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Mercury Living Presence. The Collector’s Edition (WAV)

Mercury Living Presence. The Collector's Edition (50 CD box set, WAV)
Mercury Living Presence. The Collector's Edition (50 CD box set, WAV)

Audio CD
Number of Discs: 50
Format: WAV (image+cue)
Label: Decca
Size: 33.8 GB
Recovery: +3%
Scan: no

Kubelik / CSO Mussorgsky / Ravel: Pictures at an exhibition Bartók: Music for strings, percussion and celesta

Kubelik / CSO Smetana: Má Vlast

Howard Hanson / Eastman-Rochester Orchestra Fiesta in Hi-Fi

Dorati / Minneapolis Symphony / Philharmonia Hungarica Kodály & Bartók

Menuhin / Dorati / Minneapolis Symphony Bartók: Violin Concerto No.2; Second Suite

Frederick Fennell / Estman-Rochester Pops Hi-Fi a la Española

Dorati / London Symphony Orchestra / Minneapolis Symphony Prokofiev: Scythian Suite; Love for Three Oranges; Symphony 5

Howard Hanson – The Composer and his Orchestra

Dorati / Minneapolis Symphony Tchaikovsky: 1812 Overture; Capriccio Italien Beethoven: Wellington’s Victory

Dorati / Minneapolis Symphony Dvorák: Slavonic Dances, opp.46 & 72

Howard Hanson / Eastman-Rochester Orchestra Grofé: Grand Canyon Suite; Herbert: Cello Concerto No.2

Frederick Fennell / Eastman Wind Ensemble British and American Band Classics

Dorati / Minneapolis Symphony / London Symphony Orchestra Stravinsky: Petrouchka; Le Sacre du printemps

Paray / Detroit Symphony Orchestra Suppé & Auber: Overtures

Paray / Detroit Symphony Orchestra Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, etc.

Frederick Fennell / Eastman Wind Ensemble Sousa: Sound Off! & Sousa on Review: Favourite Marches

Dorati / London Symphony Orchestra Enesco: Roumanian Rhapsody No.1 / Liszt: Hungarian Rhapsodies 1-6

Dorati / London Symphony Orchestra Khachaturian: Gayaneh Skrowaczewski / Minneapolis Symphony Shostakovich: Symphony No.5

Dorati / London Symphony Orchestra Enesco: Roumanian Rhapsody No.2 / Brahms: Hungarian Dances; Haydn Variations

The Civil War Its music and its sounds Part 1 Fort Sumter to Gettysburg Frederick Fennell / Eastman Wind Ensemble

The Civil War Its music and its sounds Part 2 Gettysburg to Appomattox Frederick Fennell / Eastman Wind Ensemble

Byron Janis / London Symphony Orchestra / Minneapolis Symhony / Dorati Rachmaninov: Piano Concertos 3 & 2

Dorati / London Symphony Orchestra / Minneapolis Symphony Copland: Appalachian Spring; Billy the Kid Danzón Cubano; El Salón México

Byron Janis / Minneapolis Symphony / Dorati Mussorgsky: Pictures at an exhibition piano original + Ravel orchestration

Minneapolis Symphony / Skrowaczewski London Symphony Orchestra / Dorati Prokofiev: Romeo and Juliet Suites 1 & 2 Mussorgsky: Night on the bare mountain

Byron Janis / Minneapolis Symphony / Skrowaczewski / Lonodn Symphony / Menges Schumann: Piano Concerto; Arabeske Tchaikovsky: Piano Concerto No.1

CD 27 Pepe Romero Flamenco!

The Romeros The Royal Family of the Spanish Guitar

Frederick Fennell / Eastman Wind Ensemble Screamers – Circus Marches March Time

Osipov State Russian Folk Orchestra / Vitaly Gnutov

Byron Janis Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra / Kondrashin Moscow Radio Symphony Orchestra / Rozhdestvensky Liszt: Piano Concertos 1 & 2, etc.

Byron Janis Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra / Kondrashin Prokofiev: Piano Concerto No.3 Rachmaninov: Piano Concerto No.1, etc.

