Mercury Living Presence II
55 CD, Box Set
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This new collection of 55 CDs from the acclaimed audiophile label offers a wealth of recordings from the 1950s and 1960s in an unrivaled range of repertory.
This ranges from solo Bach played by harpsichordist Rafael Puyana to American composer and conductor Howard Hanson in his own works as well as music by fellow-Americans. Key artists include Antal Dorati in works ranging from Beethoven to Bartok and Berg; Frederick Fennell, Rafael Kubelík, Paul Paray and Janos Starker.
An extensive 182 page booklet includes new essays on the history and development of the Mercury label by Thomas Fine (son of Wilma Cozart Fine, legendary producer of the MLP label) and Mike Gray.
Numerous photographs are included and full recording information is documented. When we say full recording information, we mean it too. All the details collectors love to see is here: the microphones, the recording location, the original engineers, the subsequent remastering engineers, even the type of recording equipment.
Two CDs of true rarities are included: Doratis 1953 mono recording of The Rite of Spring; and making its first-ever appearance on CD is John Coriglianos Piano Concerto.
The CD also includes a rare 16 minute interview with Corigliano and pianist Hilde Somer.
Mercury Living Presence is special in many ways - an American company, from the heyday of classical recording in the U.S., that reproduced some of the most sonically realistic recordings at the dawn of the stereo era. Precious few stereo LPs were pressed when these recordings were issued, and they became some of the rarest, most collectible classical discs ever.
Mercury Living Presence continues to enjoy a special reputation as one of the most enterprising, prestigious and sonically-spectacular labels in the history of classical recording.
1 DORATI Schoenberg Webern Berg
2 RORATI Respighi: The Birds Fountains & Pines of Rome
3 DORAT Bartók: Concerto for Orchestra Dance Suite
4 DORATI Respighi: Ancient Airs and Dances
5 DORATI Dvorák: Symphonies 7 & 8
6 DORATI Gershwin Copland Schuller Bloch
7 DORATI Satie Milhaud Auric Françaix
8 DORATI Tchaikovsky: Symphony 6 Pathétique
9 DORATI Bartók: The Wooden Prince
10 DORATI Bartók: The Miraculous Mandarin
11 DORATI Tchaikovsky: Symphony 4 Borodin
12 DORATI Beethoven: Symphonies 5 & 6
13 DORATI Albéniz Falla Mussorgsky
14 KUBELIK Hindemith Schoenberg Kodály
15 DORATI Beethoven: Symphony 7 Overtures
16-17 DORATI Tchaikovsky: Swan Lake
18-20 FISTOULARI & DORATI
Delibes: Sylvia Coppélia
21 MARCEL DUPRÉ Widor Franck
22 FENNELL Leroy Anderson
23 FENNELL Grainger Persichetti Khachaturian
24 FENNELL ROLLER Gould Giannini Hovhaness
25 FENNELL Grainger Coates
26 FENNELL Hands Across the Sea
27 FENNELL Coates Anderson
28 FENNELL The Spirit of 76 Ruffles & Flourishes
29 FENNELL Mozart R. Strauss Milhaud
30 FENNELL Holst Vaughan Williams Mennin
31 HANSON Hanson: Symphonies 1 & 2
32 HANSON Gould Barber
33 HANSON Ives Schumann Mennin
34 HANSON Hanson: Symphony 3 Elegy Lament
35 HANSON Barber Piston Griffes Kennan
36 HANSON McPhee Sessions Thomson
37 HANSON Moore Carpenter Rogers Phillips
38 HANSON Chadwick MacDowell Peter
39 HANSON Music for Quiet Listening Vol.1
40 HANSON Music for Quiet Listening Vol.2
41 KUBELIK Mozart: Symphony 38 Dvorák: Symphony 9
42 PARAY Ibert: Escales Ravel: Rapsodie Espagnole
43 PARAY French Opera Highlights: Hérold Auber Gounod
44 PARAY Saint-Saëns: Organ Symphony Paray: Mass
45 PARAY Chabrier Roussel
46 PARAY Ravel: Daphnis et Chloé Suite 2 Debussy: Nocturnes
47 PARAY Bizet: Carmen Suite L Arlésienne Suites 1 & 2 Thomas
48 PARAY Dances of Death: Liszt Weber Saint-Saëns Schmitt
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Chas in San Diego
Wilma Cozart Fine deserves the credit for these recordings existing in their CD incarnation (as well as in their vinyl birth) and she seems to have had an unerring ear and an uncanny knack for producing recordings that featured a beautifully detailed, wonderfully deep soundstage. If you own a pair of audiophile grade headphones that can handle Classical music with all of its complexity, try listening to any of the Antal Dorati or Paul Paray recordings included in this set and listen to their stunning breadth and depth. You will hear the most delicate effects produced by a triangle or celesta somehow emerge utterly unscathed from a forest of brass and winds. In a modern recording such detail is usually submerged in a wash of sound that has been artificially produced by multiple takes that are digitally snipped together as a result of quickly recorded sessions during the small window of time that musician's union rules allow.
In our modern era, great recordings are produced by rare accident. In the golden era of vinyl, great recordings were routinely produced by talent and a passion for music. This second set of Mercury Living Presence recordings is the embodiment of that passion. Despite the fact that several of the orchestras recorded here are of less than first tier greatness, somehow their recorded performances are memorable and moving. Paray's recordings of French composers with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra rival some of the finest ever made under Ansermet, Munch or Boulez. Dorati's Bartok recordings have the authenticity and mysterious, disturbing violence that the composer was somehow able to extract from Hungarian and Transylvanian folk music and his own troubled psyche. Dorati's Beethoven and Dvorak are probing and expansive. His Tchaikovsky and Respighi are lyrical, passionate and emotionally satisfying.
This second set contains some of the finest of the Howard Hanson and Frederick Fennell recordings. The three Hanson symphonies included here are the best versions ever recorded. The other choices, for the most part, are of exceptional quality or at least of intrinsic interest. They were certainly some of the most popular of Mercury's recordings at the time. The Fennell recordings are better selections than in the first set, which featured a plethora of wind band music that one might hear in a Victorian gazebo at high noon in July. The Mozart and Holst discs are especially fine, with spirited performances that are recorded with exceptional detail and, yes, presence.
If music is your passion and recorded sound the way you indulge that passion, you owe it to yourself to hear it at its finest. This is a life affirming collection, sensibly priced with limited availability. Do not dawdle: the first set sold out quickly and can now only be purchased at extortionate prices. There is a reason why: these are some of the most glorious examples of vinyl's golden age and such excellence may never come your way again. Don't say I didn't warn you!