SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews

PROKOFIEV: Love for Three Oranges Suite; Scythian Suite – London Sym. Orch./ Antal Dorati (1957) – Mercury Records/ ORG 45 rpm vinyls

A quite close A/B comparison, but of course the 45 rpm vinyls are the ultimate.

Published on April 17, 2013

PROKOFIEV: Love for Three Oranges Suite; Scythian Suite – London Symphony Orchestra/ Antal Dorati (1957) – Mercury Records/ Original Recordings Group 45 rpm audiophile vinyl double-disc ORG118 [1/15/13] *****:

The Love for Three Oranges Suite is one of the best-known of Prokofiev’s works, and its March was made famous by the old radio program The FBI in Peace and War. The Scythian Suite is more atonal and hard-hitting, but still an important work of the Russian composer/pianist/conductor, one of the major Russian composers of the 20th century. Neither work is very long, and they are spread out with plenty of ungrooved area on each side near the label, requiring one to change the discs about every eight or nine minutes.

But the result is the ultimate in fidelity of these early stereo recordings from Mercury Living Presence. That’s the goal of ORG’s 45 rpm vinyl reissues. If you have a quality turntable system and the ability to play 45 rpm discs without a lot of bother (plus the rather high price of the vinyl), this set is the way to go. I compared it with the Mercury Living Presence CD (432 753-2) in the set of 51 CDs which Universal issued in 1991 (which by the way also includes the Prokofiev Symphony No. 5—missing in the 45 rpm set due to length). It’s unfortunate these three works weren’t included in the 15 Mercury SACDs at one time released by Universal, before the project was canned.

The CD reissue—mixed to two channels by the original participant Wilma Cozart from the three-channel tape masters—is remarkably close to the 45 rpm vinyls, but the vinyls have more ambience, snap and natural timbres of the instruments. The CD does sound just a bit flat and opaque in comparison, but of course this will depend on the quality of your turntable system, including the cartridge and phono preamp. If you are not using at least some sort of outboard dedicated phono preamp, the two might sound identical. There were a couple of surface pops on the vinyls—something I hadn’t heard on any previous ORG reissues.

—John Sunier

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