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  • Mercury Living Presence...the plot thickens!

    In a comment I added to another thread here, I noted with surprise that Presto Classical was carrying some new-and-remastered Living Presence CDs and downloads that didn't appear to be merely repackagings of the reissue series from the '90s. Following up on the trail, I have since found that a number of these are now also available from HDtracks...as high-res downloads.

    http://www.hdtracks.com/music/label/view/id/232/

    The page above is a listing of all the high-res Mercury available through HDtracks. Now, most of these are merely PCM conversion of the stereo tracks from the SACDs issued in the early 2000s; those are easily identified by the formats of 24/176 and 24/88. However, there are also 16 albums at 24/96; none of these were released as part of the Mercury SACD series, and most were not even included in the individual CD releases, although some of them were included as "bonus discs" in the third box set.

    In particular, I looked at the ad copy for the Paray Saint-Saens disc which, as I mentioned in the other thread, is clearly labeled as "Remastered 2015." It appears to be part of an effort to re-release all of Marcel Dupré's Mercury recordings (most of which, as I've noted before, hadn't yet appeared in any digital format) at 24/96 resolution. Although HDtracks is notorious for failing to include provenance info for their releases, such is thankfully not the case here. The album notes indicate that it is "℗ © 2015 Decca Music Group Limited under exclusive license to Universal Music Classics, a Division of UMG Recordings, Inc"(a reminder of the consolidation of the classical music industry since the '90s, when the first Mercury CDs were released under Polygram's ownership), and concludes with the following:

    Analog to digital transfer by John K. Chester, from first-generation 3-track master tapes
    Plangent Process and Audio Restoration by Jamie Howarth
    3- to 2-channel Conversion and HD Mastering by Thomas Fine
    So, this would indicate a new set of transfers, this time using Plangent's highly-praised technology to eliminate wow-and-flutter in the tape chain, and supervised by another generation of the Cozart/Fine family. Is it possible that more are on the way? Paray's Saint-Saens has never ranked among my favorite versions, but I am sorely tempted to grab this one just to see how it compares to the older Redbook. Hopefully, HDtracks will be holding one of their periodic "everything is X% off" sales soon...

  • #2
    Thanks for this info. As you say, hopefully some of the more musically interesting will appear in time?
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    • #3
      Tom Fine is of the opinion that the new digital releases are better than the original vinyl.

      "The goal at a Mercury session was to capture a realistic, perhaps super-realistic sound image of the orchestra, with all the detail in the music score, and then make a release medium as dynamic and exciting sounding as possible. There were far fewer distortions and compromises transferring what is on the master tapes to the CDs than the LPs, just by the nature of the media. We can do even better today because we can get rid most of the distortions from tape recording and playback, thus getting a step closer to the microphones."
      Myles B. Astor, PhD, Administrator
      Senior Editor, Positive-Feedback.com
      ________________________________________

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      -VPI Vanquish direct-drive turntable
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      -Lyra Atlas SL Lambda, Fuuga, vdh Colibri Master Signature, MutechHayabusa, MOFI Master Tracker, Sumiko Songbird cartridges
      -Technics RS1506 with Flux Magnetic heads, Doshi V3.0 tape stage (balanced)
      -Assorted cables including Transparent XL Gen. 5, Skogrand, Viero, Kubala-Sosna, Audience Au24SX, Genesis Advanced Technologies and Ensemble Power Cords
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      • #4
        Originally posted by regnaD kciN View Post
        In a comment I added to another thread here, I noted with surprise that Presto Classical was carrying some new-and-remastered Living Presence CDs and downloads that didn't appear to be merely repackagings of the reissue series from the '90s. Following up on the trail, I have since found that a number of these are now also available from HDtracks...as high-res downloads.

        http://www.hdtracks.com/music/label/view/id/232/

        The page above is a listing of all the high-res Mercury available through HDtracks. Now, most of these are merely PCM conversion of the stereo tracks from the SACDs issued in the early 2000s; those are easily identified by the formats of 24/176 and 24/88. However, there are also 16 albums at 24/96; none of these were released as part of the Mercury SACD series, and most were not even included in the individual CD releases, although some of them were included as "bonus discs" in the third box set.

