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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent sound, precious recordings
Most of the 55 CD:s that I have listened through fulfill my high expectations. I bought the first remastered box (50 CD) and was pleased with what I heard, allthough not all records felt "necessary". So far none of the CD:s I have listened through have been unitresting, on the contrary. Some are documents of older ideals of interpretations, but surprisingly many...
Published 19 months ago by O. Blix

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4 of 15 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good recordings but unfashionable music.
Many of the recording sound first class but much of the musical content has faded in interest or is delivered in dated style. Only really of interest if you see something in the list you feel you can't live without.
Published 16 months ago by Mr. B. Bailey


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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent sound, precious recordings, 10 May 2013
By 
O. Blix "Olof Blix" (Jönköping, Sweden) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Mercury Living Presence Vol.2 (Decca box set) (Audio CD)
Most of the 55 CD:s that I have listened through fulfill my high expectations. I bought the first remastered box (50 CD) and was pleased with what I heard, allthough not all records felt "necessary". So far none of the CD:s I have listened through have been unitresting, on the contrary. Some are documents of older ideals of interpretations, but surprisingly many (especially the Dorati recordings) are up to date in many respects as well. A 5 star strong recommendation, both given the ultra low price per CD and the excellent transfers and an interesting mixture of music. Strongly recomended. If you liked the Vol 1, this No. 2 won't disappoint!
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74 of 79 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What truly DEFINES Mercury Living Presence - and when does it end? All you need to know about this set, and much more, 8 April 2013
This review is from: Mercury Living Presence Vol.2 (Decca box set) (Audio CD)
I ended my review of volume 1, Mercury Living Presence Boxed Set, with the words "Now, when does volume 2 with 50 more come out?" Well, it turns out to be 55, and here it is. For those who'd have inadvertently landed here from a long sojourn on planet Mars, let them be reminded that Mercury was a label established in 1945 at the end of the 78s era (a division of Mercury Radio and Television Corporation), first devoted to and famed for its catalog of popular music and jazz, but that branched out to classical at the end of the 1940s and became a prized audiophile series in the LP era under its moniker "Living Presence" and under the aegis of C. Robert Fine (sound engineer) and Wilma Cozart (producer), along with a few others (like David Hall the producer of the early releases, Harold Lawrence, producer of the late releases, Robert Eberenz, Fine's erstwhile associate engineer who became sole in charge starting in 1964). In fact the Fine-Cozart team worked so well together that they eventually became Mr and Mrs Fine, in 1957. I urge anybody interested in knowing what kind or recording techniques made the Mercury Living Presence recordings so special to go read the Wikipedia entry on Mercury Records, section "Mercury Living Presence Series", and the stupendous online article, essay, paean, monument by Rudolf A. Bruil published on soundfountain dot com slash amb slash mercury dot html, both of which they can complement with the online interview of Wilma Cozart Fine by Bruce Duffie from 1995 on kcstudio dot com and the 1999 interview of Robert Eberenz on three dabya dot opusklassiek dot nl slash audiotechniek slash mercury dot htm. Don't miss, also, for the complete Mercury catalog, LPs and CDs, with all the cover photos, the magnificent site of James Lacy (Google search mercury.lacyway), another jaw-dropping monument to the label.

But it is possibly even more in the CD era that Mercury Living Presence acquired its unique audiophile aura, thanks to the careful and loving remasterings to CD made in the years 1990 to 1995 by Wilma Cozart Fine (who passed away in 2009, aged 82), always based on the masters and using the restored "original Mercury vacuum-type Westrex film recorder and Amex 3-track tape machine", with "no equalization, filtering, compression or limiting" (the few SACD releases were not done by Mrs Cozart Fine and did not use the restored equipment, but Revox machines). There were 135 CDs reissued under the auspices of Wilma Cozart Fine (some in 2- or 3-CD sets), excluding two compilations of samples ("You Are There!" volume 1 & 2). Each CD usually reissued the content of one and a half LP, sometimes two, many compiled material from various LPs and recording sessions, always into very coherent and attractive programs, and most were filled to the brim. Volume 1 and now volume 2 collect those original CDs as they were, e.g. with no reshuffling of content. I have too many of the individual CDs to justify buying the compilation sets, but from reviews and comments of the previous one, it appears that it came with only limited information about precise dating of the recordings and the technical info provided in the booklets of the individual CDs (and none of the original liner notes). Not so with the new issue: it offers a great booklet (I could consult it after posting this review), with the detailed technical information about dates, personel and microphones, a long essay of Mike Gray on the history of "Living Presence" with loads of more fascinating technical info, followed by an article reprinted from the July/August 2012 issue of TapeOp by Thomas Fine, the son of Robert and Wilma, and on top of that dozens after dozens of great photos.

