This is an older review. More recently, when we played this title, we felt it was badly lacking in Tubey Magic, a real deal killer for us here at Better Records.
It’s a decent sounding record, not much more than that, but it does have a top performance. If you see one for cheap in the bins, pick it up and give it a spin.
We prefer Ansermet’s performances for Decca of both La Mer and Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun.
Our review for the album from years ago can be seen below. As for other records we think we got wrong — we may change our minds again! — you can find more under the heading of Live and Learn.
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.
La Mer is on side one and it is lovely here. This is every bit a Philips recording from 1977, which means it’s a bit on the dark and smooth side. However, it is also quite musical, and never shrill or edgy. The dynamic contrasts are excellent (La Mer being a fairly dynamic work), the space of the hall is substantial, and the sound, coupled with Haitink’s superb performance, brings this music dramatically to life.
Side one earned a sonic grade of A+ to A++.
Side two earned an even higher sonic grade, A++. It’s even more transparent and open sounding.
The clarinet work on side two, rarely recorded it seems, is actually one of the high points of the entire record. The clarinet is reproduced with gorgeous fidelity. I don’t know when I’ve heard the instrument sounding better.
Philips can usually be counted on to press their records on quiet vinyl, and here they do not disappoint. Not many RCAs and Mercs are going to be remotely as quiet as this pressing. For quiet music such as this, it works wonders.
More Reviews and Commentaries for La Mer
More Reviews and Commentaries for Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun.
This is an Older Classical/Orchestral Review
Most of the older reviews you see are for records that did not go through the shootout process, the revolutionary approach to finding better sounding pressings we started developing in the early 2000s and have since turned into a veritable science.
We found the records you see in these older listings by cleaning and playing a pressing or two of the album, which we then described and priced based on how good the sound and surfaces were. (For out Hot Stamper listings, the Sonic Grades and Vinyl Playgrades are listed separately.)
We were often wrong back in those days, something we have no reason to hide. Audio equipment and record cleaning technologies have come a long way since those darker days, a subject we discuss here.
Currently, 99% (or more!) of the records we sell are cleaned, then auditioned under rigorously controlled conditions, up against a number of other pressings. We award them sonic grades, and then condition check them for surface noise.
As you may imagine, this approach requires a great deal of time, effort and skill, which is why we currently have a highly trained staff of about ten. No individual or business without the aid of such a committed group could possibly dig as deep into the sound of records as we have, and it is unlikely that anyone besides us could ever come along to do the kind of work we do.
The term “Hot Stampers” gets thrown around a lot these days, but to us it means only one thing: a record that has been through the shootout process and found to be of exceptionally high quality.
The result of our labor is the hundreds of titles seen here, every one of which is unique and guaranteed to be the best sounding copy of the album you have ever heard or you get your money back.