        In particular, I looked at the ad copy for the Paray Saint-Saens disc which, as I mentioned in the other thread, is clearly labeled as "Remastered 2015." It appears to be part of an effort to re-release all of Marcel Dupré's Mercury recordings (most of which, as I've noted before, hadn't yet appeared in any digital format) at 24/96 resolution. Although HDtracks is notorious for failing to include provenance info for their releases, such is thankfully not the case here. The album notes indicate that it is "℗ © 2015 Decca Music Group Limited under exclusive license to Universal Music Classics, a Division of UMG Recordings, Inc"(a reminder of the consolidation of the classical music industry since the '90s, when the first Mercury CDs were released under Polygram's ownership), and concludes with the following:



        So, this would indicate a new set of transfers, this time using Plangent's highly-praised technology to eliminate wow-and-flutter in the tape chain, and supervised by another generation of the Cozart/Fine family. Is it possible that more are on the way? Paray's Saint-Saens has never ranked among my favorite versions, but I am sorely tempted to grab this one just to see how it compares to the older Redbook. Hopefully, HDtracks will be holding one of their periodic "everything is X% off" sales soon...

        One problem and it's not always apparent is that some of the Mercury master tapes have gone missing over the years and the digital releases are made from safety copies.
        Myles B. Astor, PhD, Administrator
        Senior Editor, Positive-Feedback.com
        ________________________________________

        -Magico S5 Mk.2 speakers with SPod feet
        -Goldmund Telos 280 stereo amp
        -Goldmund Mimesis 37S Nextgen preamplifier
        -Doshi V3.0 phonostage
        -VPI Vanquish direct-drive turntable
        -VPI 12-inch 3D Fat Boy dual pivot tonearm, VPI 12-inch 3D Fat Boy gimballed and SAT LM-12 arm
        -Lyra Atlas SL Lambda, Fuuga, vdh Colibri Master Signature, MutechHayabusa, MOFI Master Tracker, Sumiko Songbird cartridges
        -Technics RS1506 with Flux Magnetic heads, Doshi V3.0 tape stage (balanced)
        -Assorted cables including Transparent XL Gen. 5, Skogrand, Viero, Kubala-Sosna, Audience Au24SX, Genesis Advanced Technologies and Ensemble Power Cords
        -Accessories including Stillpoint Aperture panels, Cathedral Sound panels, Furutech NCF Nano AC receptacles; Silver Circle Tchaik 6 PLC, Symposium ISIS and SRA Craz racks, Audiodharma Cable Cooker, Symposium Ultra and assorted SRA platforms.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by MylesBAstor View Post


          One problem and it's not always apparent is that some of the Mercury master tapes have gone missing over the years and the digital releases are made from safety copies.
          The most notable example that comes to mind is the 35mm master for the Rach 3.

          Of course, worse things have happened to recordings made by Robert Fine using 35mm. It would appear that both the 35mm originals and the backup tapes for the Command Steinberg/Pittsburgh Beethoven symphonies are lost for good (a shame, since the performances were excellent). The only CD version of that set appears to come from needledrops...with wonky EQ, no attempt to use de-clicking software, and, to add insult to injury, the channels reversed.

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          • #6
            As a side note, I had already commented on my lack-of-enthusiasm for the Paray Saint-Saens. In general, I have a more-mixed opinion of Mercs than many audiophiles. While the best of them are outstanding, far too many of them were recorded in, frankly, acoustically-mediocre halls. One of the more notorious was Ford Auditorium, where the Saint-Saens was taped. Ford had a very short lifespan; opened in 1956, closed in 1995, and demolished in 2011. I just found the following history of the building, which gives some fascinating insights as to its problems. Apparently, it was never designed for musical performances at all, and only became the home for the Detroit Symphony mid-way through its construction, too late for modifications to make the acoustics appropriate for good orchestral sound. Given the story here, I think it's a minor miracle that Cozart/Fine (and, of course, Paray and the musicians) got as decent results at Ford as they did, even though their recordings at Cass and Orchestra Hall are quite a bit better.

