Music in the Round #10 Recordings in the Round

Sidebar: Recordings in the Round

Following the recent transfers of classic RCA Living Stereo masters to SACD, the original Mercury Living Presence recordings are now becoming available on SACD in the original three channels as well as in two. So far, I've been less impressed with improvements in the Mercurys, but only because these wonderful recordings have already shown so much detail and transparency in other formats. Here are four of my favorites from the first batch:

STRAVINSKY: The Firebird (complete), Fireworks, The Song of the Nightingale, Tango, Scherzo à la Russe Antal Dorati, London Symphony Mercury Living Presence 470 643-2 (SACD)

This classic sounds, remarkably, more powerful and clear than ever. Compared to the Järvi SACD on Telarc, this has more instrumental detail and momentum and is more close-up, at the expense of a bit of atmosphere.

BACH: Suites for Solo Cello, Sonatas in G & D János Starker, cello; Gyórgy Sebok, piano Mercury Living Presence 470 644-2 (SACD)

Not to be missed. These dedicated and passionate performances are a very personal experience; Starker's (and Bach's) presence is almost palpable, especially with the lights dimmed and a good cognac.

RACHMANINOFF: Piano Concertos 2 & 3, Preludes in C# minor & E-flat major Byron Janis, piano; Antal Dorati, Minneapolis Symphony, London Symphony Mercury Living Presence 470 639-2 (SACD)

Another pair of classic performances. In Concerto 3, Lang Lang (Telarc) sounds good but lags; Pletnev (DG) is romantic but the piano sounds thin; Janis, with still some of the best piano sound yet on disc, simply soars.

SUPPÉ, AUBER: Overtures Paul Paray, Detroit Symphony Mercury Living Presence 470 638-2 (SACD)

Razor-sharp playing and sound. Paray's performances have still-unrivaled panache, and Auber's triangle accents are as titillating as ever.

ZAPPA: QuAUDIOPHILIAc DTS Entertainment 69286-01125-9-9

A musically and sonically fascinating program rescued by Dweezil Zappa from quadraphonic tapes made in the 1970s by his father, trailblazer Frank Zappa. As music created for multichannel, this could have saved quad and advanced multichannel by decades!