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La Scena Musicale - Vol. 5, No. 4

Winter & Winter: a recording company with a difference

by Dominique Olivier / December 1, 1999

Version française...

WinterIf 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]

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