Philips: 50 Great Recordings

COMPOSERS: Bach,Berlioz,Chopin,Debussy,Mozart,Ravel
LABELS: Philips
PERFORMER: Various artists

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The final batch of Philips ‘50’ discs includes Arthur Grumiaux’s sovereign solo Bach and Mozart concerto recordings.

This fastidious Belgian virtuoso addressed the BACH Partitas and Sonatas (464 673-2) with unwavering intellectual concentration, while his MOZART (464 722-2) had a stylistic purity and refinement that have seldom been equalled; both sets are outstanding, and the digitised transfers sound magnificent. 

 Turning to French orchestral repertoire, Bernard Haitink’s famous DEBUSSY Nocturnes and Ibéria with the Concertgebouw (464 697-2) reaffirmed just how impressive Philips’s analogue techniques could be. ‘Fêtes’ became a popular demonstration track when the CD medium was first introduced; sonically nothing much has changed, though owners of high-end equipment might detect even greater spatial realism and detail with this latest 24-bit revamp.

Monteux’s RAVEL with the LSO (464 733-2) had other, no less bewitching assets, particularly the grace and rapture of his Mother Goose, here presented complete. Colin Davis directs the same orchestra, with massed brass phalanxes, vast choir, organ and soloists, in BERLIOZ’s Requiem and Te Deum (464 689-2); both received thunderously apocalyptic treatment, and Davis’s view of each has altered little in the three decades since these recordings first appeared.

Lastly from Philips it’s back to the Amsterdam Concertgebouw, where Claudio Arrau taped the complete CHOPIN Nocturnes in 1977. These performances are masterful; Arrau knew better than almost anybody how to mould and shape these elusive and affecting pieces convincingly.

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They’re radiantly detailed in these immaculate transfers (464 694-2), and Arrau’s quietly reflective, soft-breathed playing registers more atmospherically than owners of the original LP pressings would ever have dreamt possible.