Busy day for record morticians

Busy day for record morticians


norman lebrecht

March 01, 2010

Sad news from France that Bernard Coutaz has died. Founder of Harmonia Mundi, more than 50 years ago, he started out by driving a 2CV with recording equipment around the great church organs of France. What began as a hobbyist marque became France’s leading independent record distributor and a classical label of international scope and consequence, employing 330 people worldwide.

Hundreds of artists owe their careers to Coutaz, from the countertenors Alfred Deller and Andreas Scholl to the conductors William Christie and Rene Jacobs. He had impeccable taste and great strength of character, stoutly resisting the degenerative trends of crossover and teenie artists. He was also a book publisher in France, briefly mine.

Bernard Coutaz is the last of the founder-pioneers of classical recording, described in my history of the industry. He is survived by his wife, Eva, and a huge recorded legacy.

Also passed into the hall of fame is Wyn Morris, conductor of the first Mahler cycle made in Britain. Once dubbed ‘the Celtic Furtwängler’, Morris was a voluble, tactile musician who could never stay out of trouble for very long. His gift suffered from an insatiable thirst and he was forever getting fired by orchestras and reaching for lawyers.

He used to ring me every other year with a scheme that was going to change the face of music and revive his career. Inevitably, nothing ever changed and what remains of Wyn – a jolly companion at lunch – is a curate’s egg of a Mahler cyle and a few Bruckner releases, which I much preferred. The Telegraph has first obit of the day. 


  • Mark says:

    What a shame Morris was so impossible, for he could certainly create musical electricity unlike anyone today. Now that his ego (and hopefully his lawyers) are out of the way, is there any chance someone might gather his recordings for a proper retrospective reissue? Even a wayward genius deserves his day.

    • EDMUND JONES says:

      Wyn Morris could as you say create electricity, but in my experience with the RLPO in the late 1960’s it was by needling the players to the extent that one was OTT with fury. That worked for Maxim Shostakovitch at the time who managed to get a riveting performance of his dad’s 10th, but not for Morris. You just wanted to get a gun to shoot the boyo! He was banned by the management for future concerts.