Janos Starker / London Symphony Orchestra / Dorati Dvorák: Cello Concerto Bruch: Kol Nidrei; Tchaikovsky: Rococo Variations

Janos Starker London Symphony Orchestra / Skrowaczewski / Dorati Schumann: Cello Concerto Lalo: Cello Concerto Saint-Saëns: Cello Concerto in A minor

CD 35-36 Dorati / London Symphony Orchestra / Philharmonia Hungarica Tchaikovsky: The Nutcracker; Serenade for Strings

Henryk Szeryng / London Symphony Orchestra / Dorati Brahms; Violin Concerto Khachaturian: Violin Concerto

Dorati / London Symphony Orchestra Bartók: Bluebeard’s Castle Berg: Wozzeck: 3 excerpts Gina Bachauer / London Symphony Orchestra / Skrowaczewski Brahms: Piano Concerto No.2, etc.

Henryk Szeryng Kteisler Favourites

Janos Starker Bach: 6 Suites for unaccompanied cello, etc.

Gina Bachauer / London Symphony Orchestra / Dorati / Skrowacewski Beethoven: Piano Concertos 4 & 5

Gina Bachauer / London Symphony Orchestra / Dorati Chopin: Piano Concertos 1 & 2

Gina Bachauer / Sir John Gielgud Ravel: Gaspard de la nuit; Debussy: Pour le piano Stravinsky: 3 Movements from Petrouchka, etc.

Janos Starker / György Sebok Brahms & Mendelssohn: Cello Sonatas

Henryk Szeryng / London Symphony Orchestra / Dorati Schumann & Mendelssohn: Violin Concertos + solo pieces

London Symphony Orchestra / Dorati Stravinsky: L’Oiseau de feu – complete; Feu d’artifice; Chant du rossignol, etc.

Janos Starker Italian Cello Sonatas Boccherini, Vivaldi, Corelli, Locatelli, Valentini, etc.

The Romeros Rodrigo: Concierto de Aranjuez; Concierto Andaluz Vivaldi: Concertos

Magic and Zeitgeist – Amazing

Here’s what you get when you fork out 100 for this boxed set of CDs.

You get some of the most amazing performances of classical music, pop showpieces, and what would today be referred to as classical crossover collections, ever available to the public. What makes these Mercury Living Presence Recordings such an amazing and essential addition to your classical music collection? If you already own a few of these on CD, LP, or SACD or newly issued flac files available for download on other sites on the internet, you already understand that new isn’t necessarily better, digital recordings of mediocre performances and tired performances may sometimes offer sonic perfection without the sheer energy or exuberance of a premier performance or recording. I have to admit, longtime collector of classical music, there are works and performances in this box I would have never purchased as separate CDs, but as part of this collection…I am discovering music I have never heard before, and for the life of me, am wondering how some of these works could have escaped me.

Now that some other eager reviewers have listed the contents and posted their gripes, one or two of them well founded, let me actually try to review this set and convince you, it is one of the most valuable treasures of classical music you’ll ever get your hands on. At just about 2 dollar per disc, this isn’t another Brilliant Classics set of hits and misses, or a survey of a single artist’s recordings for one label. There are many performers here, not only at the dawn of stereo, but recordings in an era of discovery and optimism…sparkling analog recordings produced under the pioneering vision and genius of Wilma Cozart Fine, with Harold Lawrence, her husband C. Robert Fine, and the entire team of Mercury engineers.

The Modern Classics – and back in the fifties and early sixties – that meant groundbreaking, new, fresh and exciting. And Eastern European. This was a time when the Soviet Union was still behind the Iron Curtain. Important consideration for two reasons. Mercury seemed to have a fascination with twentieth century Eastern European and Russian composers, and many of the musicians and conductors in US and European orchestras were refugees from Communist block regimes. The good news for us is about 16 CDs in this set are recordings – some of them premier – of modern classics. The Anglo-Saxons get three of the 16 modern CDs. Plenty of Bartok, Prokofiev, Rachmaninoff, and Stravinsky with a touch of Aram Khachaturian (got to love that Sabre Dance). Most of these works are performed by the Minneapolis Symphony or the London Symphony conducted by Antal Dorati. The first two recordings in the set are monaural, performed by the Chicago Symphony and under Rafael Kubelik.

