Thursday, February 23, 2012

Mercury Living Presence

Prokofiev: Love for Three Oranges Suite, Scythian Suite

Antal Dorati
London Symphony Orchestra
Recording director:  Wilma Cozart
Recording engineer/supervisor:  C. R. Fine
Musical editor:  Harold Lawrence
Tape-to-disc transfer:  George Piros
Recorded at the Watford Town Hall, July 4, 1957

One of the very best Mercury Living Stereo recordings from the 1950s-60s.  This album is well known to most classical LP audiophiles and has the distinction of making it to Harry Pearson's The Absolute Sound Super LP list.  It was also released in mono as Mercury MG-50157.  I picked up my stereo copy (stampers FR4/FR2) at the Princeton Record Exchange while I was still in medical school.  It is quite a stunning record, both in terms of sound quality as well as performance.  Personally, I favor the Love for Three Oranges Suite over the Scythian Suite, but both are given very dynamic performances on this disc.  The famous March from the LOTOS packs quite a punch.  Compared to a lot of other Mercury recordings, this one seems to have a quieter surface and less background hiss, which really allows the listener to appreciate the dynamic range of this record.

One of the things I like about reading the liner notes of these Mercury Living Stereo recordings is the "Hi-Fi Facts", which follows the program notes and precedes the list of "Other Mercury LIVING PRESENCE High Fidelity STEREO RECORDS for your record library".  For this album, "three especially sensitive microphones were plaed in experimentally-determined positions in front of the orchestra, which was seated in normal concert position.  The three resulting channels of sound were later incorporated into a two-channel master tape, and the orchestral sound is thus spread evenly before the listener in an unbroken front of sound."

If you aren't able to land a vinyl copy of this wonderful album, you can still appreciate it on CD.  It was first issued on CD in 1991 but has since been rereleased as part of a boxed set from 2005 entitled "Antal Dorati Conducts", which also happens to include several tracks from a number of Antal Dorati's famous recordings for Mercury.  For about $20, this 5 CD set is a pretty good bargain.

For those of you who are reading, I'd be interested to know if you have any other favorite recordings of these compositions, either in analog or digital.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012


Welcome to From Miles to Mozart!

The creation of this blog marks the 10 year anniversary of when I first started to seriously collect classical and jazz records, a hobby which I picked up during the year I lived on the outskirts of Washington, DC and which has traveled with me back to my hometown of Chicago and then on to Boston where I currently reside. While 10 years is probably beans compared to how long most other die hard LP and CD collectors have been at this, they've been a blast, and I've learned a lot about various aspects of record collecting, audiophilia, and music in general. I've spent my share of free time diving into record bins at used book and record stores, record fairs, moving sales, people's basements ... you name it. While it can be frustrating to travel miles to someone's home to find hundreds of Mantovani and Jackie Gleason records (not that there's anything wrong with them), there are those occasional eureka moments when you stumble across something like a rare British Columbia stereo recording of Otto Klemperer conducting Stravinsky's Pulcinella Suite in mint condition for 5 bucks, an early wide-band English Decca pressing of Ernest Ansermet conducting Petrouchka in stereo for 1 dollar, or a shrink-wrapped copy of Kenny Dorham's Una Mas, Blue Note New York USA pressing, for 75 cents. Sadly, those types of moments are very rare nowadays in the world of Ebay, when anyone who digs up their old record collection believes that they have rediscovered gold and offers it to the auctioning world at inflated prices. Such is life. Regardless, I was able to build up a reasonable LP collection and have had the privilege of being able to appreciate the wonderful legacy left behind by a host of absolutely stellar musicians. As I enter into the next decade of music collecting, I find myself purchasing more CDs and SACDs than LPs. Not that I've abandoned the world of vinyl -- not at all -- but I'd like to be able to support the growing group of highly talented classical and jazz artists who have just as much to share with us (if not more) as did past masters. In parallel, though, I've decided to revisit the items of my record collection. My hope is to be able to share some of my observations as I listen again to these records and if possible, throw in tidbits of history behind some of them. Once in a while, I'll do some side by side comparisons between different recordings of the same composition. And from time to time I'll share some of the stories from my record hunting days.

Okay, here we go!