It would seem then that the new set needs no recommendation - no more than the previous one, seeing how fast it went -, just a detailed listing of its contents. But it turns out that Decca has a clever way to do things (or should I call it "perverse") to entice even those (as myself) who'd already have most of the individual issues which the set now collates - or frustrate them out of their wits. An examination of the track listing shows indeed that there is a bonus in store, which calls for comment (see after the detailed listing). There are too many CDs for me to provide the product links to the original CD releases, but I've added the label numbers and ASIN numbers, which should make it easy to go to the entry of the original CD. The recording dates I provide are collated from various sources: the individual CDs when I have them, but also the mammoth Mercury discography compiled by Michel Ruppli and Ed Novitsky (volume IV has the chronological listing of the Mercury Living Presence classical records, The Mercury Labels: A Discography Volume IV The 1969-1991 Era and Classical Recordings (Discographies)), and the discography of the London Symphony Orchestra by Philip Stuart (it is now hosted on the website of CHARM, the Research Center for the History and Analysis of Recorded Music). I have found no discrepancy between Stuart and Ruppli/Novitsky; there are a few (but, except for a few cases, never more serious than a few days) between them and the dating provided on the CDs. In some cases where I've been able to check, the booklets were wrong and the Ruppli/Novitsky dating was right (no way Mercury could have been recording Paray's Auber Overtures in Detroit on April 4, 1959, AND Dorati's Petrouchka in Minneapolis. Ruppli/Novitsky's 20 April for the latter is confirmed by other sources), but in another case (Janis' Pictures at an Exhibition), it was the other way around..

CD 1: Originally 432 006. Schoenberg: 5 Pieces For Orchestra, Op.16 (19 & 20 July 1962); Webern: 5 Pieces For Orchestra, Op.10 (22 July 1962); Berg: Three Pieces For Orchestra, Op.6 (14 & 21 July 1962), Lulu Suite (Helga Pilarczyk, 19-24 June 1961). London Symphony Orchetra [henceforth LSO], Dorati. Total Playing Time: 1:15:54. B0000057KO.

CD 2: 432 007. Respighi The Birds, Brazilian Impressions (LSO Dorati 5, 7, 10 July 1957), Foutains & Pines of Rome (Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra, Dorati 19 April 1960). 1:13:05. B0000057KP

CD 3: 432 017. Bartók: Concerto for Orchestra (LSO, 3 July 1962); Dance Suite, Two Portraits, Mikrokosmos No. 117 & 142 (Arranged and orchestrated by Tibor Serly) (Erwin Ramor in Portrait 1, Philharmonia Hungarica, 10 & 11 June 1958), Dorati. 1:11:34. B0000057KZ

CD 4: 434 304. Respighi: Ancient Airs and Dances Suites Nos.1-3. Philharmonia Hungarica, Dorati 9-11 June 1958. 54:34. B0000057LF

CD 5: 434 312. Dvorák: Symphony No.7 in D Minor (17-19 June 1963); Symphony No.8 in G Major (19 & 20 June 1959). LSO Dorati. 1:11:53. B0000057LN

CD 6: 434 329. Gershwin: An American In Paris; Copland: Rodeo (20 December 1957); Schuller: Seven Studies On Themes Of Paul Klee, Bloch Sinfonia Breve (16 & 17 April 1960). Minneapolis, Dorati 1:15:29. B0000057M1

CD 7: 434 335. Satie: Parade; Milhaud: Le Boeuf Sur Le Toit; Auric: Overture; Françaix: Concerto for Piano & Orchestra (Claude Françaix, piano, LSO, Dorati, 4-6 August 1965); Paul Fetler: Contrasts For Orchestra (Minneapolis, Dorati 17 April 1960). 1:08:01. B0000057M7

CD 8: 434 353. Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 6 (17 & 18 June 1960); Romeo & Juliet (20 June 1959). LSO Dorati. 1:03:32. B0000057MP

CD 9: 434 357. Bartók: The Wooden Prince (24 & 25 June 1964), Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta (5-7 June 1960). LSO Dorati 1:17:53. B0000057MT

CD 10: 434 362. Bartók: The Miraculous Mandarin (BBC SO & Chorus, 8 July 1964); Divertimento (BBC SO, 8 & 9 July 1964), Sonata For 2 Pianos & Percussion (Geza Frid, Luctor Ponse, percussionists of the LSO, 26 & 27 July 1962), all Dorati. 1:17:40. B0000057MY

CD 11: 434 373. Tchaikovsky: Symphony No.4 (LSO 12 June 1960); Francesca da Rimini (Minneapolis 22 Dec. 1958) / Borodin: Prince Igor Overture (LSO 6 June 1959). Dorati. 1:14:59. B0000057N5.

