Thursday, August 8, 2013

Mercury SR 90313 My Favorite Mercury Living Stereo Record

SR 90313

Ravel: Rapsodie Espagnole, La Valse, Pavane Pour une Infante Defunte, Alborado del Gracioso
Ibert: Escales (Ports of Call)

Paul Paray, conductor
Detroit Symphony

Pressing: Early maroon (with Vendor label)

Condition: NM

Stampers: RFR-1/RFR-1

Performance: 10/10

Sound: 10/10

Price range: $27-365, mean $128 on popsike

Comments:  This is my all-time favorite Mercury Living Stereo recording.  The album opens with the exotic Rapsodie Espagnole at a tempo which seems to be a little quicker than other recordings I've heard recently but works.  Alborado del Gracioso, one of the orchestrated movements from Ravel's Miroirs, also starts out briskly, but the DSO is able to keep things together.  The Pavane boasts some truly lovely wind solos.  Concluding the Ravel portion of this album is La Valse, in which Paray and the DSO  take us listeners for quite an exciting ride.  There aren't too many recordings of Ibert's L'Escales (the other one I'm familiar with being the Munch recording on RCA), but this one ranks with the best.  What a seductive oboe solo in the second movement!

Sound quality is excellent and representative of the very best Mercury offered at the time.  From the front cover, one can see that this was one of the albums recorded using "original 35mm magnetic film".  It has a huge dynamic range with absolutely no loss of clarity whatsoever during loud climaxes.  Clarity is superb and particularly appreciable when it comes to hearing individual wind parts, particularly in Feria, the brilliant finale of Rapsodie Espagnole, the Pavane, and La Valse.  You can really feel the percussion in La Valse and the opening movement of L'Escales.  Unlike in the last Paray album I discussed (SR 90205), the mikes were probably set up some distance behind the conductor.  Rather than being up close and personal, the listener is still placed close to the musicians but far back enough to hear some air around the orchestra.  Just turn up the volume a little, sit back, and enjoy.  This is French impressionistic music at its best.

Some notes on the recording, taken from the liner notes.  "This recording was made in the auditorium of Cass Technical High School in Detroit, Michigan.  Three microphones were used for the stereo version, and a single one for the monaural.   All microphones remained, after being carefully tested, in one location throughout the session; recording levels also remained absolutely constant.  No limiting or compression is imposed on the recorded level in any later processing.  The recording was originally done on 35-mm magnetic film, an extremely expensive medium which has many technical advantages; no hiss, truer transient response, no flutter, extremely accurate delineation of the timbre of instruments.  Wilma Cozart was the recording director; Harold Lawrence was the musical supervisor; C. R. Fine was technical supervisor, and Robert Eberenz was his associate.  The stereo film-to-disc transfer was made by George Piros, the monaural by John Johnson."

Outstanding in every way.


  1. I am amazed the Vendor pressings is outstanding. They look the same in the dead wax to the original RFR pressing, but I've not been impressed with my Vendors. I would think the original RFR (non-Vendor pressing)would be even better. I had the CD of this a long time ago. I thought Classic reissued this one on LP.

    I've had a love/disappointment relationship with LSC-1984 with Munch, BSO. You get La Valse, Espagnole, and Bolero (Debussy, Prelude Faun). The love has been when this LP has wove a hynoptic sound field on occasion in the past (a drug like tube bloom affect). The hate has been when I've not gotten my fix on revisiting (seems like that first time was with Vandersteen 2CE, ARC D160, Dyanaco PAS2, and Bluepoint special). I've got about five copies on hand and I am due for another attempt to get high. RCA pressings are a mess. I'll report back on stamper number results if I am hypnotized by any copies.

  2. I agree with you. The program on LSC-1984 is fantastic, but sound quality is mixed. I sold my copy a few months ago but remember that the album did sound pretty decent. It was not one of my favorite RCAs. In fact, I like the CD/SACD better for this one.

  3. It is the briskest 'Bolero' of all the Golden Age recordings I've heard.... some versions are more hypnotic, but the Munch just rocks!

    1. I just picked up the 180g Classic Records reissue, which has been on Arthur Salvatore's list of reference recordings for some time, as opposed to the original. Thought I'd do a comparison between the reissue and the original ... I'll report back.

  4. The Classic is a stunner, particularly the 45rpm set. I'd highly recommend either.

    1. Wow. I'd think the 45 rpm might be quite expensive. The Prokofiev Love for Three Oranges is a cut above this one. Salvatore rates them the same level, but on a system that can really do bass Oranges and especially Scynthian Suite on the other side deliver some serious bass weight with coherence. I've not heard the most highly regarded Stravinksy Firebird Mercury Classic, but I'm not so sure that it would best the Prokofiev on a big system.(I do have HD digital version of the Firebird and it is superb.)

  5. Hey there, I think you would be shocked to hear the original of 313 especially the promo. One of the most stunning recordings. If anyone wants to find out about this in more detail, and I've got most of the Mercs in original stampers, and promos to boot, email me at I am getting ready to sell.