Labels We Love – Philips

Ravel / Piano Concertos / Haas – Our Shootout Winner from 2012

More of the music of Maurice Ravel (1875-1937)

Piano Concertos / Haas

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Orchestral Music Hall of Fame.  

This Philips recording from 1970 on exceptionally quiet Dutch vinyl has SUPERB Super Hot Stamper sound on side one for one of Ravel’s best known piano works, the Piano Concerto in G. Most Philips records are much too thick, dull and opaque to be taken seriously, by us anyway. (In this respect they have many sonic attributes in common with Londons from the ’70s and ’80s.)

Dropping the needle on this pressing, however, was a pleasant surprise. It’s big and spacious on side one, with zero smear on a piano that is both full and clear.

This is a difficult combination to achieve in our experience, and the kind of sound we do not hesitate to praise highly here at Better Records.

To us it sounds right, and when the sound is as right as it is here, the wonderful piano music of Ravel can really work its magic. (more…)

Liszt / Piano Concertos No. 1 and 2 / Kondrashin / Richter – Awful Mercury Mastering

More of Franz Liszt’s music

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Sonic Grade: F

An Orchestral Hall of Shame pressing.

This recording was released through Mercury, recorded by Robert Fine and Wilma Cozart, mastered by George Piros, the legendary Mercury team of renown. It is instructive to note that the Philips mastering is dramatically superior to the mediocre Mercury mastering, which may strike you as counterintuitive, but is nonetheless a fact. It’s precisely the reason we play records all day here at Better Records. You can’t judge a record by its credentials. The only way to know how it sounds is to play it, and to really know how it sounds you must play it against a sizeable number of other copies.

Then, and only then, can you talk knowledgeably about the sound. (Note to forum posters: this means you.) (more…)

Mozart / String Quartets / Quartetto Italiano – Our Shootout Winner from 2013

More of the music of Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791)

String Quartets / Quartetto Italiano

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Orchestral Music Hall of Fame

Easily one of the finest string quartet recordings we have ever had the pleasure to play, this Philips pressing earned strong grades on both sides for its lovely recreation of space, Tubey Magical richness, and rosiny string textures.  

It sounds very much like live music, or at least what you imagine this music would sound like live. Of course, live classical music is shocking in its clarity and freedom from artificiality, and no recording I have ever heard duplicates that sound with perfect fidelity, but when the pressing is as clear and transparent and natural as this one, your ability to suspend disbelief seems to require no effort at all. (more…)

Liszt / Piano Concertos No. 1 and 2 / Richter – Our Shootout Winner from 2016

More Franz Liszt’s music

Piano Concertos No. 1 and 2 / Richter

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Orchestral Music Hall of Fame.

This A++++ Beyond White Hot Stamper 2-pack has sound that must be experienced to be believed! The finest Liszt 1st & 2nd Concertos we know of for performance and unquestionably for sound when they sound like this. More like LIVE MUSIC than any classical recording I have played in longer than I care to remember – both sides are so big, rich and transparent we guarantee you have never heard a better piano concerto. (more…)

Jacques Loussier – Jacques Loussier Plays J.S. Bach Encore – Our Shootout Winner from 2010

More Jacques Loussier

More Jacques Loussier Plays J.S. Bach Encore

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Jazz Hall of Fame.

This is a Brand New, Unplayed Japanese 45 RPM Audiocheck Pressing with DEMO DISC quality sound! This is absolutely one of the best sounding jazz records we have ever played here at Better Records!

For those of you who are not familiar with the Audiocheck 45 RPM series from Japan, these are albums remastered at 45 with some material left off by necessity, since the maximum for each side is closer to 12 minutes than the standard LP limit of 20 minutes. (more…)

Liszt / Piano Concertos No. 1 and 2 / Kondrashin / Richter

More Franz Liszt’s music

Piano Concertos No. 1 and 2 / Kondrashin / Richter

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  • This pressing has Beyond White Hot Stamper (A++++) sound on both sides – sound that must be experienced to be believed! – relatively quiet vinyl too
  • The finest Liszt 1st and 2nd Piano Concertos we know of for their performances, and unquestionably for sonics (when the sonics are this good!)
  • More like LIVE MUSIC than any classical recording I have played in longer than I care to remember
  • So big, rich and transparent we guarantee you have never heard a better piano concerto recording – this is a game changer, the first time a single pressing of the album has earned grades these high on both sides

NOTE: *Unlike Concerto No. 1, The Second Piano Concerto opens very quietly, so there will likely never be a vintage pressing of the album that will get that opening to play like a CD. Expect to hear some random ticks, a small price to pay to hear this wonderful performance on top quality analog.

Please note: we award the Four Plus (A++++) grade so rarely that we don’t have a graphic for it in our system to use in the grading scale shown above. We rarely find records with this kind of sound, just a few times a year at most — this is the only one on the site at this time.  (more…)

Mahler / Symphony #1 / Haitink – Reviewed in 2006

More of the music of Gustav Mahler

Symphony #1 / Haitink

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Orchestral Music Hall of Fame.

This IMMACULATE looking Philips Dutch Import LP is the best sounding version of this music I’ve ever heard and one of the all time great performances as well.

The Solti on 180g Decca is a good record. This is a great one. 

Debussy / La Mer / Haitnik – Reviewed in 2011

More of the music of Claude Debussy 

More La Mer / Haitnik 

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Orchestral Music Hall of Fame

This early Philips pressing has very good sound and a SUPERB performance from Haitink. (Gramaphone, the “world’s authority on classical music since 1923”, raves about it.) Finding a quiet, good sounding La Mer is as difficult as finding a quiet good sounding Bolero. As popular as both of these works are, and considering how many times they have been recorded in analog, quiet vinyl and good sound are still the exception and not the rule, and that goes for Bolero especially.  (more…)

Liszt / Piano Concertos 1 & 2 / Arrau / Davis – Our Shootout Winner from 2011

More Franz Liszt’s music

More Piano Concertos 1 & 2 / Arrau / Davis

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Orchestral Music Hall of Fame.

SUPERB orchestral sound on side one, dramatically better than what you might expect from the typical Philips import pressing. The sound is BIG, rich, clear and present for the first piano concerto. The piano is percussive and weighty, and the strings have lovely texture — this is Top Quality Sound. You know it when you hear it! We rated side one Super Hot: A++. No other side of any copy in our shootout scored higher. 

Liszt wrote two of the greatest piano concertos of all time and they are both here, played to near perfection by Claudio Arrau.

This is a BRAND NEW Philips LP that we cracked open ourselves and were shocked — SHOCKED — to hear truly wonderful orchestral sound. It’s rich, transparent and spacious in the best Golden Age tradition; remarkably, Philips still knew how to record a piano and orchestra as late as 1979, which just happens to be the date of this recording. Coincidence you say? Not really. (more…)

Handel / Water Music / Leppard

More Handel

More Water Music / Leppard

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A distinguished member of our The Better Records Hall of Fame for Orchestral Music.

The performance here by the English Chamber Orchestra under the direction of Raymond Leppard is currently my favorite, owing in large part to the fact that it has the kind of sound I find the most natural and enjoyable. This pressing boasts the biggest hall, the most transparency, and it has more clearly layered depth and more space than any other pressing we played. With White Hot stampers on side two and a Super Hot side one, this copy is right up there with the best Water Music we’ve heard.  (more…)