CD 12: 434 375. Beethoven: Symphonies Nos. 5 (24-26 July 1962) & 6 (15-26 July 1962), The Creatures of Prometheus Overture (12 June 1960). LSO, Dorati. 1:15:30. B0000057ND

CD 13: 434 388. Antal Dorati Conducts 5 pieces from Albéniz' Iberia (Orchestration Arbós); Falla: Spanish Dance No. 1 from La Vida Breve (21 April 1957), Moussorgsky Prelude & Dance of the Persian Slaves from Khovanshchina (21 April 1959 - no, not a typo, day to day two years apart); Smetana The Bartered Bride Overture & Three Dances (6 April 1958). Minneapolis. 1:03:05. B0000041JQ

CD 14: 434 397. Hindemith: Symphonic Metamorphoses on Themes by Carl Maria von Weber, Schoenberg 5 Pieces for Orchestra, Op.16. Chicago SO, Kubelik (3-5 April 1953), Kodaly: Peacock Variations, Bartók: The Miraculous Mandarin, Suite (8-9 January 1954). Chicago SO, Dorati. 1:19:53. B000006PKQ or B000WB2H30. The April 1953 session, which yielded also Mozart's Symphony No. 38 (see CD 41), was Kubelik's last recordings for Mercury.

CD 15: 462 958. Beethoven: Symphony No.7 (9-10 June 1963), Overtures Egmont (23 July 1962), Leonore 3 (7-9 June 1960), Consecration of the House (16 July 1962). LSO, Dorati. 1:13:20. B00000IIX3

CD 16 & 17: 462 950. Tchaikovsky: Swan Lake. Minneapolis, Dorati (14 & 15 December 1954). 1:14:02 & 58:33. B00000AFRQ

CD 18 - 20: 434 313. Delibes: Sylvia (LSO, Fistoulari 28 & 29 June 1958) & Coppélia (Rafael Druian, Minneapolis, Dorati 21 & 22 Dec. 1957). 1:01:39 + 58:15 + 52:54. B0000057LO

CD 21: 434 311. Widor: Symphony No.6-Allegro; Salve Regina, Franck: Pièce Héroïque; Three Chorales. Marcel Dupré at the organ of Saint-Thomas' Church, New York, 14 & 16 Oct. 1957. 1:06:28. B0000057LM

CD 22: 432 013. Frederick Fennell Conducts The Music Of Leroy Anderson. Eastman Rochester "Pops" Orchestra 25 Oct. 1956 & 3 March 1958, London "Pops" Orchestra 9 July 1964, 1:06:14. B0000057KV

CD 23: 432 754. Works for Wind Ensemble: Grainger Lincolnshire Posy (2 March 1958) & Hill Song No. 2, Persichetti Symphony for Band (Symphony No. 6), Khachaturian 2 Armenian Dances, Walter S. Hartley Concerto for 23 Winds (all 4 May 1959), Bernard Rogers 3 Japanese Dances (2 March 1958). Eastman Wind Ensemble, Fennell. 1:10:48. B0000057L7

CD 24: 434 320. Morton Gould: West Point Symphony (Eastman Wind Ensemble, Fennell 3 May 1959, with "marching feet" recorded 5 April 1959 & 16 December 1960), Vittorio Giannini Symphony No. 3 & Alan Hovhaness: Symphony No.4 (Eastman Wind Ensemble, A. Clyde Roller 4 May 1963). 1:04:04. B0000057LS

CD 25: 434 330. Grainger: Country Gardens & Other Favorites by Percy Grainger (Eastman-Rochester "Pops" Orchestra 3 & 5 May 1959), Eric Coates: The Three Elizabeths (London "Pops" Orchestra 19 July 1965), Fennell. 1:03:53. B0000057M2

CD 26: 434 334. Hands Across The Sea - Marches From Around The World (Marches of John Philip Sousa, Louis Ganne, Marianno San Miguel, Carl Tieke, Prokofiev, Johannes Hanssen, Davide Delle Cese, Eric Coates all 23 November 1958 collating the complete contents of LP SR-90291 "Hands Across The Sea", more Sousa, Frank W. Meacham, Edwin Franko Goldman, Earl E. McCoy, Karl L. King, Kenneth J. Alford, John N. Klohr 20 January 1956, collating the full contents of the LP "Marching Along" SR-90105). 1:04:27. B0000057M6

CD 27: 434 376. Frederick Fennell Conducts The Music of Eric Coates (London Suite, Four Ways Suite, with London "Pops" Orchestra, 19 July 1965) & Leroy Anderson (including Irish Suite, with London "Pops" Orchestra, 9 July 1964, and Eastman-Rochester "Pops" Orchestra, 25 Oct. 1956). 1:06:28. B0000057N7

CD 28: 434 386. The Spirit of '76 (originally MG-50111) & Ruffles and Flourishes (originally MG-50112). Yankee Doodle and other Field Music of the US Army. Members of the Eastman Wind Ensemble, Fennell, both 6 May 1956. 51:50. B0000057NG

CD 29: 434 399. Mozart: Wind Serenade in B flat / Strauss, R.: Serenade for Wind Instruments op. 7 / Milhaud: Suite Française. Eastman Wind Ensemble, Fennell 2 & 3 March 1958. 1:13:06. B00000AFRS

