Labels We Love – Mercury

Anderson / The Music of Leroy Anderson Vol. 3 / Fennell – Reviewed in 2011

More Orchestral Recordings 

More Anderson / The Music of Leroy Anderson Vol. 3 / Fennell 

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Orchestral Music Hall of Fame

Volume Three (SR 90400) of Anderson’s recordings for Mercury with Fennell conducting has long been a favorite or ours here at Better Records. The first volume is of course on the TAS Super Disc list, and when you get a good copy of it you will have no trouble believing it is a Super Disc. But so is this one, provided you play the right pressing of course. (more…)

Grieg / Peer Gynt Suite / Barbirolli (SR 90164) – Reviewed in 2010

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Orchestral Music Hall of Fame.

This is an original Mercury LP with an AMAZING sound and EXTREMELY quiet vinyl! This has got that Mercury LIFE to it! The sound may be slightly on the dry side, but all the instruments have wonderful texture and tonality.

And of course, this is music that belongs in any collection. It’s some of the greatest and most accessible classic music ever written.  (more…)

Tchaikovsky / The Nutcracker Ballet / Dorati – Our Shootout Winner from 2010

More of the music of Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893)

The Nutcracker Ballet / Dorati

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Orchestral Music Hall of Fame.

This London Symphony recording is without a doubt THE BEST SOUNDING Nutcracker we have ever played here at Better Records, and that includes not only the full ballet but the suites and excerpts as well. The sound in a word is GLORIOUS. This copy, with 8 1/2 pluses total for the four sides, has DEMO DISC quality sound on three out of four sides. We shot out nine original maroon label copies (and one oval label Philips pressing) so we had our work cut out for us when it came to this masterwork of Tchaicovsky’s. It was an absolute JOY to hear his sublime orchestration recorded so faithfully and naturally by the Mercury team, using 35MM film no less. 

The review which can be seen by clicking on the Nutcracker Review tab above discusses Dorati’s sprightly performance guiding the LSO. He brings this music to LIFE like no other conductor of which I am aware.

A top performance with top quality sound. Let’s get right to each of the four sides. (more…)

Cannonball Adderley – Jump For Joy

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  • An incredible sounding copy – this early stereo pressing boasts Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from start to finish 
  • We were knocked out by the Tubey Magical midrange of this killer original, with all the saxophone’s breath and bite you would expect to hear on an All Tube affair from 1958
  • This is precisely what is sure to be missing from whatever reissue has been made from the tapes (or, to be clear, a modern digital master copied from who-knows-what-tapes)
  • “Jump for Joy is Adderley’s reinterpretation of a Duke Ellington stage musical from 1941… Hearing Adderley’s often thrilling, always well-constructed alto sax improvisations over tunes like “I Got It Bad and That Ain’t Good” is reason enough for the album to exist…”

With Bill Evans on piano no less! (more…)

Respighi / Ancient Airs and Dances / Dorati

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Orchestral Music Hall of Fame.

Both sides of this TAS List early Colorback RFR copy have SUPER Hot Stamper sound, so much richer and sweeter and less strident than the typical copy you might find. (I must admit the Mercury approach to sound has not worn as well as I might have hoped. When it comes to the Big Three from the Golden Age, these days we prefer London, followed by RCA, then Mercury.) 

Of course the music is wonderful, with Respighi looking back and paying homage to the music and the musical structures of the past. This is no Pines of Rome. Please see the Ancient Airs and Dances tab above for more on the music.

Side One

A++ Superb Living Presence sound. Listen especially to how textured and natural he cellos sound, as well as the strings in general. Mercury rarely recorded strings properly but here they sound tonally correct, neither nasally nor strident. (more…)

Sousa / Sound Off! / Fennell / EWE – Reviewed in 2010

More of our best Orchestral Recordings

Sousa / Sound Off! / Fennell / EWE

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Orchestral Music Hall of Fame.

This Mercury pressing is EXCELLENT ON BOTH SIDES, way better than the copies we played it against. It has a GIGANTIC soundfield — spacious and three-dimensional, deep and wide. The clarity is excellent and there’s a ton of energy. Those of you with tubes in your system are likely to get the most out of this music.

