- The Hot Stamper return of this stunning rendition of The Nutcracker, with a Triple Plus (A+++) side three and nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sound on sides one and four – just shy of our Shootout Winner
- If you love the excitement Dorati brings to warhorses such as this, coupled with the equally exciting sound that Mercury achieved under Robert Fine, you will have a hard time finding a better combination of the two than this very record
- The sound is glorious – full, rich, spacious, big and transparent, with virtually no smear
- With this early pressing the power of the orchestra will come to life right in your very own listening room
- “The last of Tchaikovsky’s three great ballets, and was premiered in 1892, the year before his enigmatic death.
RFR-1. The music sounds alive, with more fire than the famous Kogan/Monteux recording. Performed by the London Symphony, under the direction of Antal Dorati.
This commentary was written in 2004. We carried Heavy Vinyl back then, and for that I would like to apologize. Like the audiophiles of today, at the time I thought I knew a great deal more about records and their proper reproduction than I actually did.
Yes, I admit it: I suffered from the Dunning-Kruger effect. There is one very powerful benefit that I gained from being so mistaken. Having experienced it myself, the signs that you think you know more than you do are very easy to spot in others. If you want to see the effect firsthand, go to any audiophile forum and start reading any thread you find there. It would be hard to miss.
Some thoughts on the new 180 gram Mercury reissues by Speakers Corner and a bunch of other record related stuff.
The Absolute Sound weighed in with their view of the series:
Speakers Corner has given these recordings the respect they deserve. The packaging is gorgeous: a black album titled “The Living Presence of 20th Century Music” and displaying the Mercury logo holds the three records with their original covers and liner notes. In addition, there are informative annotations on the music and Dorati, and a history of Mercury Living Presence…They sound at least as good and in some ways better than the originals…There are no negatives and not enough superlatives to describe these magnificent reissues. It’s rare that performance, sound, and musical value combine at this level in a recording.
Arthur B. Lintgen, The Absolute Sound, February/March 2004
Let me start by saying that I have not listened to a single one of the new Mercury titles.
Now that that’s out of the way, let me state for the record that the chances of the above statements as quoted in TAS being true are so close to zero that they cannot be calculated by anything but the latest Cray computer.
Has Speakers Corner produced a single classical record that’s better than a good original pressing? One or two. Maybe. So what are the chances they did so with these? Almost none I would say. (more…)
- This wonderful collection of rhapsodies finally makes its Hot Stamper debut here with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER on both sides
- One of the best of the Mercury Living Presence Titles – the orchestra is big, rich and tubey, yet the dynamics and transparency are first rate
- Beautifully performed by the London Symphony Orchestra (our favorite performances of these works in fact), under the direction of Antal Dorati
- Other versions — the Oscar Danon we like on RDG, for example — may be faster, but Dorati and the LSO bring an energy and spirit to these pieces that we feel is unequaled on vintage vinyl
- “The playing is flawless… if you like and/or appreciate the music of these composers, your life would be remiss not having heard these performances.”
For our recent shootout of The Firebird we had three minty, potentially hot copies of the Mercury with Dorati, as well as our noisy ref. (We have a noisy reference copy for just about every major title by now. We have been doing these shootouts for a very long time. After thirty years in the record business we have accumulated a World Class collection of great sounding records that just too noisy to sell.)
We had one FR pressing and two of the later pressings with the lighter label, the ones that most often come with Philips M2 stampers.
This is how we described the winner:
So clear and ALIVE. Transparent, with huge hall space extending wall to wall and floor to ceiling. Zero compression.
Lifelike, immediate, front row center sound like few records you have ever heard.
Rich, sweet strings, especially for a Mercury. This side really gets quiet in places, a sure sign that all the dynamics of the master tape were protected in the mastering of this copy.
What we didn’t say — and what we never say in the listings — is what the second tier copies didn’t do as well as the shootout winner. (more…)
Super Hot Stamper sound for Eric Satie’s wonderfully eccentric Parade (and the Auric piece as well) can be found on this rare original promo copy of Mercury 90435, a record that was previously on the TAS List if I’m not mistaken.
It certainly deserves to be. The sound is BIG and OPEN, and like so many Mercury recordings with the London Symphony, it’s rich and full-bodied, not thin and nasally as is so often the case with their domestically recorded releases. Above all the sound is transparent, lively and dynamic.
In many ways this album would certainly serve quite well as an audiophile Demo Disc: the timbre of the wide array of instruments used is (mostly) Right On The Money.
Check out the lengthy and humorous producer’s notes for the sessions below. And people think The Beatles discovered experimental sounds in the studio.
With one small exception: the brass doesn’t have all the weight of the real thing, and for that we have deducted one plus from our top grade of three.
Side one has Classic Bad Mercury Sound — so screechy, hard and thin. How many audiophiles own records like this and don’t know that the sound of one side is awful and the other brilliant?
Since so few have ever commented publicly about such matters — and even supposedly knowledgeable audiophile reviewers never bother to even bring up the subject of one side versus the other — one must conclude that this is a subject that has yet to pierce the consciousness of most of our audiophile brethren, especially the ones who haven’t yet discovered this site.
Now’s a good time to start. Dig in, you may be surprised by what you find.
- Stunning sound for this classic Byron Janis Mercury album with a Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) side two mated with an outstanding Double Plus (A++) side one – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
- The piano is huge and weighty, the strings rich and highly resolving, and the overall presentation is powerful, balanced, dynamic and exciting like few other piano concerto recordings we have ever had the pleasure to audition
- Not only is this the consistently best sounding copy we have had to offer in years, but we are happy to report that the vinyl is especially quiet for a vintage Plum Label Mercury stereo pressing
Fine and Cozart
The piano is huge and powerful, yet the percussive and lighter qualities of the instrument are heard clearly and in proper relation to the orchestra as a whole.
I simply cannot criticize the work that Fine and Cozart have achieved with this recording, and believe me, there are very few records in this world about which I could not find something to criiticize. It is, after all, our job, and we like to set VERY high standards for the work we do. (more…)
I believe you’ll find that Mercury’s sonics are superior to RCA’s for this music, and I prefer Dorati’s interpretation over Reiner’s as well. Although this record looks practically unplayed, it has vinyl typical of the era.
- A stunning copy of this superb recording of Stravinsky’s ballet, with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it throughout – fairly quiet vinyl too
- This spectacular Demo Disc recording is big, clear, rich, dynamic, transparent and energetic – HERE is the Mercury sound we love, and that is so hard to find
- “Petrushka brings music, dance, and design together in a unified whole. It is one of the most popular of the Ballets Russes productions.”
This vintage Mercury pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records can barely BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing signs of coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to “see” the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in the studio with the band, this is the record for you. It’s what vintage all analog recordings are known for — this sound. (more…)
The massed strings here, such as those found at the opening, are close miked and immediate in the “Mercury recording style.” Your electricity better be good when you play this record, because it presents a test many of you will have trouble passing at even moderate levels.
We’ve often encouraged our readers and customers to go about unplugging things in their homes in order to test the effect of clean electricity on their playback systems. The opening of this record is a perfect example of the kind of material with which everyone should be testing in order to hear these changes. I’d be very surprised if the strings on this record don’t sound noticeably better after you’ve unplugged a few things in your house, and the more the better.
The effect should not be the least bit subtle. It’s certainly not subtle in our system.
The same would be true for any of the tweaks we recommend. The Talisman or Hallographs would be a godsend for proper playback of this record. Hard to imagine what it would sound like without them. (To tell you the truth we don’t really want to know.) (more…)