CD 30: 462 960. Holst: Suites 1 & 2 op. 28a & b, Vaughan Williams: Folksong Suite & Toccata Marziale (21 May 1955 or 9 May 1955 say Ruppli/Novitsky), Mennin: Canzona, Persichetti: Psalm op. 53, Herbert Owen Reed: La Fiesta Mexicana, Mexican Folksong, Symphony for Band (12 May 1955). Eastman Wind Ensemble, Fennell. 1:11:12. B00000IIX5

CD 31: 432 008. Howard Hanson: Symphony Nos. 1 op. 21 "Nordic" (16 December 1960) & 2 op. 30 "Romantic" (Eastman-Rochester Orchestra, Hanson 4 May 1958), Song of Democracy (Eastman-Rochester School of Music Chorus, Eastman-Rochester Orchestra, Hanson 6 May 1957). 1:06:39. B0000057KQ

CD 32: 432 016. Morton Gould: Spirituals (25 Oct. 1959); Fall River Legend-Ballet suite (1 May 1960); Barber: Medea Ballet-Suite (4 May 1959). Eastman-Rochester Orchestra, Hanson. 1:03:13. B0000057KY

CD 33: 432 755. Ives: 3 Places in New England; Symphony No.3 (5 May 1957); William Schuman: New England Triptych (5 May 1963); Peter Mennin: Symphony No. 5 (7 May 1962). Eastman-Rochester Orchestra, Hanson. 1:17:08. B0000057L8

CD 34: 434 302. Hanson: Symphony No. 3 (5 May 1963), Elegy op. 44 (6 May 1957), The Lament for Beowulf (Eastman School of Music Chorus, 5 May 1958), all Eastman-Rochester Orchestra, Hanson. 1:02:13. B0000057LD

CD 35: 434 307. Howard Hanson Conducts American Masterworks.
Barber: Capricorn Concerto op. 21. Soloists Joseph Mariano, Robert Sprenkle, Sidney Mear (4 May 1959)
Walter Piston: The Incredible Flutist-Ballet suite. Joseph Mariano, flute (23 November 1958)
Charles Tomlinson Griffes: Poem for Flute and Orchestra. Joseph Mariano (5 May 1963)
Kent Kennan: Three Pieces for Orchestra. Soloists Francis Tursi, James Austin (5 May 1957)
William Alexander McCauley: Five Miniatures for Flute and Orchestra. Joseph Mariano (25 October 1959)
William Bergsma: Gold and the Señor Commandante-Ballet Suite (5 May 1957)
All Eastman-Rochester Orchestra, Howard Hanson. 1:12:02. B0000057LI and B001S0IM3S

CD 36: 434 310. Colin McPhee:Tabuh-Tabuhan (19 January 1956); Roger Sessions:The Black Maskers Orchestral Suite (6 May 1956); Virgil Thomson: Symphony On A Hymn Tune (2 May 1965);The Feast of Love (with David Clatworthy, baritone, 1 May 1965). Eastman-Rochester Orchestra, Hanson. 1:06:45. B0000057LL

CD 37: 434 319. Howard Hanson Conducts - Douglas Moore: Pageant of P.T. Barnum (23 Nov. 1958); John Alden Carpenter: Adventures in a Perambulator; Burrill Philips: Selections from McGuffey's Reader (28 Oct. 1956); Bernard Rogers: Once Upon a Time-Suite of 5 Fairy Tales (5 May 1957);. Eastman-Rochester Orchestra, Hanson. 1:14:15. B0000057LR

CD 38: 434 337. George Whitefield Chadwick: Symphonic Sketches (14 January 1956) / Edward MacDowell: Suite for Large Orchestra (7 May 1961) / Johann Frierich Johann Friedrich Peter (1746 - 1813): Sinfonia in G (5 May 1957). Eastman-Rochester Orchestra, Hanson. 1:09:23. B0000057M9

CD 39: 434 347. Music for Quiet Listening Vol. 1. Ron Nelson: For Katharine in April (Sarabande); William Whitney Pursell: Christ Looking Over Jerusalem; Joseph Scianni: Adagio Cantabile; Robert Gauldin: Pavane; Martin Mallman: Autumn Landscape; James Sutcliffe: Gymnopédie; Neil McKay: Larghetto; Paul Earls: And On the Seventh Day; Robert Stern: In Memoriam Abraham (6 May 1958); Kent Kennan: Night Soliloquy for Flute and Strings (8 May 1962); Wayne Barlow: The Winter's Past (8 May 1962) & Night Song (1 May 1960). Eastman-Rochester Orchestra, Eastman Philharmonia (in Night Soliloguy and The Winter's Night), Hanson. 1:05:14. B0000057MJ

CD 40: 434 390. Music for Quiet Listening: Volume 2. John La Montaine: Birds of Paradise, op. 34 (John La Montaine, Eastman-Rochester Orchestra, Hanson, 2 May 1965); Grieg: The Last Spring from Two Elegiac Melodies op. 34; Liadov: The Enchanted Lake op. 64, Kikimora op. 63 (Eastman Philharmonia, Hanson 8 May 1962); Charles Martin Loeffler: Two Rapsodies (soloists Robert Sprenkle oboe, Francis Tursi viola, Armand Basile piano, 6 May 1958); Howard Hanson: Fantasy Variations on a Theme of Youth (soloist David Burge, 7 May 1956). Eastman-Rochester Orchestra, Hanson. 1:05:57. B0000041JS