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            • #7
              Northrup in Minneapolis had its issues too. From Tom Fine:

              "As for the recording, it's OK. Northrop was cavernous and thus the recording results are
              dry-sounding (the space was so large, not much audio content came to the back sides of the
              microphones, just dissipated out into the cavernous space). There's a bit more tape hiss than usual.
              It's made late enough to use three Schoeps M201 mics."
              Myles B. Astor, PhD, Administrator
              Senior Editor, Positive-Feedback.com
              ________________________________________

              -Magico S5 Mk.2 speakers with SPod feet
              -Goldmund Telos 280 stereo amp
              -Goldmund Mimesis 37S Nextgen preamplifier
              -Doshi V3.0 phonostage
              -VPI Vanquish direct-drive turntable
              -VPI 12-inch 3D Fat Boy dual pivot tonearm, VPI 12-inch 3D Fat Boy gimballed and SAT LM-12 arm
              -Lyra Atlas SL Lambda, Fuuga, vdh Colibri Master Signature, MutechHayabusa, MOFI Master Tracker, Sumiko Songbird cartridges
              -Technics RS1506 with Flux Magnetic heads, Doshi V3.0 tape stage (balanced)
              -Assorted cables including Transparent XL Gen. 5, Skogrand, Viero, Kubala-Sosna, Audience Au24SX, Genesis Advanced Technologies and Ensemble Power Cords
              -Accessories including Stillpoint Aperture panels, Cathedral Sound panels, Furutech NCF Nano AC receptacles; Silver Circle Tchaik 6 PLC, Symposium ISIS and SRA Craz racks, Audiodharma Cable Cooker, Symposium Ultra and assorted SRA platforms.

              Comment


              • #8
                So, I decided to spring for the Paray 24/96. While the new remastering can't overcome the sonic weaknesses of Ford Auditorium, it's a huge improvement, particularly in capturing the acoustic. While the CD, for me, gave the impression of the sections almost in isolation booths from each other, here we have a unified soundstage and a sense of the musicians actually playing together.

                I'm still not as big a fan of Paray's reading as some people (read: HP) are, mainly because the Detroit Symphony sounds smaller and not as tonally-secure, particularly in the strings, as the Boston Symphony under Munch or the City of Birmingham Symphony under Frémaux, to name two of its leading competitors, but at least, this time, I can come away from the recording understanding why some might rate it highly, which was never the case from the CD.

                While I was at it, I also picked up the companion 24/96 mastering of Mercury SR90143, with works by Hindemith, Schoenberg, and Stravinsky, performed by the Eastman Wind Ensemble under Fennell. This is one Merc that never got reissued on stand-alone CD or SACD, although I understand it was included as a bonus disc in the third MLP box set. I can only assume that this was passed over because, frankly, the works were considered to be too "modern" and minor to be of general consumer appeal. Be that as it may, it's a simply stunning recording of demo quality, and has immediately found a place on my "top high-res downloads" list. Hearing the results of these two releases, mastered using the Plangent Process and supervised by Thomas Fine, I find myself wishing that the powers that be at Universal would authorize new transfers of all the Mercury titles (it'll never happen, but we can dream). Regardless of the reputation of the previous CD transfers, these are really enough of an improvement to justify a "do-over."


