French Record Company's Jean-Marc Harari's "The Golden Book of Classical LP Records, French Issues"

French Record Company founder and musicologist Jean-Marc Harari, (who is also a conductor and alumnus of the Paris National Conservatory and whose initial all-analog release, the "ERC exquisite" Marcelle Meyer Plays Debussy was recently reviewed on this website), has compiled this multi-language illustrated discography covering the "golden age" of the French classical music record industry.

While many collectors rightly obsess over the British classical music labels (EMI, DECCA, etc.) French labels like Ducretet-Thompson, Belvedere Tudor, ERATO, Le club Francaise du disque, ORTF, L'Oiseau Lyre and many others have their own strong followings and collectibility for reasons that include smaller press runs and thus rarity, luxurious sleeves and boxes often illustrated by famous painters, and of course talented if lesser known artists like the aforementioned Ms. Meyer, whose previously un-released 1958 recording for the Les Discophiles Francais label (DF 211-212) featured the kind of superb packaging and excellent sound quality Mr. Harari claims for the country's labels during its "golden age". Of course there's also a great deal to be said for hearing French musicians playing the music of the great French composers like Debussy, Chabrier, Milhaud, Lalo and others.

A casual flip through the book delivers the exquisite visual goods, many of which in their 12x12 editions would be more than suitable for framing, though the quality of the approximately 1.5"x 1.5" cover reproductions, while mostly very good, is more serviceable than framable.

The pictures are certainly useful for choosing what you might wish to search for and buy on the Internet. There are 207 reproductions of the highly regarded Ducretet-Thompson label for instance. Not being at all an expert here, I cannot comment on the book's completeness or other aspects of Mr. Harari's curation but the book is a welcome addition to the various discographies I've acquired over the years, most of which, inexplicably in this "vinyl resurgence" age are no longer in print (if you are interested in acquiring a copy go to the French Record Company website linked at the top of this story).

"The Golden Book of Classical LP record - French issues " - limited ed. 2017 ; 340 pp, listings of about thirty labels, around 125 pages of colors photos, + discographys of 19 legendary French artists.

Two of those were covered in a 2002 Analog Corner. Meanwhile, below is the section from that Stereophile column covering those out of print labelographies (though the old contact info is in the text body, do not use it to attempt to reach the author!):

Two Superb Reference Guides for Vinyl Fanatics
Anton Svec, a Swiss gentleman with plenty of time on his hands, has come up with The Record Label Guide U.S.A., a reference labelography for American popular music (and some classical) issued on vinyl. The 800-page bound looseleaf book includes more than 2400 color shots of almost every label and label variation. For example, 30 different Mercury pop label variants are shown. Each label's section includes a short informative history, the dates during which each variation was used, and a collage of great album-cover art.

I found a few omissions (no Rounder Records, for instance) and some factual errors. I don't believe Svec has a clear corporate timeline for Warner Bros., for example, and how that affected the label art, but overall, the information is quite reliable and Svec is amenable to being corrected. He invites buyers to send him digital images of labels he's missed, so the project will grow only more complete and authoritative over time.


The paper quality is so-so. To keep pages from tearing out of the overstuffed binder you might find yourself licking those stick-on reinforcement rings you probably haven't used in 20 or 30 years, and it's all run off a color laser printer, but so what? It's still extremely well-done, and, in my opinion, invaluable. How a guy in Switzerland gained access to all this information I'll never know. In any case, I recommend this labor of love to every serious record collector. The third and/or fourth editions are now available for about $100 each plus shipping from Schopper AG in Switzerland. Highly recommended! Like a great novel, you won't be able to put it down.

The classical labelography Mikrokosmos has just issued its third and fourth editions. Another labor of love—this one from a Canadian, Peter Fülöp, with a great deal of help from record collector extraordinaire Richard Foster—Mikrokosmos is a far more sumptuous affair, with high-quality, plastic-reinforced, looseleaf label delineators, and much-higher-quality baseball card–like full-color printed labels, which you insert into clear plastic pockets.