The recordings from 8 May 1962 played by the Eastman-Philharmonia and dispatched on the two volumes of "Music for Quiet Listening" (Liadov, Barlow, Grieg and Kennan) were originally released on SR-90299, "Musical Diplomats, USA": it was a commemorative LP celebrating the 30,000 mile tour of the Near-East, Western Europe and the USSR by the Eastman School of Music student orchestra in the winter 1961/62, on behalf of the Department of State and the "President's Special International Program for Cultural Representation". Funny that "Musical Diplomats" find themselves playing "music for quiet listening". Ah, yes, but, well, after all, isn't this indeed what diplomacy is all about? Music for loud listening is what Norman Schwarzkopf played.

CD 41: 434 387. Mozart: Symphony No.38 ("Prague") 3-5 April 1953, Dvorák: Symphony No.9 ("From The New World") 19 & 20 November 1951. Chicago SO, Kubelik. 1:02:03. B0000041JP. See coment under CD 14.

CD 42: 432 003. Ibert: Escales / Ravel: Rapsodie Espagnole, Alborada del Gracioso, Pavane pour une Infante Défunte, La Valse (all (18 March 1962), Le Tombeau de Couperin (5 April 1959). Detroit SO, Paray. 1:07:42. B0000057KL

CD 43: 432 014. French Opera Highlights. Hérold: Zampa-Overture; Auber: Les Diamants de la couronne-Overture; Gounod: Faust Ballet Music & Act II Waltz; Saint-Saëns: Samson et Dalila Act 3 Bacchanale; Bizet Danse Bohème from Carmen Suite No. 2; Berlioz: Les Troyens Chasse royale et orage; Massenet: Phèdre-Overture; Ambroise Thomas: Gavotte from Mignon. Detroit SO, Paray 19 November 1960 (Hérold, Aubert), 11 March 1961 (Saint-Saens), 17 March 1962 (Gounod, Berlioz, Bizet, Massenet, Thomas). 1:08:10. B0000057KW

CD 44: 432 719. Saint-Saëns: Symphony No.3 "Organ Symphony" (Marcel Dupré, organ), 12 Oct. 1957 / Paray: Mass for (the 500th Anniversary of the Death of) Joan of Arc, with Paul Paray's post-session thanks to the performers (Frances Yeend, Frances Bible, David Lloyd, Yi-Kwei-Sze, Rackham Symphony Choir), 20 Oct. 1956, Detroit SO, Paray. 1:12:46. B0000057L4

CD 45: 434 303. Chabrier: España; Suite pastorale; Fete Polonaise and Danse Slave from "Le Roi Malgré Lui"; "Gwendoline"-Overture (18 November 1960); Joyeuse Marche (5 April 1959), Bourrée Fantasque / Roussel: Suite in F op. 33 (19 March 1957). Detroit SO, Paray. 1:07:23. B0000057LE and SACD B0002O390C

CD 46: 434 306. Ravel: Daphnis et Chloë Suite No.2 (11 March 1961), Valses nobles et sentimentales (3 April 1959), Bolero (24 March 1958) / Debussy: Nocturnes (Wayne State University Women's Glee Club, 11 March 1961), Petite Suite (3 April 1959). Detroit SO, Paray. 1:14:15. B0000057LH

CD 47: Bizet: Patrie Overture (24 March 1958), Carmen (excerpts from Suites Nos. 1 & 2), L'arlésienne Suites Nos. 1 & 2 (8 Nov. 1956) / Thomas: Mignon & Raymond Overtures (19 November 1960). Detroit SO, Paray. 1:12:00. B0000057LT

CD 48: 434 336. Paul Paray conducts Dances of Death. Liszt Mephisto Waltz No. 1, Weber Invitation to the Dance op. 65, Saint-Saëns Danse Macabre (16 January 1959), Strauss Salome's Dance of the Seven Veils, Florent Schmitt La Tragédie de Salomé op. 50 (23 March 1958). Detroit SO, Paray. 1:02:55. B0000057M8

CD 49: 434 343. Debussy: Ibéria, Prelude To The Afternoon Of A Faun, La Mer (3-4 December 1955); Ravel Ma Mère L'Oye (19 March 1957). Detroit SO, Paray. 1:04:06. B0000057MF

CD 50: 434 364. The Golden Age of Harpsichord Music, by Rafael Puyana. Music of Anonymous, John Bull, Martin Peerson, William Byrd, Peter Philips, Jean-Baptiste Bérard, Louis Couperin, Antoine Francisque, Bach (Concerto in D minor BWV 974 after the Oboe Concerto in D minor of Alessandro Marcello), Freixanet, Mateo Perez de Albeniz (12 April to 22 May 1962), Jacques Champion de Chambonnières, Rameau, Francis Dieupart, François Couperin (6-20 April 1964). 1:15:50. B0000057N0

