to Karajan Mozart Dances SAX2389 magic notes pressing. Once the volume was right it was doing its thing including the aforementioned bird sound incident with the dogs. This LP was a little trickier (harsher) and required good volume tuning to sing. Next was the Karajan Peter and the Wolf final movement and Toy Symphony, Blue and Silver SAX2375. This LP really delivered the goods and was great sounding. Finished with a late EMI Munro/Early Music Consort Renaissance Suite on HQS1415, 1974 (Pathe Marconi sourced tape). The typical dryness of these pressings was not an issue with this type of music and the Chalumeau, Cittern, Tromba Marina, Gemshorn, Medieval Bells, Schaum, Sackbuts, Regal, Crumhorns, Rauschpfeiffen, Continuo and percussion sounded spledid and clean. The SAX did very, very well on this system. I'd say it also liked the B&W pressings well. It did not like the first three emi pressings as well.

    Could this be a tube versus transistor kind of thing. I'll take note. I will be paying more attention to the B&W pressings on my system to make sure my impressions are holding given the recent improvements. There may be a pecking order of sorts on pressings that may vary from system to system. I'll be listening this week and may get a few more EMI plays on the system above.

    I am on a vacation from my vacation (trip) and I am liking it.

    1. I think this transistor system has a somewhat unusual sound. It seems to lock in well with the vintage gold & cream I played. It did not like the B&W pressing at all of the same record (Hiawatha's Feast). The system seemed to provide a bit of its own lift to the upper treble. The immediate and dynamic second pressings sounded very harsh on top. So, what does this mean? I think on most systems this harshness will not be an issue. I like the second and third pressings very much. I'd go for Gold & Cream ASDs when the price is right.