BERLIOZ: Symphonie fantastique. Hungarian March. Trojan March. Le Corsaire Overture. Roman Carnival Overture.
Detroit Symphony Orch/Paul Paray, cond.
MERCURY LIVING PRESENCE SACD 475 6622 TT: 72:54
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SCHUMANN: Cello Concerto in A minor, Op. 129. LALO: Cello Concerto in D minor. SAINT-SAËNS: Cello Concerto in A minor, Op. 33.
János Starker, cellist; London Symphony Orch/Stanislaw Skrowaczewski and Antal Dorati (Saint-Saéns), cond.
MERCURY LIVING PRESENCE SACD 475 6621 TT: 65:10
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MUSSORGSKY: Pictures at an Exhibition. CHOPIN: Etude in F. Waltz in A minor.
Byron Janis, pianist/Minneapolis Symphony Orch/Antal Dorati, cond. (Ravel orchestration of Pictures)
MERCURY LIVING PRESENCE SACD 475 6620 TT: 66:02
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TCHAIKOVSKY: The Nutcracker Ballet (complete). Serenade for Strings, Op. 48.
London Symphony Orch (Nutcracker); Philharmonia Hungarica Orch (Serenade)/ Antal Dorati, cond.
MERCURY LIVING PRESENCE SACD 475 6623 (2 disks) TT: 109:07
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ANDERSON: Belle of the Ball. Horse and Buggy. The Waltzing Cat. Blue Tango. Summer Skies. Song of the Bells. The Typewriter. The Syncopated Clock. The Girl in Satin. China Doll. Saraband. Fiddle-Faddle. Sleigh Ride. Serenata. Promenade. Chicken Reel. Phanton Regiment. Jazz Legato. Jazz Pizzicato. Plink Plank Plunk. The Bluebells of Scotland. The First Day of Spring. Song of Jupiter.
Eastman-Rochester "Pops" Orch/Orch/Frederick Fennell, cond.
MERCURY LIVING PRESENCE SACD 475 6942 TT: 68:59
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This set of Mercury Living Presence reissues in their original three-track form is uniformly fine with one exception. This is Symphonie fantastique recorded in 1959 in Cass Technical High School—often a slight background sound can be heard. Perhaps the original tapes had deteriorated a bit, but it's very unusual to hear a distraction such as this on a Mercury recording. It's not heard on other works on this SACD, and the performances are superb, dynamic to the extreme—high quality Berlioz from one of the under-rated conductors of the era. The center channel gives even more natural presence to Janos Starker's 1962/1964 recordings—masterful performances in every way.

Antal Dorati's Minneapolis Symphony Pictures at an Exhibition was recorded April 1959 in Northrop Auditorium, a very dry venue that is unflattering to string sound. You won't find any of the resonance and tonal beauty of Reiner's magnificent Chicago recording made two years earlier, but there's no question that the dynamic range is wide, bass-drum and other percussion vivid. Byron Janis made this recording of Mussorgsky's original piano version in New York September 1961, and in this transfer it sounds better than ever.

Dorati's complete Nutcracker was recorded July 1962 in Watford Town Hall and has typical Mercury clarity and impact. Serenade was recorded in Vienna's Konzerthaus four years earlier, and has a warmer sound than Nutcracker. Many audiophiles will wish to have these three-track transfers, but for Nutcracker the one to have is Dorati's 1975 Philips Concertgebouw recording which remains the definitive recording (see REVIEW). The Leroy Anderson collection previously was on CD (432 013); now we have it via this fine SACD. The first 14 selections were recorded October 1956 in Rochester's Eastman Theater, the remainder in Juy 1964 in Watford Town Hall, where the warmer acoustics are evident. It's surprising that one of Anderson's most popular works—Bugler's Holiday—wasn't included in this collection: it easily would have fit, and would have been welcome.

R.E.B. (January 2006)