CD 51: 434 395. Puyana Plays Bach: Partita (French Overture) BWV 831 (22, 23, 28 Oct. 1963), Fantasia in C minor BWV 906, Concerto in G BWV 986, Toccata in F sharp minor BWV 910 (21 & 22 May 1963), Johann Christian Bach Duet in A for keyboard four hands T343/3 No. 1 (op. 18-5), Wilhelm Friedemann Bach Concerto for 2 Harpsichords in F (with Genoveva Gálvez, second harpsichord, 9-10 April 1963). 1:15:18. B000006PKO

CD 52: 462 959. Rafael Puyana: Baroque Masterpieces For The Harpsichord. Music of Giovanni Pichi (9 & 11 April 1962), Frescobaldi (24 & 26-27 July 1962), Carl Philipp Emmanuel Bach, Teleman, Scarlatti, Johann Caspar Ferdinand Fischer (6-20 April 1964). 1:13:58. B00000IIX7

CD 53: 434 358. Chopin Cello Sonata op. 65 (9 & 10 July 1962), Mendelssohn Variations Concertantes op. 17, Martinu Variations on a Theme of Rossini, Chopin Introduction and Polonaise op. 3, Debussy Sonata for Cello in Piano, Bartók Rhapsody No. 1 for Cello and Piano Sz. 88, Leo Weiner Hungarian Wedding Dance (17 & 18 Oct. 1963). János Starker, György Sebök. 1:13:03. B0000057MU

CD 54: Stravinsky: The Rite of Spring. Minneapolis SO, Dorati. 31:27

CD 55: Corigliano: Piano Concerto (with a 16-minute Corigliano interview with Paul Hume, & Hilde Somer); Richard Strauss: Parergon zur Symphonia Domestica for Piano Left Hand op. 73. Hilde Somer, San Antonio SO, Victor Alessandro. 1:07:52

The logic is clear: successively Dorati (not quite 20 CDs, since one is shared with Kubelik and one and a half has Fistoulari's Sylvia), Marcel Dupré (1 disc), Fennell (9 CDs and thank God not just marches, marches and marches this time), Hanson (10 CDs), Kubelik (1 CD plus the half-one shared with Dorati), Paray (8 CDs), Puyana (3 CDs), Starker (1 CD). But here comes the throw-in. CD 54, Dorati again, and with only The Rite of Spring, for a stingy 31 minutes? And anyway Dorati's Minneapolis Rite was already on volume 1, so what's the deal here?

Well here's the deal. On volume 1 was Dorati's stereo remake from 15 November 1959, here you get his mono recording from 12-14 December 1953.

And then, CD 55: Corigliano's Piano Concerto and Strauss' Parergon, plus a 16-minute interview of Corigliano. Now THAT'S interesting, and quite a bonus too. Neither the early Dorati Rite nor the Corigliano/Strauss program were ever part of the batch of CDs reissued under the auspices of Wilma Cozart Fine in the early 1990s. THEY ARE NEW TO CD. As for the interview, it was never before issued commercially. The booklet indicates that it "was originally released as a promotional LP by Mercury's marketing department"

But the inclusion of the Corigliano/Strauss program, as exciting news as it is, also raises a load of questions. The recordings were made on May 19 & 20, 1969 and it is not clear that they legitimately belong to the "Living Presence" Series.

In fact I haven't found a clear-cut answer to the question: when (and why) did the Living Presence Series end? Common wisdom to "when" is 1967 (re Soundfountain: "In 1967 the last recording was made and Mercury Living Presence became history" and in her 1995 interview with Bruce Duffie Wilma Cozart Fine also says, although not too assertively it seems, that "our last recording, I believe, was made in 1967"), and that last recording would be the two Rodrigo Concertos by the Romeros and the San Antonio Symphony under Victor Alessandro from 21 November 1967 (vol. 1 CD 50 - a week before they recorded four Vivaldi Concertos, of which three were added to the same disc). As to "why", it is apparently the departure of Harold Lawrence from Mercury in December 1967. Hired by Wilma Cozart in 1956 as the musical director for the classical division of Mercury Records (meaning that he edited the tapes and takes), he had pursued the activities of Wilma Cozart Fine as producer of the Mercury classical recordings when she retired in 1964, until his appointment as general manager of the London Symphony Orchestra. He died in 2011, not long after Mrs Cozart Fine. See Lawrence's recollections on his years at Mercury on ropenndorf dot com slash jounralofrecordedmusic4 dot html, and a great tribute to Wilma Cozart. There's also a great online memorial page devoted to Mr. Lawrence, on three dabya dot btstack dot com slash HaroldLawrence dot html, with many links to many things. One of these is a typescript "Harold Lawrence discography (Chronological)", in fact a Mercury Living Presence session list which goes back to the very beginning of the series and so predates Mr Lawrence's arrival in the company, with some handwritten annotations that apparently aren't those of Lawrence. That list is a major source of information on the chronology and technical details of Mercury Living Presence. The significant point is that it ends with the Rodrigo/Romero recording, and Lawrence's departure.