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                • #9
                  It's great to see the Merc recordings getting the treatment they deserve finally!
                  Myles B. Astor, PhD, Administrator
                  Senior Editor, Positive-Feedback.com
                  ________________________________________

                  -Magico S5 Mk.2 speakers with SPod feet
                  -Goldmund Telos 280 stereo amp
                  -Goldmund Mimesis 37S Nextgen preamplifier
                  -Doshi V3.0 phonostage
                  -VPI Vanquish direct-drive turntable
                  -VPI 12-inch 3D Fat Boy dual pivot tonearm, VPI 12-inch 3D Fat Boy gimballed and SAT LM-12 arm
                  -Lyra Atlas SL Lambda, Fuuga, vdh Colibri Master Signature, MutechHayabusa, MOFI Master Tracker, Sumiko Songbird cartridges
                  -Technics RS1506 with Flux Magnetic heads, Doshi V3.0 tape stage (balanced)
                  -Assorted cables including Transparent XL Gen. 5, Skogrand, Viero, Kubala-Sosna, Audience Au24SX, Genesis Advanced Technologies and Ensemble Power Cords
                  -Accessories including Stillpoint Aperture panels, Cathedral Sound panels, Furutech NCF Nano AC receptacles; Silver Circle Tchaik 6 PLC, Symposium ISIS and SRA Craz racks, Audiodharma Cable Cooker, Symposium Ultra and assorted SRA platforms.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Click image for larger version  Name:	 Views:	1 Size:	26.5 KB ID:	46924 This is an awesome record I acquired recently. RFR-4/RFR2, RIAA

                    ******Myles, can this thread be made a sticky like the RCA, HMV, Decca threads ? Thanks in advance.
                    Christian
                    System Gear

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by rockitman View Post
                      Click image for larger version Name:	 Views:	1 Size:	26.5 KB ID:	46924 This is an awesome record I acquired recently. RFR-4/RFR2, RIAA

                      ******Myles, can this thread be made a sticky like the RCA, HMV, Decca threads ? Thanks in advance.
                      Christian, wonderful record. My copy, which I bought new, is one of the oldest records in my collection (in terms of how long I have owned it). I bought it (same RFR-4/RFR-2 stampers, but a "Vendor" copy - the small letters "VENDOR" are between the MERCURY and STEREO on the label) around 1965 when I was in college. Our local college bookstore (in Cambridge MA) had a huge record department. One day I walked in and there were bunch of new Mercuries, all at $1.98 each. I didn't know Mercuries from RCA Living Stereos from Columbia Masterworks in those days, and I bought a couple, including the Starker Brahms, probably for the Brahms Cellos Sonatas. When the reissue came out I also bought a copy of the Speaker's Corner version, good enough for people who can't find an original. BTW, "VENDOR" copies are not supposed to be as good as ones without the "VENDOR" on the label. Don't have copies of both to compare. Merc's can be noisy, the vinyl quality was not consistently good. Also they used to cut the records very close to the label to maximize the groove excursion dynamics, but that meant there was more inner groove distortion as a trade off.

                      Larry
                      Analog- VPIClassic3-3DArm,SoundsmithZephyrII+MiyajimaZeroMono, 2xAmpex ATR-102,Doshi3.0,Merrill Trident Master Tape Pre,Herron VTPH-2A
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                      Dig Play-mchNADAC, LampiPac, Roon, HQP, Oppo105
                      Electronics-Doshi Pre,CJ MET1mchPre, Cary2A3monoamps
                      Speakers-AvantgardeDuosLR,3SolosC,LR,RR
                      Other-2x512Engineer/Marutani Symmetrical Power, AudioDiskVinylCleaner,AirTightRecordFlat, Scott Rust Interconnects,
                      Music-15KRecs(90%classical),1.3KR2Rtapes,50TBrips

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                      • #12
                        I bought the two of the Analogphonic Mercury reissues on vinyl that they have issued. One is the Henryk Szeryng Treasures of the Violin (SR90367) and the other is the Janos Starker Italian Sonatas (SR90460). They just arrived yesterday and I haven't had a chance to play them. On their website it says they were from the analogue master tapes from Universal (which owns Mercury) and were mastered by Maarten de Boer (Szeryng) and Rainer Maillard (Starker) in analogue with lacquers cut at Emil Berliner Studios, pressed by Pallas.

