This week, the classical record industry mourns the loss of Bernard Coutaz, founder of Harmonia Mundi, who died last Friday at the age of 87.
Alex Ross was right to pay tribute to his exquisite artistic taste, but I’d like to take a moment to remember his administrative style. Not only did he somehow convince the town of Arles to give him a gigantic old mansion to use as an office, but when he was told to build a reservoir in case of a fire in the company’s book warehouse, he instead built a huge swimming pool for the staff. They remain the only classical record label with a pool. It’s considerably bigger than Google’s.
Audacity never seemed a reason for Harmonia Mundi to not do something. Faced with declining physical sales opportunities, they opened a chain of retail stores across France to sell their CDs, and those of their distributed labels. Despite the obvious limitations of selection, these are among the nicest record shops you’ll ever visit.
Bernard’s musical legacy is comprised of far too many great records to mention, but if you’re interested you could do a lot worse than to start with these…