So the Corigliano/Strauss program with the same orchestra and conductor who purportedly made the last Mercury Living Presence recording in 1967, but from two years later, although it was originally published under the "Living Presence" banner on SR-90517, is listed by Ruppli/Novitski's Mercury discography not in the "Living Presence Sessions" section, but in the "Additional Classical Sessions". But meaning what exactly?

In fact, researching that issue has opened a vortex of questions and initiated weeks of online research. What is it exactly that defines the "Living Presence" and justifies the inclusion or not of a given recording? Obviously, having been released under the "Mercury Living Presence" label isn't enough, since Mercury also published under that banner a number of recordings licensed from Philips. But is it, then, as the finishing date of 1967 would suggest, the supervision by those producers who had direct (Wilma Cozart Fine) and next-to-direct (Lawrence) links with the producer associated to the invention of the "Living Presence" sound, David Hall (here's another one of those defining figures of Mercury who recently went away, a year ago as I write)?

But then you'd think, it isn't the producer who makes the sound, it is the recording engineer and techniques used. I'll leave aside here all the issues of transferring a master to whatever medium, vinyl or CD, that goes to the end consumer, which was also among the defining features of the Mercury Living Presence sound, and concentrate only on the masters. Point is, who cares that Lawrence didn't produce the Corigliano/Strauss session, if Robert Fine or his erstwhile assistant turned in the later days fully-fledged engineer Robert Eberenz recorded it (one of the Living Presence reissues that has impressed me most sonically was the 1965 Satie-Milhaud-LSO-Dorati program engineered by Eberenz alone, see my review of Dorati Conducts Satie, Milhaud, Auric, Françaix & Fetler, now on vol. 2 CD 7), using Fine's famous Telefunken microphones (see more about that in the comments section) and the company's legendary "vacuum-tube Westrex film recorder and Ampex 3-track tape machine"?

Well, on that account either, the Corigliano/Strauss does NOT qualify. The new set's booklet confirms the information found online from a photo of the original LP's back cover: "producer: Richard W. Campbell, Recording engineer: Marc Aubort".

And of course that leaves entirely aside the matter of remastering and transfer. What certainly defined the "Living Presence" sound and cachet of Mrs Cozart Fine's reissues was the incredible effort she lavished on them, the use of restored equipment and fastidious care spent on obtaining a sound as close as possible to the masters. About the new Corigliano/Strauss transfer, the booklet only indicate that "the remaster was made from the original first generation master tape".

I am very aware that all this is nitpicking and cutting hair with a microscope. Frankly, I don't care if the Corgiliano/Strauss was recorded by Fine, Ebebenz or Aubort and with which and how many microphones, I'm just happy to see it back on CD in what I hope is an acceptable transfer (which is always better than nothing), and in fact I'm very frustrated that the too many single Mercury CDs I already in my collection will prevent me from buying the new set and getting CD 55. But it would be great to know that the transfers were done with as much care and attention as those made by Mrs Cozart Fine.

And that doesn't nearly close the case of what legitimately belongs to the "Living Presence" series and when it truly ended, but for that follow me to the comments section. Another question that some readers and fans of Mercury might wonder about: with these two volumes of reissues totaling 50+53 CDs (not counting the two new discs of the new set), which ones, among the Wilma Cozart Fine reissued CDs, are STILL left out?

Well, more than a handful - which makes me hope that a volume 3 will eventually come out. The original CD release of Hanson's Merry Mount Suite, Mosaics and Piano Concerto (vol. 1 CD 8) came with a second CD of explanations by the composer, which wasn't included in the volume 1 compilation, and I guess this one will be left out forever. Which, from Mercury's original batch of 135, leaves 31 to go (134 - 50 - 53). For the complete list, see also the comments section (Part I).