The label variations are mind-boggling: 11 for British Decca's SXL series, 12 for Columbia Masterworks, etc. To hold in your hands and be able to leaf through almost 50 years of the history of classical vinyl inspires awe. The work that went into putting this together must have been excruciating. Every serious classical music record collector should own this serious and colorful reference work. Volumes 1–4 cost $136 plus shipping, including a handsome custom looseleaf binder, index tabs, plastic label sheets, and labels. Mikrokosmos is available directly from Peter Fülöp at 314 Churchill Avenue, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M2R 1E7,

Andrew L's picture

J-M Harari's book is both a worthwhile and interesting collection of what are inevitably Mr Harari's personal selections and therefore far from exhaustive. It's well put together although a larger format would have been welcome.
I can't comment on the Japanese translations, but if the English ones are anything to judge by, they fall someway short of the professional standard expected today especially when such services are available at a modest cost compared to the overall price of the book. This together with a clumsy indexing error(for which an erratum slip is provided) detracts from what could have been a really first rate production.
I would still recommend this as a fascinating insight into French classical releases from the mono and early stereo era.

Michael Fremer's picture
Criticism of both his work and my review's omission of that! Thank you.
Pietro111's picture

Ciao ! I find your critic quite harsh Andrew, and almost unfair in some respects:
- first and foremost: NO it's not simply the "author's personnal selection"!! It's not true how can you say that ? The listings of the labels are 90-95 % complete ( sometimes probably 99-100%...knowing that in term of collecting, there's always one missing), which is already an impressive achievement; almost 30 labels are listed, even some that almost noboby knows are represented here. Nobody had published such a work before.
To compile on over 130 pages thousands of VERY GOOD quality photos , including some of the rarest french Lp s is not an easy job, it's an exploit ( ok right we would all have preferred them slightly larger.....but this would probably have raised the price !!! ; ) ).
If there are some little mistakes here and there, it's the case of many books. But the book here mostly consists in record N° / references listings, and color the few mistakes in the translations are not so disruptive ( at least for an Italian ! ).
Finally I feel it's quite a funny contradiction to hear some collectors complaining about a 70 € book, when they are the proud owners of a 50.000 $ speakers , or some 3000£ Kogan SAX violin records !(I'm not saying it's your case);
So yes to me this "golden book" is the must-have bible on french classical Lp records.

Andrew L's picture

Pietro I'm pleased to have the opportunity to elaborate further on my initial comments.
The author states in his preface that the records selected are his "personnal (sic) choice" and labels such as Astree, Callioppe, Valois and Contrepoint weren't listed..either because the baroque era was too important to the label or the performers didn't seem important enough..Excuse me but Jordi Savall, Hopkinson Smith, Paul Badura-Skoda et al not important?? Similarly setting limits on the scope of years covered to 1965/70 is understandable, but then issues from the 1990's and 2000's are included.
My main complaint is the careless proof reading of the English translation. Take the very first sentence of the preface:
>> they are the rarest and most sought fater(!) ones. ….. not pressed in larqges(!) quantities.... nicely illustrated(someimtes(!) by famous painters,...) integrating great perforumances(!) etc...<<
Translations are frequently left part French and part English. My overall impression of this is that the translations were an afterthought and time ran out to proof-read the text. Of course the text is still perfectly comprehensible.
Whilst I'm not disputing the listings which are a most worthy and impressive achievement, the clumsy errors leaves me with the impression of a rushed job which any PC spell checker would have picked up immediately.

Timbo in Oz's picture

Loiseau Lyre is NOT a French label, it is/was associated with Decca. well known for the ACAM recordings conducted by Christopher Hogwood!

Barretter's picture

Oiseau-Lyre was started by an Australian woman, Louise Hanson-Dyer, in France as an off-shoot of her music-publishing enterprise. Its symbol was the Australian "lyrebird" hence its name, translated into French. Its first issues were made in France on 78rpm discs but in late 1949 Hanson-Dyer pioneered the LP in France. The very first Oiseau-Lyre LP was made in the USA but after that they were made in France until Hanson-Dyer decided to sign a co-production contract with Decca in London in late 1953. From then on until Decca took over the company completely there was parallel production in France and England with different sleeves and catalogue numbers. There is a book about the company by Jim Davidson called "Lyrebird rising" but you might have difficulties finding a copy.