Many of you are likely to recognize The Liberty Bell on side two — it’s the Monty Python theme song! (more…)

Hovhaness / Sym. #4 / Giannini #3 / Eastman Wind Ensemble

More Hovhaness

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Orchestral Music Hall of Fame.

These symphonies for winds are an audiophile delight. Mercury is famous for their wind band recordings and this is clearly one of their best.

The idea of a symphony performed only by wind instruments (with added harp and percussion) is novel, to me anyway, and I found the music nothing short of enchanting. One of the first wind recordings I fell in love with decades and decades ago was British Band Classics on Mercury with the EWO under Fennell. Whenever a copy comes in I play it and fall in love with it all over again. You may feel the same about this very record. (more…)

Brahms / Violin Concerto / Szeryng / Dorati – Our Shootout Winner from 2012

More of the music of Johannes Brahms 

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Orchestral Music Hall of Fame

These later Mercury stampers are wonderful: gorgeous woodwinds, a large, full-bodied orchestra and of course a Tubey Magical violin to die for. Both sides earned SUPERB Super Hot Stamper grades (but for very different reasons). The exciting sound is matched by an equally exciting performance by Dorati. Dorati and the LSO pull out all the stops; they’re staking out a position as to just how powerfully and emotionally this work ought to be performed.

The opening is so dramatic — in the style of the First Brahms Symphony — that it’s hard to imagine there is any recording medium that can capture it without a fair amount of dynamic compression. This vintage pressing suffers from a relatively (in our experience) small amount of congestion and shrillness at the opening and elsewhere.

I find it hard to believe that any attempt to record the work would not encounter quite a lot of difficulty with the prodigious dynamic power of the piece. (more…)

Mendelssohn & Schubert / Symphony No. 4 & Symphony No. 5 – Reviewed in 2014

More of the music of Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847)

More of the music of Franz Schubert (1797-1828)

Symphony No. 4 & Symphony No. 5

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Orchestral Music Hall of Fame

The strings are rich, with lovely rosiny texture and virtually no tube smear. Played with zest and the recording is every bit as lively. 

The grade on side one could even be better than Two Pluses — we just don’t have enough clean copies to know. Big bass at the end, powerful dynamics too.

Side two was good but nothing like this amazing side one. Too much smear hurts it badly, and the mark is not helping either.

We’re pricing this one for just the one side. Fortunately it’s the complete symphony, one of Mendelssohn’s most famous works.


Artist Biography by Rovi Staff

Mendelssohn was the only musical prodigy of the nineteenth century whose stature could rival that of Mozart. Still, his parents resisted any entrepreneurial impulses and spared young Felix the strange, grueling lifestyle that was the lot of many child prodigies.

Mendelssohn was a true Renaissance man. A talented visual artist, he was a refined connoisseur of literature and philosophy. While Mendelssohn’s name rarely arises in discussions of the nineteenth century vanguard, the intrinsic importance of his music is undeniable. A distinct personality emerges at once in its exceptional formal sophistication, its singular melodic sense, and its colorful, masterful deployment of the instrumental forces at hand.

A true apotheosis of life, Mendelssohn’s music absolutely overflows with energy, ebullience, drama, and invention, as evidenced in his most enduring works: the incidental music to A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1826-1842); the Hebrides Overture (1830); the Songs Without Words (1830-1845); the Symphonies No. 3 (1841-1842) and No. 4 (1833); and the Violin Concerto in E minor (1844).

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Symphony No. 4 (Mendelssohn)

Side Two

Symphony No. 5 (Schubert)

Prokofiev & Rachmaninoff / Piano Concertos / Janis – Kondrashin – Reviewed in 2010

More Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953)

Piano Concertos / Janis – Kondrashin

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Orchestral Music Hall of Fame.

This is a very good sounding and pretty darn quiet Mercury Plum label pressing of Janis’ superb performances, and a member of the TAS Super Disc list. Side one, the Prokofiev side, is super-transparent, with a percussive and wonderfully clear, correct sounding piano at the center of the stage. Additionally, the orchestra is not shrill as it is on so many Mercury pressings. 

If you’re in the market for quality classical recordings these days you know that finding a fairly quiet, not shrill, tonally correct Mercury is no easy task. So many are scratched or groove damaged, especially on this title — we went through three copies to find one that was even passable. The piano on the other two broke up like crazy whenever Janis started to pound away, which is something both works call for throughout. (more…)