PHILIPS Classical Music labels

Philips in Holland and the UK made many prestigious classical recordings and over the years under the marketing expertise of Jack Bright, Jack Boyce, John Humphries, Ian Collins and Mike Sage - but primarily Quita Chavez, Erik Smith and David Cairns - the label gained a highly regarded reputation. Whilst many albums were recorded in Holland, symphonies and recitals were often recorded at Walthamstow Town Hall in N.E. London and these included Liszt piano concertos by Sviatoslav Richter and the London Symphony Orchestra, two albums of symphonic Bon-Bons by the London Symphony Orchestra, Russian Song Recital by Galina Vishnevskaya and Mstislav Rostropovich; and the much praised Beethoven sonatas for cello and piano recorded by Rostropovich and Richter. A Richter-Liszt album was recorded on 3-track 35mm magnetic film and reissued on CD from a re-master made from the film by original producer Wilma Cozart Fine (wife of the late recording pioneer Bob) as part of the Philips Solo series. Wilma Cozart Fine also played a very prominent role in the Mercury classical recordings. 


Classical ensembles that Philips recorded included I Musici, the Beaux Arts Trio and the Quartetto Italiano. Violinists Arthur Grumiaux, David Oistrakh and Henryk Szeryng and the concert pianist Claudio Arrau, were all under contract. Symphony orchestras under contract included the L.S.O., then under the command of a young Colin Davis and Bernard Haitink who conducted the Concertgebouw Orchestra of Amsterdam. Davis went on to record the highly-acclaimed complete Berlioz cycle with the L.S.O. for Philips.

During 1959 and 1960, Philips issued 7" singles (45 rpm) of classical recordings in mono, but these were understandably not paricularly successful. Fontana also issued classical albums between 1961 and 1963; these were mostly older American Columbia or European recordings, frequently in mono only and retailed at mid-price. One of the series, 'Masters of Art', reproduced images of fine art which were inserted into the record sleeve as a bonus.

Sound quality on classical LPs in particular were of prime importance and most releases were made from metal work (which would press the record) imported from the parent company based at Baarn in Holland in order to maintain world-wide uniformity.


Ingrid Haebler recorded the complete Mozart Piano Concertos with the L.S.O. during the 1960's which was issued as a 12 record boxed set. The great pianist Alfred Brendel KBE made most of his greatest recordings over a 30 years period from the seventies for Philips. Sir Neville Marriner and the Academy of St Martin in the Fields also made many notable recordings for the label. Pianists Dame Mitsuko Uchida and Stephen Kovacevich (formerly Bishop) made a number of outstanding recordings with Sir Colin Davis. Additionally, Sir John Eliot Gardiner with the English Baroque soloists recorded many prestigious albums for the label.  


From the early 1970s, Philips classical records were not produced in the United States any more; they were manufactured in Holland and sold as imports in the American market. Philips reissued a group of Mercury Living Presence titles as Mercury Golden Imports, which were manufactured in Holland and masters cut from 2-track production tapes, as opposed to the original-issue method of mixing stereo LPs directly from the edited 3-track master tapes and films.

Philips Records and Deutsche Grammophon were linked into the Grammophon-Philips Group joint venture (GPG), which later became PolyGram in 1972. In the U.S., Philips eventually handled distribution and sales for Philips, Mercury, British Decca (sold under the London label in the States) and DGG. Philips became part of PolyGram Classics as a classical music label along with Decca Records and Deutsche Grammophon.


Sir Colin Davis   Sir Bernard Haitink   Sir Neville Marriner   Claudio Arrau
Alfred Brendel KBE

Sviatoslav Richter and Mstislav Rostropovich

Henryk Szeryng
Ingrid Haebler/Mozart
Wilma Cozart Fine

From 1984, the Philips classical catalogue was issued on CDs, as Digital Classics, Legendary Classics, Silver Line Classics and Concert Classics according to the retail price structure. All of these were on the Philips label with Digital Classics being the premium DDD brand, Silver Line Classics the mid price series and Concert Classics the budget line - the latter utilising tape transfers from analogue to digital (ADD). In 1999, Philips Classics was absorbed into the Decca Music Group and Philips recording and mastering operations in Holland were shut down. Former employees bought the Philips Recording Centre in Baarn, Netherlands, and formed Polyhymnia International (a recording and mastering company) and Pentatone Records which specialises in Super Audio CD releases. Many of the Philips classical recordings have been re-issued on the Eloquence label.

In recent years two de-luxe 'Collectors Editions' of the Mercury Living Presence classical recordings consisting of 56 and 51 albums respectively have been issued by Universal.