Philippe Entremont / The Chopin I Love – A Sleeper from Columbia

This is an undiscovered Columbia gem from 1971. Both musically and sonically this record is superb. Who knew Columbia could record a piano this well? You could play fifty vintage piano recordings and not find one as good as this! We know, we’ve played plenty, including a number of Entremont’s Columbia records that don’t sound too good to us. Maybe we need to find a Hot Stamper of some of the weaker titles, but it hasn’t happened yet. A word of advice: avoid the piano concertos. We have yet to hear a good one. Those steely Columbia strings are far from our idea of good sound.

These solo piano pieces are performed with consummate skill and deep feeling by the legendary Phillipe Entremont. His liner notes are beautifully written and insightful as well — well worth reading.

Fortunately this record has no strings, just a solid, clear piano in a big hall.

Side Two

The piano sounds REAL. It’s clear and clean and solid the way a piano really sounds in recital. The transparency is simply amazing — you are there! There aren’t many solo piano recordings that sound this right. When you hear one it’s shocking how good it can be.

Note especially how percussive the piano is on this side. There is no smear to be heard, the notes are sharp and clear, and that is quite unusual in our experience. This is the power and beauty of the real instrument played in an exceptionally good acoustic.

Warm and delicate, with dead on tonality, this is the sound we love.

Listen to how clearly you can hear the huge hall on the third piece here. Somebody knew what they were doing when it came time to record these lovely Chopin pieces.

Side One

Gets bigger and clearer and warmer as it goes. By the third piece it is superb.

Note that the piano is a bit more distant on this side at the start than on side two.

Columbia Records

Here at Better Records we have never been fans of Columbia classical LPs. Years ago we noted that:

Columbia classical recordings have a tendency to be shrill, upper-midrangy, glary and hard sounding. The upper mids are often nasally and pinched; the strings and brass will screech and blare at you in the worst possible way. If Columbia’s goal was to drive the audiophile classical music lover screaming from the room (or, more realistically, induce a strong desire to call it a day record-playing wise), most of the time one would have to grant they succeed brilliantly. Occasionally, however, they fail. When they do we call those pressings Hot Stampers.

To be clear, the fault more often than not has to be in the mastering, not the recording. We’ve raved about so many great copies of titles in the past, only to find that the next three or four LPs we pick up of the very same titles sound just godawful. There are some amazing Bernstein recordings out there but the amount of work it takes to find the one that sounds good is overwhelming — how can such great recordings be consistently mastered so poorly?

Coming Soon

We’ve played a few shockingly good sounding Ormandy recordings in the past few months and are working up (read: buying off various websites) enough copies with which to do a shootout. He seems to get the sound that practically no one else on Columbia is capable of. Perhaps it’s important enough to him to insist that the sound be as good as the music he is performing? Or is it luck? We have nothing to go on, but rest assured we will keep playing his records until we find all the good ones.


Side One

Polonaise In A Major, Op. 40, No. 1 (Military) 
Nocturne In E-Flat Major, Op. 9, No. 2 
Waltz NO. 1 In E-Flat Major, Op. 18 (Grand Valse Brillante)
Fantaisie-Impromptu, Op. 66

Side Two

Etude In C Minor, Op. 10, No. 12 (Revolutionary) 
Waltz NO. 7 In C-Sharp Minor, Op. 64, No. 2 
Trois Ecossaises, Op. 72, No. 3 
Waltz NO. 6 In D-Flat Major, Op. 64, No. 1 (Minute) 
Polonaise In A-Flat Major, Op. 53

Artist Biography by Joseph Stevenson

As a pianist Philippe Entremont is recognized for his performances in the early 20th century repertory and music of the Classical era. Yet, he also has performed and recorded the concertos of the major Romantic composers, as well as conducting orchestral works from the same periods.

Entremont’s father was a conductor, who, when Philippe was a boy, was conductor at the Strasbourg Opera. Philippe’s mother was a pianist, who gave him his first lessons. He studied with Marguerite Long, then in 1944 he went to study at the Paris Conservatory with Jean Doyen. At the age of 12, Entremont won the Harriet Cohen Piano Medal. At the Conservatory he won the first prizes in solfège when he was 12, in chamber music when he was 15, and in piano when he was 16.

He made his professional debut in 1951 in Barcelona and began touring in Europe. He made his American debut on January 5, 1953, with the National Orchestral Association, Jacques Barzun conducting. He became particularly well-known for his interpretations of music by such composers as Milhaud, Stravinsky, Jolivet, and Bernstein. He has appeared as a pianist on five continents in practically every major musical center and with the great orchestras for the world. He also appeared in chamber music presentations, frequently with flutist Jean-Pierre Rampal.

More of the music of Frederic Chopin (1810-1849)

More Classical ‘Sleeper” Recordings We’ve Discovered with Demo Disc Sound