Chopin / Philippe Entremont / The Chopin I Love

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

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

  • This original Columbia Masterworks copy boasts INCREDIBLE Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on both sides
  • Performed with consummate skill and deep feeling by the legendary Philippe Entremont, a man who knows his Chopin
  • Both musically and sonically this record is stunning – who knew Columbia could record a piano this well as late as 1971?
  • There aren’t many solo piano recordings that sound this right – when you hear one it’s shocking how good it can be
  • Don’t waste your time with the any of the piano concertos Entremont recorded for Columbia– we’ve played plenty of them and never heard a good one
  • If you’re a fan of Entremont’s playing, this title from 1971 is clearly one of his best, and one of his best sounding
  • The complete list of titles from 1971 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

This is an undiscovered Columbia gem from 1971. Both musically and sonically this record is stunning. 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 Philippe 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.

This vintage Columbia Masterworks pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records can barely BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing signs of coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to “see” the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in the studio with the band, this is the record for you. It’s what vintage all analog recordings are known for — this sound.

If you exclusively play modern repressings of vintage recordings, I can say without fear of contradiction that you have never heard this kind of sound on vinyl. Old records have it — not often, and certainly not always — but maybe one out of a hundred new records do, and those are some pretty long odds.

What The Best Sides Of The Chopin I Love Have To Offer Is Not Hard To Hear

  • The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
  • The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1971
  • Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
  • Natural tonality in the midrange — with all the instruments having the correct timbre
  • Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional studio space

No doubt there’s more but we hope that should do for now. Playing the record is the only way to hear all of the qualities we discuss above, and playing the best pressings against a pile of other copies under rigorously controlled conditions is the only way to find a pressing that sounds as good as this one does.

Copies with rich lower mids and nice extension up top did the best in our shootout, assuming they weren’t veiled or smeary of course. So many things can go wrong on a record! We know, we’ve heard them all.

Top end extension is critical to the sound of the best copies. Lots of old records (and new ones) have no real top end; consequently, the studio or stage will be missing much of its natural air and space, and instruments will lack their full complement of harmonic information.

Tube smear is common to most vintage pressings and this is no exception. The copies that tend to do the best in a shootout will have the least (or none), yet are full-bodied, tubey and rich.

What We’re Listening For On The Chopin I Love

  • Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
  • The Big Sound comes next — wall to wall, lots of depth, huge space, three-dimensionality, all that sort of thing.
  • Then transient information — fast, clear, sharp attacks, not the smear and thickness so common to these LPs.
  • Tight punchy bass — which ties in with good transient information, also the issue of frequency extension further down.
  • Next: transparency — the quality that allows you to hear deep into the soundfield, showing you the space and air around all the instruments.
  • Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing — an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.

The Sound of the Piano

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. 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 on side one. Somebody knew what they were doing when it came time to record these lovely Chopin pieces.

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?

Vinyl Condition

Mint Minus Minus and maybe a bit better is about as quiet as any vintage pressing will play, and since only the right vintage pressings have any hope of sounding good on this album, that will most often be the playing condition of the copies we sell. (The copies that are even a bit noisier get listed on the site are seriously reduced prices or traded back in to the local record stores we shop at.)

Those of you looking for quiet vinyl will have to settle for the sound of other pressings and Heavy Vinyl reissues, purchased elsewhere of course as we have no interest in selling records that don’t have the vintage analog magic of these wonderful recordings.

If you want to make the trade-off between bad sound and quiet surfaces with whatever Heavy Vinyl pressing might be available, well, that’s certainly your prerogative, but we can’t imagine losing what’s good about this music — the size, the energy, the presence, the clarity, the weight — just to hear it with less background noise.

TRACK LISTING

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.