CHABRIER: Espana. Suite Pastorale. Fete Polonaise. Gwendoline Overture. Danse Slave. Joyeuse March. Bourrée fantastique. ROUSSEL: Suite in F, Op. 33.
Detroit Symphony Orch/Paul Paray, cond.
MERCURY LIVING PRESENCE SACD 475 6183 TT: 67:22

HANSON: Symphony No. 1 in E minor, Op. 21 "Nordic." Symphony No. 2, Op. 30 "Romantic." Song of Democracy.
Eastman School of Music Chorus; Eastman-Rochester Orch/Howard Hanson, cond.
MERCURY LIVING PRESENCE SACD 475 6181 TT: 66:40

RODRIGO: Concierto de Aranjuez. Concierto Andaluz for Four Guitars and Orchestra. VIVALDI: Concerto in B minor, Op. 2 No. 10. Concerto in C. Concerto in G.
The Romeros, guitarists; San Antonio Symphony Orch/Victor Alessandro, cond.
MERCURY LIVING PRESENCE SACD 475 6184 TT: 76:47

SOUSA: Sound Off. Nobles of the Mystic Shrine. Sabre and Spurs. The Picadore. Our Flirtation. The High School Cadets. The Invincible Eagle. Bullets and Bayonets. The Liberty Bell. Riders for the Flag. Solid Men to the Front! The Gallant Seventh. The Rifle Regiment. The Pride of the Wolverines. Golden Jubilee. The Gridion Club. New Mexico. Sesqui-Centennial Exposition. The Black Horse Troop. The Kansas Wildcats. Manhattan Beach. Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company. The National Game. The Glory of the Yankee Navy.
Eastman Wind Ens/Frederick Fennell, cond.
MERCURY LIVING PRESENCE SACD 475 6182 TT: 73:12

RIMSKY-KORSAKOV: Capriccio espagnole, Op. 34. Suite from Le Coq d'Or. Russian Easter Overture, Op. 36. BORODIN: Polovtsian Dances from Prince Igor
London Symphony Orchestra Chorus; London Symphony Orch/Antal Dorati, cond.
MERCURY LIVING PRESENCE SACD 475 6194 TT: 67:06

The second batch of Mercury Living Presence SACDs offers more treasures for the collector—the best possible transfers from original three-track tapes of these fine recordings. The Detroit Symphony is in spectacular form in these Chabrier performances, particularly the searing playing of the dramatic Gwendoline overture, and producers have added the Roussel suite (originally issued on LP coupled with Debussy's Nocturnes and Ravel's Tombeau de Couperin) to extend the playing time.

Recordings of composers performing their own works are always welcome, particularly this one of Howard Hanson conducting his first two symphonies and his rather inconsequential and brief (12-minute) choral work Song of Democracy, written in 1957 to a text by Walt Whitman. Expert though the Eastman-Rochester Orchestra is, Hanson's music would benefit from a richer string sound—but we can be certain on this SACD we have exactly what was heard at the sessions. The slight edge on violins heard on LP issues is now missing. Text for Song of Democracy is included.

The late Frederick Fennell's 1960-1961 Sousa recordings with the Eastman Wind Ensemble have been sonic blockbusters ever since their initial LP issue. This transfer to SACD is superior to previous CD issues—tremendous impact and clarity, and lively performances with virtuoso playing from the 52-member wind/brass/percussion ensemble.

The Rodrigo/Vivaldi collection combines works from two LPs. All date from November 1967 with Harold Lawrence as director of recording. The entire Romeros family was involved; Angel solos in Aranjuez, all four play Concierto Andaluz, as well as the Vivaldi Concerto in B minor. Celedonia plays the Concerto in C, and Pepe and Celin are heard in the Concerto in G. Four Vivaldi concertos were on the original LP release; only three could fit as fillers on this well-filled SACD (74:47). Sound on this recording is good, but not spectacular. Municipal Auditorium in San Antonio, Texas, might have been a problem for Lawrence—the sound here is rather dry, and it's surprising there isn't more of a zing to the guitars. CD notes say this was "an original 3-track recording plus a fourth for minimal augmentation of the centre (sic) stereo channel". It isn't explained exactly what is meant by this, and if the fourth channel audio information was used in this transfer to SACD. Regardless, the sound is very good, surely superior to previous releases.

Dorati's Russian recordings have been "stereo spectaculars" ever since their original LP release. All were recorded in London's Walthamstow Town Hall, the Borodin and Golden Cockerel in July 1956, the others in June 1959. Dorati's energetic interpretations are well played by the LSO, and this is another Harold Lawrence production. The original LP issue of Polovtsian Dances made a point of the fact that it was felt the only way this recording could be made with only three channels was to have the chorus behind the conductor—and there was a photo of this setup. It's surprising no mention is made of this on this SACD release.

All of these are major additions to the SACD catalog. I look forward to future releases—and hope they will also include the extraordinary early monophonic recordings given the superior sound of the format.

R.E.B. (February 2005)