New Mercury Living Presence Mastering

Eloquence, the Australian label has recently released two recorded sets of Paul Paray conducting the Detroit Symphony from the original Mercury Living Presence catalog.
These extensive new sets have been remastered by Thomas Fine, son of the original producer Robert Fine. After listening for a while, I discovered to my dismay that he has emasculated the original Mercury sound to sound like run of the mill current commercial CD recordings.
No less of an authority than Henry Fogel in a review misguidedly calls them “excellent restorations,” presuming that they NEEDED restoration.
These are classic recordings that were incredible sounding when first released on LP and subsequently on CD transfers by Philips.
It’s a travesty! All the magic is gone. On a high resolution set the sound is comparatively lifeless and homogenized. Evidently Thomas thought he was “fixing” the sound to appeal to mid-fi consumers.
What a missed opportunity!


This was discussed extensively on another board at the time of release. The consensus IIRC is that they are indistinguishable from the original CD releases supervised by Thomas’ mother. As such it was considered a disappointment. However, there may be some new material not released on CD originally

The 'restoration" spoken of is likely the restoration of the original analog tapes.  Mercury, unlike most other companies, did not prepare a master tape for the disk cutting and later for the CD transformation (though the Golden Imports did).  They always used the original session tapes.  These tapes were handled, and perhaps mishandled repeatedly and were said to need a great deal of care to make them usable for yet another series.  Apparently they needed a good bit or cleaning off of old glue and re-taping.

Notwithstanding, I think I have a high resolution system and I think the sound of these old Mercuries is fine, though some are much better than others. That was also true on the original CDs, and on the LPs.

In any event they are all up on Qobuz so you can make up your own mind.


I’ve bought both sets and compared several of the remasterings to the Wilma Cozart supervised masterings and , at least on my set, there is a notable difference in detail and soundstaging. The incredible depth of field is just not present on the new set.
That, along with the closeup detail, was what set Mercury apart from the herd. The Thomas Fine set sounds fine in and of itself, but not much different from other label’s releases from the period, and indeed of many current high quality releases.
But it is not the “Mercury sound” that is so unique.
I understand that through the years it has been criticized for being bright and edgy, but with new, more sophisticated equipment, that very quality was transformed into a higher resolution presentation.
The Golden Imports CD releases got it right. Comparing them to the original LP’s, there is little loss of quality.
I’d be very interested on what other board you saw a discussion of this topic.


Reissues are for the period album that has become unobtanium.

I happily listen thru a period press with a tick/stitch than thru a noise free,sanitized essentially CD pressed to an LP.

May as well listen to the CD/file. 

Reissue quality is a hit or miss just as much as bin diving for "the one." If one is hoping to hear one "faithful" to the original, it's a crap shoot.

I am fortunate to live with a neighborhood store with Classical gems from the "Golden Age" coming in almost weekly for cheap, because there is little demand for them.


You might want to look here and here for openers

For an audiophile board discussing classical music, you're in the wrong place.

Messing with MLP? Now THAT’s a travesty almost certainly.

In any case it would be an interesting listen. Something a little different? I will reserve final judgement until after I might hear. At least it’s likely for real and not some placebo solely  in people’s minds We will see/hear….



I bought the first two boxes of the Mercury reissues that was released about 5 years ago, and then the 10 disc Paray set  from a Japanese exporter around 2 years ago.  I was surprised when the Eloquence box had a fair amount of material not covered by those releases.  How does the Eloquence sound compared to the reissues that I presently own?  I might just pass, but the performances were superb.  I grew up in Detroit and it’s nice to see these recordings being recognized as the great performances they are


I am jealous 😁

I am fortunate to live with a neighborhood store with Classical gems from the "Golden Age" coming in almost weekly for cheap, because there is little demand for them.


 I can’t tell you how they compare because I don’t have the ten disc Paray set you speak of.

If you want to hear the difference between the original Philips Mercury Golden Import CD and the new mastering go to Qobuz and type in “Paray Carmen” and you’ll see the two masterings. The Philips is the one that starts with the Patri Overture.

It’s pretty clear to me which one sounds better.

For me the real question here is the Mercury recording approach. It seems to me to have been regarded as a sine qua non in high fidelity for the time, but also lauded simultaneously as somewhat minimalist in comparison to some alternative technologies, such as Decca/London Phase4, which was regarded as stressing hi fi thrills over a natural perspective. I know that in Detroit at least Mercury placed great emphasis on the Hall, initially Orchestra Hall, which was being supplanted at the time by the acoustically monstrous Ford Auditorium, and also experimenting with Cass Tech High School. Get the Hall right and good things will happen.

I bought a few of the Paray recordings when they were released in SACD, namely theCharbier collection and Berlioz Symphony Fantastique. Wilma Cozart Fine was supposedly not involved in these digitalizations and viewed them as tragedies. To my ears they are spectacular, enhancing the originals to no small degree

After listening to many of the CDs in the sets It’s pretty clear that my assessment of the remastering was much too harsh. It’s definitely not a “travesty,” just not as good as the originals. 
There are many pleasures to enjoy in this current release even if it’s not ideal.