Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Positively My Favourite CD Shop in Hong Kong: PERCIVAL RECORDS

Make no mistake about it: Hong Kong is still one of the best places in the world to buy classical CDs. Unlike Singapore, where CD shops have gone the way of the typewriter and LaserDiscs, the business of CD retail is still thriving, judging by the number of independent retailers in existence. This is positively my favourite CD shop in Hong Kong: Percival Records, on 35 Wing Kut Street, off Des Voeux Road Central.

I first discovered Percival Records by accident in 1990, while traipsing through the narrow alley-ways of Central in search of bargains. Then it was a musty little shop with wooden cabinets and classical CDs placed behind glass, but it had the lowest prices: HKD 90 (full-price) and HKD 45 (mid-price) of all the shops in Hong Kong. The range was excellent, covering all the mainstream labels as well as some independent labels, but arranged in a haphazard manner. The only drawback was that it did not accept credit cards then. Suddenly it disappeared during the mid to late 1990s, to be replaced by a generic costume jewellery shop, for which Wing Kut Street was famous.

Fortunately for me and fellow CD lovers, Percival Records returned with a major face-lift sometime after the turn of the millennium. The wooden cabinets are gone, replaced by face-on displays which were far more visually appealing and most tantalising. The CDs are still arranged by label rather than by composer or genre, but most titles could be located with the help of the two sisters who run the shop.

This is a family-managed business started by the Shiu family in 1977, and it continues to be run the family's second generation. Both Shiu sisters speak good English and are very polite and helpful. More importantly, credit cards are now accepted, which means thousands of dollars could be readily blown buying CDs in a happy spree! 

Here is a partial list of titles which I bought on this trip:

Vladimir Horowitz in Carnegie Hall 
(Sony, 41 CDs and 1 DVD):
HKD 818 (approximately SGD 136)
Decca Sound The Analogue Years 
(50 CDs): HKD 830 (SGD 138)
Vladimir Ashkenazy 50 Years on Decca 
(50 CDs): HKD 850 (SGD 141) 
Verdi Requiem / Barenboim (Decca, 2 CDs)
HKD 115 (SGD 19)
Tyberg Symphony No.2 (Naxos)
HKD 55 (SGD 9.20)

These were significantly cheaper than all the other CD retailers I had time to visit. Classical CDs are now way down the list at the HMV shops, and there is little reason to view its pitiful (and still expensive) display. How the mighty have fallen.

Here's how to get to 35 Wing Kut Street. It is one of the pedestrian-only side alleys off Des Voeux Road Central. From Central, take a westbound tram and get off the first stop after passing the Queen Victoria Street Central Market. Then walk a short 50 metres (past Gilman's Bazaar) and take a sharp left into Wing Kut Street. Percival Records is the second shop on the left, beside a popular and over-priced noodle shop. 

Happy browsing and spending!

No comments: