Friday, August 2, 2013

Columbia SAX 2327 Matacic's Excellent Russian Album

SAX 2327

Borodin: Prince Igor; Mussorgsky: A Night on Bare Mountain; Rimsky-Korsakov: Russian Easter Overture

Lovro von Matacic, conductor
Philharmonia Orchestra


YAX 162-12
YAX 163-9

Performance:  9/10
Sound:  7

Price range:  $32-400, mean $170 on popsike

Comments:  This is one of my favorite Columbia SAX recordings.  First, it has three of my favorite Russian orchestral works.  The combination of Borodin's Prince Igor (including the Polovtsian Dances), Mussorgsky's Night on Bare Mountain, and Rimsky-Korsakov's Russian Easter Overture makes for a Russian powerhouse album, and the performances are, in my humble opinion, outstanding.  Second, this is one of von Matacic's few EMI stereo recordings, and I think it might be his best.  Third, it has a pretty cool cover.  Fourth, the sound, although not demonstration quality, is very good.  With these very dynamic pieces, you want to have great sound quality to really enjoy the music.  I'd describe the sound as warm.  Just drop the needle on the opening of Night on Bare Mountain, and you'll know what I mean.  As you can see from the price, it'll cost more than a few bucks to pick up a decent copy of this record.  Fortunately, if you're interested in sampling the music before investing in the blue/silver pressing (I've never seen a second label pressing of this record, although I believe it was reissued on a later budget EMI label), Testament remastered the Matacic recordings on CD, although this album ended up being split onto two different CDs.  These also sound excellent and are worth picking up.



  1. There is only the Blue and Silver pressing available for this one. The Concert Classic reissue (SXLP 30070) is very nice. It might even have a little more pop in the bass. However, I expect that the SAX handily bests the Concert Classic issue overall. This was also done on a very early reissue on Regal (SREG1049). I've yet to acquire an EMI Regal LP, but it is likely a 100% tube pressing. There is one sitting on ebay right now from Denmark, but $30 with shipping is a bit much for a cheapskate like me who likes to keep these around the $10 mark delivered.

  2. And if you'd like to hear these performances on cheap analog LP rather than CD before shelling out the big bucks, there's a Quintessence reissue (PMC-7067). Most of these records sound awful in my opinion (and have the tackiest covers ever), but Jim Svejda called this the best Polovetsian Dances ever, so for two bucks I gave it a whirl, and was rewarded with the rare quiet-surfaced decently-pressed Quintessence LP.

  3. This is the best performance of Night on Bare Mountain that I have heard. ~C.G.

  4. I've just listened to my copy of SXLP 30070. Stampers are the same YAX 162-12 & YAX 163-9 as the SAX with 2 M & 2 L in the 3/9 o'clock positions

    performance and sonics are both outstanding

    1. Thanks, AndyW! I wonder how the SXLP and SAX compare ...

  5. My SXLP 30070:
    YAX 162-13 1-R/YAX 163-9 2-GO.

    It would be interesting to compare the SAX and SXLP even though they have the matrix (Andy!). I would bet the mother numbers are significantly better on the SAX. With some Decca I've heard a huge loss of detail with very later mothers and stampers. GRAMOPHLTD are the stamper letters. M & L aren't that bad, but my own GO is the 15th stamper. It would be interesting to see if the SAX came from the first mother instead of 2. My copy on side 1 is a one later matrix number, but the 2nd stamper from the 1st mother.

    Putting this back in the listening pile and I'll report back.

    I see CG approves of Bare mountain. I'll report back on that too partially, as their are probably at least half a dozen audiophile grade versions.

    1. Side 1 of my pressing, the Prince Igor, is pretty much a sonic 7 and I was not impressed, but it is one later on the matrix from Andy and Aqlam's pressings. Side 2 delivers much more and I agree with CG's affection. I've got a ton of Bare Mountains so not going to listen to them all, but this one is very nice and the Rimsky-K Russian Easter also packs a punch. Sonic rating of 9. For those on a budget the SXLP is easily a viable option for any collection. The Regal mentioned above should have earlier stampers and might be worth a bit of a premium. The original pressing at near $200 seems a risky proposition given that side 1 may be sonically average.