137 Brahms: Symphony No. 1.
London SO/Antal Dorati. Am. Mercury 90268.**)***)
700 176 Mendelssohn: Italian Symphony. Mozart: Symphony K550.
Minneapolis SO/Antal Dorati.*)****)
700 184 Brahms: Symphony No. 4. Detroit SO/Paul Paray **)****)
700 455 Ravel: Bolero, Saint-Saëns: Dance Macabre. Dukas:œ The
Sorcer's Apprentice. Detroit SO/Paul Paray. (Various Am. Mercury-recordings).**)****)
894 009 Liszt: Piano concertos Nos. 1 and 2. Yuri Boukoff. Vienna
SO/Laszlo Somogy. Am. Mercury 18066. This recording
from Mercury's first stereo-series shows its age. Boukoff's interpretations
are less controled if compared to Janis' performances that were recorded
later. French pressing is to be preferred.
894 020 Bartók: Concerto for Orchestra. London SO/Antal
Dorati. Am. Mercury 90378. Truly Bartok, truly Hungarian. Recommended!
894 021 Beethoven: Violin concerto. Joseph Szigeti. London SO/Antal
Dorati. Am. Mercury 90358 **) The Mercury-team must have known that
by inviting Josph Szigeti to record the Beethoven Concerto with Antal
Dorati (and of course the Brahms and Prokofiev No. 1 with Herbert
Menges) that the recording would document the art of a legend at some
seventy years of age. Szigeti was born on September 5, 1892 and died
February 19, 1973. Dorati's accompaniment is careful and sympathetic.
894 022 Saint-Saëns:œ Symphony No. 3. Marcel Dupre. Detroit
SO/Paul Paray. The American Mercury with reference 90331 had also
894 024 and 6531 013 Dvorak: Cello concerto; Bruch: Kol Nidrei.
Janos Starker. London SO/Antal Dorati. European Mercury MGY 130 531.
Also released as 850 420. Matrixes of 850 420 are used for both 894
024 and 6531 013. Am. Mercury 90303. These are most inspired performances.
Both sound and interpretation are highly recommended.
894 025 Gershwin: Concerto in F, Rhapsody in Blue. Eugene List,
Eastman Rochester Orchestra/Howard Hanson. This Fontana release is
pressed from matrixes of European Mercury MGY 130 509. Am.Mercury
90002. Not exactly the Gershwin of my choice. The performance of the
concerto is at times hectic and lacks the broad gesture. The sound
is for an early stereo-Mercury at times impressive but the cymbals
can be quite prominent. My copy did not show much space.
894 026 Brahms: 2nd Piano concerto. Gina Bachauer, London SO/Stanislaw
Skrowaczewsky. European Mercury MGY 130
530. Am. Mercury 90301. The strong playing of Gina Bachauer and firm
performance of the orchestra are enhanced by the good recording. This
release is recommended because the matrixes for pressing the MGY 130
530 were used and they were supplied by Mercury.
894 027 Rimsky-Korsakov: Scheherazade. Minneapolis SO/Antal Dorati.
Pressed from matrix of European Mercury MGY 130 510. (which was subsequenly
issued as Philips VY 838 501 and coupled with Borodin's Polovetsian
Dances; 1963). Am. Mercury 18008 (1959). Recommended because of sound
and because of the execution of a well structured and sensible performance.
894 028 Beethoven: Wellington's Sieg. London SO/Antal Dorati.
Tchaikovsky: Overture 1812. Minneapolis SO/Antal Dorati. European
Mercury MGY 130 514. A 'sonic spectacular' including canons and bells.
Over 1.000.000 copies were sold of the original American release of
Mercury SRD 19. The Fontana release that I came across shows that
it is difficult to produce so many matrixes in order to press over
1.000.000 copies while at the same time keeping a high level of soundquality.
894 029 Tchaikovsky: Pathétique. London SO/Antal Dorati.
Earlier as Philips VY 838 504 (1963). Am. Mercury 90312. This is a
reading with some beautiful moments. Especially the balletlike nature
of the 2nd movement comes off well. The complete set of symphonies
was much later released on Philips 6747 195 (6 Lp's) from new matrixes
that were cut with less dynamics but show the qualities of a wider
range and the warm and harmonious Philips sound to the benefit of
Dorati's performances that get more depth.
