Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Thinking about Harmonia Mundi

With the recent death of Bernard Coutaz, thoughts turn to the label he established more than 50 years ago, Harmonia Mundi. I'm trying to remember what was the first Harmonia Mundi album I owned - a difficult task, because I didn't pay much attention to labels back then. It might have been "Musique de la Grèce antique" (links are to Amazon.co.uk). Or maybe not. So I'm not doing this in chronological order. What are some other releases that impressed me before I started to become the collector I am now? Nicholas McGegan's recording of Susanna was a key step in my long-delayed appreciation of Handel - plenty of charm there. My attempts to get into medieval music were greatly aided by the Paul Hillier/Andrew Lawrence-King album of French Troubadour Songs. The key here was the realisation that a recording of medieval music didn't have to be merely a historical document, but could be in its own way as modern as anything else. As if to somehow prove that point, Paul Hillier also was responsible for my first foray into the world of John Cage. What else? Haydn from René Jacobs, Poulenc from Daniel Reuss, Pandolfi from Andrew Manze, "Hamburg 1734" from Andreas Staier, Wolf from Kent Nagano. I suppose by this stage I'd realised that Harmonia Mundi was associated with a certain kind of music ("good" music, perhaps?!), but I still didn't have much of the label in my collection. Blame cost and availability - I wasn't spending much on music at the time, and any given attempt to buy a classical CD in Ireland will be fraught with complications. So I can thank eMusic for broadening my horizons, first with the US arm of Harmonia Mundi, and eventually with the French side too. Some early ear-openers included another from Paul Hillier, Pärt's "Da Pacem"; Richard Egarr playing Mozart on a fortepiano; Joel Frederiksen's "The Elfin Knight" (oh how I love that album); Paul O'Dette playing Dowland; Mendelssohn from the Eroica Quartet; Mark Padmore singing Handel arias. And more. Much more.
So, thank you, Bernard Coutaz and those who have worked with you, for all the beauty and joy you've created.

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