In the second instalment of our three-part podcast series, we learn how Mercury’s evocative classical recordings were transferred to the digital domain in the 1980s and 90s - a project carried out using dCS’s first audio product, the dCS 900Tags: Mercury Living Presence, Culture,
‘Trust Your Ears’: The Mercury Living Presence story traces the history and evolution of Mercury Living Presence, the pioneering label behind some of the most beloved and influential classical recordings ever made. The podcast was created to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the label's inception, and is produced by dCS in partnership with Decca Records.
In Episode 1 of the series, we explored how Mercury Living Presence produced over 200 LPs with leading orchestras in the US, Europe and Russia during the 1950s and 60s, building a catalogue renowned for its imaginative repertoire and lifelike sound. For Episode 2, we move on to the 1980s and the advent of digital audio to learn how these recordings were remastered for CD.
Over the course of the episode, we discover how the arrival of compact disc technology led to a major project to transfer Mercury's classical recordings to the digital domain, and how Mercury Living Presence producer Wilma Cozart Fine came to be working on the project more than 20 years after retiring from the music industry. Engineer Dennis Drake explains how he and Wilma approached the remastering process, and talks us through their setup and choice of equipment.
The episode also examines the role that dCS's audio innovation played in the catalogue's digital revival. We learn how the dCS 900 - a then-brand new A to D converter - helped Wilma and Dennis to preserve the nuance, depth and distinctive sound of the original Mercury recordings, and how this technology, coupled with their meticulous production, resulted in a series of digital remasters that still sound spectacular to this day.
dCS founder Mike Story reflects on the creation of the 900, and dCS's move from radar to audio, and Andy McHarg, Technical Director at dCS, discusses the 900's legacy and the design philosophy that has inspired generations of dCS products. Alongside this, we talk to classical critic and broadcaster Rob Cowan and writer and historian Michael Gray about the impact and enduring appeal of the Mercury catalogue.
You can listen to the episode in full below. 'Trust Your Ears': The Mercury Living Presence story is also available on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts and Spotify.
More information about the project and our collaboration with Decca is available here.