894 080 Liszt: Hungarian Rhapsodies 1, 4, 5 and 6. London SO/Antal
Dorati. Am. Mercury 90371. Sound: this recording has the dry Mercury
sound wich enables the players of celli, bass and cimbalon to build
op harmoniously. Also because of interpretation recommended.
894 081 Suppé: Overtures - Poet and Peasant, Pique Dame, Light
Cavalry, Bocaccio, Fair Galatea, Morning Noon and Night in Vienna.
Detroit Symphony/Paul Paray (Am.Mercury 90269). I did not listen
to this recording but knowing how well Paray conducts both major works
(like Dvorak) and items in this lighter category on Mercury 90203
(Bouquet de Paray), this must also be fine playing. **)
894 082 Mozart: Symphonies Nos. 41 & 39. London SO/Hans
Schmidt-Isserstedt. Pressed from Philips-made matrixes of European
Mercury 130 506 Am. Mercury 90184. Strong readings.***)
894 083 Stravinsky: L'Oiseau de Feu. London SO/Antal Dorati. Dorati
recorded The Firebird twice: Am. Mercury 18010 and 90226. The performance
of this 894 083-disc must be from the tape of the older 18010 recording.
084 Tchaikovsky: Swan Lake. Minneapolis SO/Antal Dorati. Am.Mercuty
085 Prokofiev: Piano concerto no. 3; Rachmaninoff Piano concerto No.
1. Byron Janis and the Moscow Philharmonic/Kyrill Kondrachin.
For my copy the original matrixes made by Mercxury for Philips 130
525 were used. Beautifull performances and good sound, though some
recordnoise is evident.
088 Franck: Symphony in D. Detroit SO/Paul Paray. Sensitive performance.
Here as in so many other releases of the 894 series the sound is rounded
if compared to the sometimes fierce sound of the releases in the MGY130
could not find the Fontana equivalent of Dvorak's New World Symphony
conducted by Paray who in a very good performance shows with the chosen
tempi that the 9th is the logical successor of the 8th Symphony. I
did not find the Schubert's 8th Symphony conducted by Skrowaczewski
and Beethoven's 5th Symphony conducted by Dorati which appeared earlier
on Philips 838 502. As two channel transfers were made by the Mercury
people from the original channel recordings for earlier Philips releases
and for the Fontana reissues it is evident that the very freshness,
transparency and refined quality of the original sound recording was
somewhat lost, also because Philips did some filtering also. Nevertheless
one can still hear to a certain extent that these recordings were
made with amplifiers and mixing consoles that work with valves. From
about 1974 on Mercury tapes were again released on the Philips label;
the Fontana label more or less vanishing from the catalogue). Even
then the typical characteristics of the Mercury sound are still discernable
though to an even lesser extent in the 6531 series.
002 Wagner: Meistersinger von Nürnberg - Vorspiel zum 1. Akt,
London SO/Antal Dorati; Vorspiel zum 3. Akt, Detroit SO/Paray; Overture
'Der Fliegende Holländer', Götterdämmerung: Tagesgrauen
und Siegfrieds Heimfahrt, Detroit SO/Paul Paray; Lohengrin: Vorspiel
zum 3. Akt London SO/Antal Dorati. Am. Mercury 90232 and 90287. Earlier
released as Fontana 700 174. Recommended. ****)
6531 003 Brahms: Hungarian Dances. London SO/Antal Dorati. Am.Mercury
6531 004 Beethoven: Piano concerto No. 5, Gina Bachauer, London
SO/Stanislaw Skrowaczewski. Earlier as Philips VY 838 500. Am.Mercury
90321. Recommended for the sound.
6531 005 Schumann: Piano concerto and Quasi variazioni from Sonata
No. 3. Byron Janis, Minneapolis SO/Stanislaw Skrowaczewski. Am.
Mercury 90383. The piano is blended well with the orchestra. The sound
is not as pungeant as with other releases but shows good ambience.
As a result the pianotone is rounded, but nevertheless beautiful.
(Is it a Baldwin?) This release is pressed from matrixes 839 532.
It is a pity that the second movement is on side one. Beautiful and
very sensitive playing by Janis. Recommended.
6531 107 Szering Plays Fritz Kreisler: Tambourin Chinois, Liebesleid,
Liebesfreud, Caprice Viennois, a.o.
with Charles Rosen (piano). Am.Mercury 90348. The Fontana release
uses the matrixes of the original Philips release 838 426.