I especially liked the Yehudi Menuhin/Dorati/Minneapolis Symphony recording of Bartok: Violin Concerto No. 2: Intimate, brilliantly emotional without being effusive, warm and chilling at the same time – orchestra never overpowers the soloist. Closely miked but still enough apparent distance to evoke that concert hall sound. You can’t get enough passive distance from this performance to not be fully engaged in the experience of the piece. The Andante Tranquillo movement will leave you breathless.

Copland’s Appalachian Spring on this set is also a gem. I really didn’t think there was a version out there that could come close to Bernstein’s recording for Columbia Masterworks with the New York Philharmonic. Dorati had been a naturalized US citizen for about 14 years when this piece was recorded, and I don’t know what his association may have been with the composer, but he captures the spirit of the piece – rips the zeitgeist right of the freaking air. For all the charm and wit of Zinman’s recording with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, for performance and engineering…this may be the definitive version of this work.

Khachaturian: Gayane – Ballet Suite: A finer recording of anything classical, you’ll never find it. At least in the concert piece realm. Don’t know how the producers and engineers did it, but this performance and the acoustics are perfectly matched to give you lush strings, percussion that knocks the breath out of you, and you can’t sit still throughout the entire suite. None of the atonal, modern sounding composition here. Sweet melodies, more closely tied to the 19th century romantics. One of the most fun pieces in the set.

The Standard Works – Beethoven, Brahms, Chopin, Liszt., Bach.

Flash. Glitz. And Ear Candy. There are 5 discs that cover the Baroque Period, and this clearly was the Achilles Heel of the series. Janos Starker does a fine job on the Bach Cello Suites, but after hearing his performances you get why the public went gaga over Jacqueline DuPre and Yo Yo Ma. The set of Pepe Rodrigo destroying Vivaldi could snap you out of a severe depressive episode. Don’t recommend while eating a hot dog. However, the recordings of classical and romantic period works are consistently remarkable recordings. Mercury LP had a way of recording a grand piano that made the high notes, especially ones under heavy attack, simply sparkle. Again, engineering magic.

Gina Bachauer’s Brahms Concerto 2 under Stanislaw Skrowaczewski with the London Symphony Orchestra is jaw-dropping magnificent. Paul Paray’s Symphonie Fantastique is another of this set’s highlights. It is difficult for someone like me to sit with these recordings and realize that before Solti and Karajan, before Uchida and Barenboim – there was at least one generation of conductors, ensembles and soloists, captured in magnificent stereo, and just as much sound quality and magic.

To say these recordings sound just as good as digital would be missing the point. Different medium, different techniques that in many cases far surpass anything digital has ever produced. And the artists. Getting more than just of little of their spirit and soul captured accurately on these recordings. Bachauer played 630 concerts for allied troops, and still had time to feed stray cats around her home in Greece. You could write a book and a screenplay about Dorati, writer, painter…and the Philharmonia Hungarica. These recordings prove that Detroit could out bombast the Chicago Symphony at some point in their history.

The Classical Crossover Recordings. With an Eisenhower Era Sensibility.

Sousa marches. Balalaika music, with orchestra. Civil War songs. And Pepe Rodriguez. If you can’t take these recordings seriously, you can use them to snap you out of a bad mood coming from or going to work. Superb performances and recordings packaged for people who enjoyed the Mitch Miller Show, and who probably faithfully tuned in for the Lawrence Welk show every week.

Summary: All in all, these are a combination of showpieces, concertos, and modern classics with a pop marketing slant towards record buyers of the late fifties and early sixties. What makes them stand out is the freshness, the excitement, and commitment to quality. The TLC. There weren’t 8000 versions of these works on the market when these were released. You’re not just getting a set of discs here. You’re getting a legacy from a generation of engineers and musicians who didn’t take their artistic freedom, their audiences, or their passion for these works for granted. Highly recommend.

57 thoughts on “Mercury Living Presence. The Collector’s Edition (WAV)”

  1. Flac, wav… no difference. If you compress a file #1 in a RAR archive and then decompress the RAR obtaining file #2, you would say file #1 is diffferent from file #2? I think no. Well, FLAC acts like a RAR archive, is a lossless compression

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