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.


  1. I would like to make a request: Sound bytes! if you can find examples of any of your posts online, embed them so we can listen to the awesomeness

  2. Great idea, JLA! If I can find a decent link, I will. Thanks for the suggestion!