Now, 31 CDs would seem stingy compared to the 51 and 55 of the first two volumes. Does it mean that enough new remasterings and releases to fill out 20 more CDs are in store? I sure do hope so. The Living Presence catalog was fairly extensively covered by the Wilma Cozart Fine reissues, at least the stereo era, but even there, there were some frustrating omissions. As for the mono era, it was largely left untapped, even considering that it was relatively short (stereo recording began at the end of 1955) and that much was later re-made in stereo. Among the gold nuggets still to be mined: Kubelik's early Tchaikovsky, Brahms and Bloch with Chicago, Hanson's series of American music including symphonies of Barber, Harris, Cowell, Piston and his own 4th and 5th, Paray's mono and stereo Beethoven and Brahms' 4th from 1955 mono, Dorati's Beethoven Symphonies No. 4 & 8 from November 1955 (Mercury Living Presence's first recording in stereo, but apparently the stereo tapes are lost) and his 1957 "Eroica", complete Tchaikovsky Sleeping Beauty (1955 mono), 1953 Copland 3rd Symphony, 1963 Schumann Fourth, his abundant Haydn (the "Farewell"-Symphony No. 45, "Fire"-59, No. 81, "Surprise"-94, "Miltary"-100, "Clock"-101 and "Drumroll"-103 were recorded between 1957 and 1965). And add to all this a number of recordings not usually associated with Mercury but indeed recorded by Fine and the Mercury team, like Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto with Szeryng and the LSO from July 1962 and Beethoven's Violin Concerto with the same and Hans Schmidt-Isserstedt from July 1965. There's also Josef Szigeti's final batch of recordings, made from 1959 to 1961, even if the once great violinist is only the painful shadow of himself. A number of these have already been reissued on CD, but in Japan only (wouldn't you know) and they need to be made available in the West, preferably in transfers using Wilma Cozart Fine's restored Mercury machines. For a complete and I hope tantalizing list, see again the comments section, starting Part IV. Interviewed by Bruce Duffie in 1995, as she was still working on her program of reissues, to the question "will there eventually be a time when everything in the original catalog is back out?", Wilma Cozart Fine said this: "We're certainly aiming in that direction. We may run into trouble with certain ones due to deterioration or the condition of the tapes. The truth of the matter is, as with all recording projects we will release them as long as we have them and as long as the public wants them and buys them, then we will continue to go through the catalog."

The success of volume 1 seems to give a clear answer to that, as should the success of volume 2. Indeed, potential buyer, act quick. When I published my review of vol. 1, it sold for a little less than 2 pounds a disc. Now? 8, and no more a bargain - and you are lucky if it is sold at all: last time I checked (early March), no more offer on the French sister company. For the latecomers, remains eBay and patience, or impatience and burglary at their local library.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Reference quality, 5 May 2013
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This review is from: Mercury Living Presence Vol.2 (Decca box set) (Audio CD)
Using just three microphones, these Mercury recordings have a more realistic sound than many of today's multi-mic recordings. State-of-the-art in their day 50 years ago, these stereo recordings (and their performances) still impress. There's a lot of interesting technical information, but no notes on the music. I guess you can't have everything at this kind of price.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Mercury Living Presence - Volume 2, 8 Feb 2014
By 
Adrian Clark (London, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Mercury Living Presence Vol.2 (Decca box set) (Audio CD)
I was delighted to receive this heavy set as I had also recently received the first volume which appears to have been re-issued after stocks ran out. It is fascinating to note that not even these two volumes have exhausted the possibility of re-issuing the whole of the "Mercury" back catalogue - as one reviewer has already noted. As a result, I am now anticipating a third volume!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, 25 Sep 2013
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This review is from: Mercury Living Presence Vol.2 (Decca box set) (Audio CD)
Wonderful bargain. If only Volume one could be reissued. We look forward to Vol Three, which must surely follow soon.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing sound and price, 5 Jun 2013
By 
Michael H. Kaplan (Baltimore, MD United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Mercury Living Presence Vol.2 (Decca box set) (Audio CD)
Amazing sound quality for CDs and at a bargain price. I have original vinyl pressings of most of these CDs and in many instances the sound on the CD is preferable. Vol. 1 and 2 give you the entire Mercury Living Presence catalogue for under $300.
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12 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars BUY IT NOW BEFORE YOU HAVE TO PAY £400 TOMORROW, 8 April 2013
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This review is from: Mercury Living Presence Vol.2 (Decca box set) (Audio CD)
i missed buying volume 1 and now I can not afford asking price is £400 in Amazon .If you purchase it and wait till the limited editon is out of stock,then,you sell it for £400.I got mine today and was very impressed with the sound and later will comments about the music.My advice to buy it now and you will not regret it.I know I will get negative comments about whether this is a review.No,it is not.Listen to 1st track of cd 1 and tell me it if you are not impressed with both sound and music.HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.I am sure it has a better sound than Volune 1,is it.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This was reccommended on Radio 3, 26 Sep 2013
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This review is from: Mercury Living Presence Vol.2 (Decca box set) (Audio CD)
I listened to a review of this collection by Rob Cowan who was very enthusiastic about both the recordings and the quality. At £2 per CD I couldn't see how it would not be worthwhile and this has proved to be the case. The recordings are mono but sometimes it doesn't sound like that, the quality is outstanding with fantastic depth and clarity - well worth the investment!
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2 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Well worth the wait, 7 May 2013
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This review is from: Mercury Living Presence Vol.2 (Decca box set) (Audio CD)
The set finally arrived after a three week wait once I received word the set was mailed. I haven't gone through the collection yet but very impressed with the over all packaging.
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3 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent in parts, 29 May 2013
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This review is from: Mercury Living Presence Vol.2 (Decca box set) (Audio CD)
This box contains some great recordings but the choice made from Mercury s huge library is somewhat odd. For example there are too many discs devoted to Howard Hanson, an undistinguished composer little known in the USA and completely unknown outside it.
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