Philips made matrixes from copies of Mercury tapes and pressed
Lp's for the US market. The covers of these editions were labelled 'Golden
Rhapsodies of Liszt and Enesco were previously released by Mercury as
SR 90235 and as a 'Golden Imports' release as SRI 75018 (the I
probably meaning 'Imports' or 'International' in order to avoid confusion
with the original American SR series and the earlier 10" Philips SR
series of 1959).
The reason for these pressings could be that Philips technicians could
have had some criticism regarding the American editions that were pressed
on less refined, harder, grainy quality vinyl, their opinions eventually
being supported by the remarks of a few European reviewers who were
not used to clear, high definition sound recording pressed in stronger
vinyl that produced a good mid band but showed also much hiss of the
As a 'Golden Import' Marcel Dupré's recording of organ music
of César Franck has therefore less presence than could be expected.
The disc with Barber's Medea and Adagio for Strings conducted by Howard
Hanson sounds less dynamic. The Liszt/ Enesco disc is of better quality
compared to the ones just mentioned. There are others in this category.
I list a few reference numbers:
1968 Philips began releasing Mercury stereo tapes on the Fontana label
in European countries. First in the 700 series. After a while more were
released in the 894 series and some time later in the 6531 series. Again
much later Mercury recordings re-appeared in sub series on the Philips
label. The only Mercury that survived as a Mercury for a longer time
was MGY 130 514 which was still announced in the 1972 catalogue: Tchaikovsky's
1812 Overture coupled with Wellington's Sieg (Beethoven) - apparently
for commercial reasons. The pressings on Fontana and on Philips were
not available in all countries where Philips had their sales- and distribution
organizations. And if they were available then they did not necessarily
have the same prefix and number. So some readers may not have come across
these particular releases.
is what could be called a 'typical American' record label. High quality
sound recording made it possible for a small company like Mercury to
establish itself and consolidate its position on the US market. The
label did not have a great arsenal of artists to work with. It had relatively
few conductors and soloists. Many a release had Antal Dorati's name
printed on its label. In the beginning with the Minneapolis Symphony
and in later years (when the association with Philips was at hand) with
the London Symphony Orchestra.
conductors Paul Paray, Stanislaw Skrowaczewsky and Howard Hanson, and
artists like Byron Janis and Henryk Szering have done their share, undeniably
Antal Dorati has contributed most significantly to the label's success.
This in spite of the fact that he was not an all-round conductor and
not a good accompanist at all times. The choice of repertory of the
company shows a taste for works that either enjoy great popularity (Beethoven,
Brahms, Rachmaninoff, Tchaikovsky) or excel in lush orchestration that
can show off the distinctive recording technique.
technique was definitely part of the artistry of the label and was also
carried through in the recordings of solo- instrumentalists like Janos
Starker's violoncello in Bach's Unaccompanied Suites, the guitar sound
of the Romeros, Byron Janis's grand piano in a recording of popular
pieces, Henryk Szering's violin playing Kreisler-favorites accompanied
by Charles Reiner at the piano, and the works played by Marcel Dupré
on the magnificent organ of Saint-Sulpice in Paris.
concertos and symphonic works (generally referred to as 'the iron repertory')
are a good insurance for sales and survival in any big market. The fact
that Mercury can be considered a typical American label - more so than
Columbia or RCA - is substantiated by the many recordings with marches,
military music and the sonic documentaries of The Civil War. Also Mercury
produced so called 'sonic spectaculars' like the Overture 1812 or a
release like 'Bravo Hi-Fi' with music by Gershwin, MacBride and Gould.
The Civil War belongs actually to the same category. If the catalogue
contained some exclusive repertory, then it was more a consequence of
the possibilities and interests of some of the important artists than
by an outspoken wish to be an avant-garde label, which Mercury was not
because there was no continuity in the building up of this segment of
the catalogue. The same is true for the section 'opera'. The few operas
that the American catalogue contained had been recorded for the Italian
publisher Ricordi and certainly were a welcome addition to the Mercury
catalogue. See also
Mercury Living Presence.