6531 008 Gershwin: An American in Paris. Offenbach (arr.Rosenthal):
Gaïté Parisienne. Minneapolis SO/Antal Dorati. Offenbach/Rosenthal
was coupled with Graduation Ball of Johann Strauss Jr. on European
Mercury MGY 130 519 (pressed from matrixes supplied by Mercury).
Offenbach appeared on Am. Mercury 90431 and Gershwin on 90290.. The
Offenbach/Rosenthal piece is not to everybody's taste. The sound and
playing of the Gershwin is very good.
6531 010 Beethoven: Symphony No. 3. Minneapolis SO/Antal Dorati.
First issued as European Mercury MGY 130 508, later released as Philips
839 534. Am. Mercury 18047. This is an early stereo-recording (1958)
and the quality of it shows the beginning of that era. The performance
is not only uninspired but not at all Beethoven.
6531 025 The Romeros play works for guitar by Teleman, Schubert, Scarlatti,
Vivaldi, Bach, Sor, etc. Am. Mercury 90417. The sound of this
Fontana-release suffers from dynamic enhancing and compression. Good
performances with Spanish soul. Sor's Variations on a Theme of Mozart
are played by Celedonio Romero with verve and compassion in a gypsy-like
style with rubato and singing strings, this freedom being the privilege
of the older man. His son Pepe recorded the same piece some 15 years
later (1977) for Philips and was more truthful stylistically.
6531 027 and 6545 027 Mussorgsky/Ravel: Pictures at an Exhibition.
Minneapolis SO/Antal Dorati. On European Mercury MGY 130 515 coupled
with Prelude and Dance from Khovanshchina. Am. Mercury 90342. The
Fontana releases were coupled with Philips-recordings of Borodin's
In the Steppes of Central Asia played by the (Royal) Concertgebouw
Orchestra with Jean Fournet and Polovetsian Dances performed by the
Vienna SO and Philh. Chorus, conductor Willem van Otterloo. Recommended
because of Dorati's 'authentic' Moussorgsky with his orchestra from
6531 029 Liszt: Piano concerto No. 1.
Byron Janis, Moscow PO/Kyril Kondrashin. Pianoconcerto No.
2. Byron Janis, Moscow Radio SO/Gennady Roshdestvensky. Am.
Mercury 90329. Balanced playing of orchestras and conductors, and
lyricism by Janis who gives Liszt what he really deserves. Kondrashin
and Roshdestvenky are inspired.
6531 050 Brahms: Violin concerto. Henryk Szering. London SO/Dorati.
Matrix from 839-series. Am. Mercury 90308. Not the dramatic, choleric
Brahms. Nevertheless well structured performance and beautiful playing
by Szering. Recommended.
general the Fontana and Philips matrices cut in the Philips factory
in Baarn give a somewhat warmer sound if compared to the Chicago
cut plates. Though the High Fidelity may be less in the Philips
and Fontana edtitions on certain audio sets. Important in this respect
is the playback equipment. I used for listening to Mercury records
most of the time a Denon DL-103 cartridge which has a warmer characteristic.
- PAGE 4
We all know how important the cuttingprocess and the pressing on relative
hard vinyl is. French made matrixes and pressings have a harder vinyl
and show in practically every case a better midband and more clarity.
Also Fontana 700 037 WGY attains more drama in the French edition
(Liszt Piano concertos performed by Yuri Boukoff with Laszlo Somogyi).
The Philips-recordings mastered by Mercury in the USA were pressed
on the vinyl used by Mercury. PHS 900-132 (Gérard Souzay) shows
his voice with neater contours, but the Lp has also more hiss.
These releases I did not audition.
These recordings were possibly made in cooperation with EMI.
performance of Brahms' First Symphony with Dorati conducting the London
Symphony Orchestra which appeared in the early Fontana 700 series
as 700 136 WGY was the same Mercury-recording (American reference
90268) released by EMI as AMS 16082 in April 1961. If I am not mistaken
it seems that Philips only could release this and other early stereo-recordings
in one of their subseries: 700 039 WGY with Dvorak's Slavonic Rhapsody
and 700 184 WGY with Brahms Fourth Symphony. I did not investigate
Fontana's 700 series and the earlier Philips 850 and 839 series..