Winter & Winter: a recording company with a differenceby Dominique Olivier
/ December 1, 1999
If you've heard of cellist Paolo Beschi or La Gaia Scienza it's thanks to the
German recording company Winter &;Winter, which has unearthed young
artists of genius and given them the opportunity of embarking on an
international recording career. W&W has always had surprises in store for
its listeners -- artists with an original approach, hard-to-find or
improvised music, and magnificent cover design that favours artwork over
text, to name a few. Enthusiasm is the driving force in W&W, which does
nothing like other recording companies. We talked with CEO Stefan Winter
in September when he was passing through Montreal.
W&W's listings reveal a striking musical diversity, typical of its founder.
"I come from a background of ancient music, having studied with Konrad
Ruhland, and of jazz, since I worked for 10 years with a Polygram jazz
label. I wanted to go out on my own and produce recordings of many
musical styles," he explained. W&W is open to all kinds of music. "What is
important for me is being able to produce very specific projects, not to
present a particular musical style." The company's various series -- Basic
Edition, New Edition, Artist Edition, and Special Edition -- provide scope
for marketing and distribution. "I don't think about these classifications
when I'm in the middle of a project," he said, "only when it's time to
prepare the album cover."
Winter likens his products to cinema. "I try to tell a story with each
album. I'm like a film director. The script is the score, the musicians are
the actors, and then you're also dealing with time and space. It all has to
be pulled together to produce what I call audio-films."
W&W recordings are complete art objects, uniting sound and sight. "I hate
plastic! You can feel the CD case with your fingers, and that's an important
consideration." Winter's cardboard cases are actually so pleasant to the
touch that listeners feel they have a sensual relationship with the
recording before they even hear it. "I also want to create objects that are
alive, not museum pieces," he added.
Listeners looking for clear liner notes won't find them on W&W albums.
Winter prefers to let the audience's imagination take flight on the basis of
cover design or extracts from composers' comments. "I'm a little afraid of
putting things into words, because that limits the imagination," Winter
explained. "I don't want to give blow-by-blow descriptions. I prefer to tell
true stories that relate to the music."
Winter likes his artists to be enthusiastic about his projects, just as he
wants distributers to be excited about his products and to connect with
the company's innovative image. W&W is always in search of new ideas to
stimulate listeners' interest. Winter spoke with obvious pleasure about
his future "babies," -- a series of recordings built around a trip to Havana
(W&W is always taking us somewhere), and another based on bagpipes!
[Translation: Jane Brierley]