Doráti / MSO – Respighi: Roman Festivals – Church Windows (mono, 180g pressing)

# Composer: Ottorino Respighi
# Orchestra: Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra
# Conductor: Antal Dorati
# Vinyl (2015)
# Number of Discs: 1
# Format: Flac
# DR Analysis: DR 14
# Label: Mercury Living Presence | 478 8058
# Size: 24-bit/192kHz (1.98GB), 24-bit/96kHz (1.01GB) and 16-bit/44.1kHz (274MB)
# Recovery: 5%
# Scan: yes
# Servers: File Factory

From the label:

It was a startling development in the world of high fidelity when Mercury released its first Living Presence recording in 1951. Listening to the recording of Moussorgsky’s “Pictures at an Exhibition” with the Chicago Symphony under Rafael Kubelik, Howard Taubman, then chief music critic of the New York Times, wrote it was “like being in the living presence of the orchestra.” Following this spectacular first release, Mercury produced more than 350 classical LP records during the next 19 years.

Mercury Living Presence artists included: conductors Rafael Kubelik, Antal Dorati, Paul Paray, Howard Hanson, Frederick Fennell and Victor Alessandro; pianists Byron Janis and Gina Bachauer; cellist Janos Starker; violinist Henryk Szeryng; and Los Romeros, the First Family of the Spanish Guitar.

Mercury’s innovative approach, master-minded by recording engineer C. Robert Fine, was based on the premise that, given a hall with excellent acoustical properties, a single ultra-sensitive microphone should be capable of capturing the sound of a symphony orchestra with unprecedented clarity, realistic balance and crisp definition. Though single-microphone recordings had been made before, the idea of recording large-scale symphonic works was bold and innovative.

When the stereo era dawned in the mid-1950’s, Fine expanded and improved on this technique, opting for three microphones (left, center, right) to capture the full width, height and depth of the orchestral sound along with startling clarity and detail.

The Mercury team never used extra “touch-up” microphones, even for recordings of concertos, operas or solo works. Thus, the true clarify and full panorama of the sound was vividly captured, as well as the perspective and spatial dimension of an actual performance.


In the early ’50s Antal Dorati and the Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra made a series of Mercury recordings before the stereo era, outstanding performances apparently recorded with a single microphone which provided a very well-balanced sound. One of the outstanding releases in the series was a coupling of two of Respighi’s orchestral showpieces, Roman Festivals and Church Windows.

The symphonic poem Roman Festivals, the last of the composer’s Roman Trilogy, is also the heaviest scored and most demanding for the performers. Arturo Toscanini’s two recordings (Philadelphia Orchestra, 1941; NBC Symphony, 1949) remain the supreme interpretations although sonics disappoint, particularly the earlier version. Dorati also whips up an orchestral frenzy, everything under control, very well played by the Minnesota orchestra. Vetrate di chiesa (“Church Windows”) is a four-movement suite (The Flight into Egypt, St. Michael Archangel, The Matins of St. Clare and St. Gregory the Great) inspired by Gregorian chants.

For audio buffs it is memorable for the huge gong smashed loudly at the ending of the second section. In Dorati’s performance it takes place 6:16 into track 6 – and continues for 16 seconds. Eugene Ormandy’s stereo Philadelphia Columbia recording more than a decade later has a gone that isn’t nearly as impressive and lasts a paltry 7 seconds; Geoffrey Simon’s 1984 Philharmonia Chandos recording is far better recorded and lasts 12 seconds. However, no other recording approaches the Dorati spectacular.

As mentioned above, the sound is well-balanced but very dry. You won’t find lush strings or a rich blanket of low strings, but orchestral detail is very clear. Nowhere is there a trace of overload or distortion, which always seemed to be inherent in the original LPs. Audiophiles and collectors surely will wish to own this important recording. — Robert Benson,

Track Listing:

Side One
01 – Roman Festivals (Symphonic Poem)
          a) Circus Maximus
          b) The Jubilee
          c) The October Excursions
          d) Epiphany

Side Two
01 – Church Windows (Four Symphonic Impressions)
          a) The Flight Into Egypt
          b) St. Michael The Archangel
          c) The Matins of Santa Chiara
          d) St. Gregory The Great

Original LP front and back cover
Pressing by OPTIMAL on 180g vinyl
Lacquers cut by Sean Magee at Abbey Road Studios

Additional info can be found here and here.

Ripping Info:

All vinyl is cleaned on a VPI 16.5

Music Hall MMF-7.1
– Music Hall Cruise Control 2.0
– Music Hall cork mat
Ortofon 2M Mono SE
SimAudio Moon 110LP preamp
RME Hammerfall 9632 ADC

Processing: Sound Forge 10, ClickRepair (manual mode only), iZotope RX3

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