                        Larry
                        Analog- VPIClassic3-3DArm,SoundsmithZephyrII+MiyajimaZeroMono, 2xAmpex ATR-102,Doshi3.0,Merrill Trident Master Tape Pre,Herron VTPH-2A
                        Dig Rip-Pyramix,IzotopeRX3Adv,Mykerinos,PacMicroModel2
                        Dig Play-mchNADAC, LampiPac, Roon, HQP, Oppo105
                        Electronics-Doshi Pre,CJ MET1mchPre, Cary2A3monoamps
                        Speakers-AvantgardeDuosLR,3SolosC,LR,RR
                        Other-2x512Engineer/Marutani Symmetrical Power, AudioDiskVinylCleaner,AirTightRecordFlat, Scott Rust Interconnects,
                        Music-15KRecs(90%classical),1.3KR2Rtapes,50TBrips

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                        • #13
                          Click image for larger version  Name:	 Views:	1 Size:	661.9 KB ID:	67594 Last but not least...My Original Mercury top 15. All are FR or RFR 1 or 2.Hi-Fi A La Espanola is the best sounding mercury, period. My copy is FR1.
                          Christian
                          System Gear

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                          • MylesBAstor
                            MylesBAstor commented
                            Editing a comment
                            Yes the FR1 is the pressing to have. I only ever found the RFR pressing. My buddy has a FR1 and when we compared the two years ago, the earlier pressing done by RCA was superior. But I am still glad to have it. As well as the Classic reissue.

                        • #14
                          I like your list/collection but no Ravel Rapsodie Espagnole (SR0313)?? I would also add the Kodaly/harry Janos suite, Dupre/Widor, British Band Classics, Fiesta in Hi-Fi, Hanson/Composer and His Orchestra and Chabrier/Espana to name a few I never was high on Hi Fi a la espanola, I sold the two orig copies I had for a pretty penny. I'm happy with the Classics reissue.
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                          "One of the great challenges of this world: Knowing enough about a subject to think you are right, but not enough about the subject to know you're wrong" - Neil deGrasse Tyson

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                          • rockitman
                            rockitman commented
                            Editing a comment
                            I have all of those. They don't make the top 15 in terms of sound quality...Ravel Rapsodie Espagnole, Chabrier/Espana are classic reissues (don't have originals) so I don't include it here.

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                            Guest commented
                            Editing a comment
                            Not just the Ravel Rapsodie Espagnole - I'm in it for the Ibert.

                        • #15
                          Originally posted by rockitman View Post
                          Click image for larger version Name:	 Views:	1 Size:	26.5 KB ID:	46924 This is an awesome record I acquired recently. RFR-4/RFR2, RIAA

                          ******Myles, can this thread be made a sticky like the RCA, HMV, Decca threads ? Thanks in advance.
                          Good idea.MylesBAstor
                          As a matter of thread administration, it might make sense for myles to create a sub-forum for labels, and then different sections within that that are admin controlled for the particular labels. That way, it isn't just one long thread- since even within Mercury, for example, this thread started with different kinds of digital remasters and source material. Not suggesting that digital be separate, but the OP's topic is one topic for a thread; there are no doubt others re Mercury. That would make a sub-forum with the usual suspects in different subcategories, e.g. Merc, RCA, Decca/London, EMI and probably a few others that are collected/sought after. You could probably also include some of the jazz ones like Blue Note and Riverside. And Myles could entertain other subcategories based on request so he doesn't have to populate every conceivable label of possible interest at the outset.
                          We could even add at some point, some of the non-classical stuff if there is interest- Vertigo Swirl, the various Polydor or Philips labelled stuff, etc.

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                            Guest commented
                            Editing a comment
                            makes sense to me!

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