The Mercury Living Presence catalog alternated between "serious" music - usually under the baton of Dorati or Paray - and "pops", the territory of the Eastman-Rochester School of music under Howard Hanson and, for its wind band, Frederick Fennell. There were exceptions of course, Dorati recorded many a program of Viennese Waltzes and Paray did Suppé and Auber, and on the other side Hanson conducted many programs of American 20th Century music and not just his own but also music of Barber, Harris, Ives, Schuman, Piston, Sessions, Loeffler, Griffes, Cowell, Riegger, Carter, Hovhaness, and even Fennell occasionally strayed from the marches, marches and more marches which seemed to be his trademark.
This one definitely belongs to the "pops" category, and for once Fennell conducts the full Eastman-Rochester "Pops" Orchestra rather than its wind band. It collates the full and partial contents of two recording sessions and LPs. The first, Hi-Fi a la Española, was made on March 25, 1957 and released on MG50144 (mono) and SR90144 (stereo). The day before, Fennell recorded a great program with the Eastman Winds, one of those "exceptions" I mentioned above, with Hindemith's Symphony in B Flat for Concert Band, Schoenberg's Theme and Variations op. 43a and Stravinsky's Symphony for Wind Instruments, MG50143/SR90143, regrettably one of those NOT included by Wilma Cozart Fine in her batch of CD reissues from the early 1990s.
The second program, from May 3 & 5, 1959, was released as "Pop-Overs" on MG50222/SR90222 and comprised three pieces CD-reissued on Frederick Fennell Conducts Carousel Waltz and Other Orchestral Favorites with Popovers II as a filler to the Carousel Waltz program of 20 July 1965 (Rimsky-Korsakov's Procession of the Nobles, Weinberger's Polka and Fugue from "Schwanda" and Glière's Russian Sailors' Dance from "The Red Poppy" ballet), plus those reissued here, the non-Spanish or Latin-American: Dinicu (his Hora Staccato made famous by Heifetz, here in an uncredited orchestral transcription), Liszt, Czibulka, Sibelius, Debussy and Shostakovich's Polka (not necessarily a clever idea to have sent the Popovers' two polkas on two separate CDs).
The music is entertaining and boisterous, not very deep (it's not its purpose) but sometimes even poetic (Turina's La Oracion del Torero, the Prayer of the Bullfighter). I'm not convinced the (uncredited) orchestral arrangement does any good to Liszt's Liebestraum, turning it into Hollywood music. To be honest, I haven't done any comparative listening, even on the few pieces that might have called for it, Falla's Ritual Fire Dance, Turina's Oracion del torero and Sibelius' Finlandia. They seemed fine enough, and one doesn't usually buy that kind of collection for the finest interpretive points, but rather for the sonic fireworks. The sonics are great, I am particularly impressed by the naturalness of the sound and the great stereo spread, achieved with only three microphones.