harmonia mundi, a passion for excellence

Ever since it was founded in 1958, the label has consistently explored new repertories and broadened its horizons, from the early Middle Ages to the music of the twenty-first century. The development of our digital offering and of the harmonia mundi community goes hand in hand with a reinforced presence in the concert sector. The musicians who join us each year are clearly keen to perpetuate the spirit of adventure and the passion for excellence that presided over the birth of the label. Among them, in 2023 we welcomed Zahia Zouani leading the celbrated Divertimento orchestra, as well as the acclaimed Dichter Trio. 2024 promises to be a year particularly rich in new artist signings. Gustavo Gimeno will continue his series of recordings for harmonia mundi at the helm of the famed Toronto Symphony Orchestra, of which he is now Music Director. We will also be saying hello to harpsichordist Pierre Gallon, to the piano duo formed by Pavel Kolesnikov and Samson Tsoy, to the Hanson Quartet, and to other musicians whose collaboration will be announced shortly.

Music first.

1958–2023: More vibrant than ever, in the world of classical music the Arles-based label is now home to some fifty of the most prestigious international artists who record for harmonia mundi exclusively. For a measure of their caliber, one needs only to look at the press and television coverage, or browse the event calendar, or surf YouTube, Instagram, Apple Music, or Spotify… In 2008, we celebrated ‘fifty years of musical exploration’ with Bernard Coutaz, founder of harmonia mundi. In the many interviews he gave then, he told the story of the label, its early days in pursuit of rare historical organs, the ‘kidnapping’ of Alfred Deller one beautiful evening in July 1970, the label’s role in the ‘Baroque Revolution’ and the international development that followed, which has ending up earned harmonia mundi the title of worldwide ‘label of the year’ several times since the beginning of the 2000s: 2005 (Gramophone), 2017 (Classica), 2018 (Gramophone again), 2021 (Classica again!).

The years 1990–2000 were also marked by the emergence of a well-regarded international distribution network and by a highly visible chain of retail outlets perfectly positioned for CD dominance. Between the passing of Bernard Coutaz in 2010 and that of his wife Eva Coutaz in 2021, an unprecedented upheaval occurred in the world of recording, often leading to restructurings and mergers that have proved fatal to independent labels.

It so happens that in the autumn of 2015, when it became part of the [PIAS] group founded by Kenneth Gates and Michel Lambot, harmonia mundi not only joined one of the emblematic companies of the ‘indie’ community, it also had the opportunity to refocus on its primary identity: music production. The label’s stringent editorial policy has adapted successfully to the workings of a new musical economy. Far from withering away, the roster has been considerably strengthened with the arrival of key figures from the world of classical music – pianists, instrumentalists, conductors, ensembles . . .

De la musique d’abord (Music first!) said harmonia mundi in 1977; ‘Music first!’ proclaimed [PIAS] in 1984 . . . Neither of them could have imagined then that, forty years later, these two major independent players would find themselves together in Arles, on the site of a former monastery founded in the sixth century by Bishop Caesarius.

High standards and passion

The consolidation of the label in the heart of the ancient Roman city confirms our desire to pursue and develop our perpetual quest for musical excellence.

Together we have weathered successive crises for almost ten years, and we feel even stronger today. We have overcome the decline of ‘standard’ physical releases, developed our digital offering . . . and produced beautiful physical objects. We continue to invest our efforts in concerts and live performances: they bear witness to the bubbling vitality of our musicians on all five continents and to the strength of a repertoire in perpetual renewal.

With this new website, which has been completely redesigned in the light of these multiple developments and which will itself evolve throughout the coming years, we aim to strengthen a community that is anything but virtual. Passionate. Demanding. Loyal. The united community of music lovers and harmonia mundi artists.

La Musique est notre Amitié !

Christian Girardin

Label Director

Back to the top