She was the "Big Mama" of the CD industry.

Although you could only see the tenacious will of the small, wiry woman.

But for more than 40 years, the German Eva Coutaz in southern France, from a farmhouse near Arles, headed Harmonia Mundi, a medium-sized but artistically highly significant classic label.

After it was founded in 1958 by her husband, the writer and journalist Bernard Coutaz (1922–2010), she soon got involved and became particularly important when a new generation of artists had to be established after the first generation of artists.

Only René Jacobs, initially a countertenor and now one of the most famous baroque conductors, is still there from then.

Also sometimes near, sometimes far, William Christie with his Les Arts florissantes.

Both have contributed to the rediscovery of many baroque operas.


Initially, Bernard Coutaz, who was brought up by the Salesians, founded the Club Chrétienne du Disque - a Christian record club with a high proportion of words.

With Pierre Rochas, a doctor and organ lover, he then organized a series of recordings of historical organs.

That was the birth of the Harmonia Mundi label 63 years ago.

After six years in Paris, Coutaz and the four employees moved to a farm in Saint-Michel de Provence, in the middle of the Luberon.

After a concert in Avignon, the countertenor Alfred Deller became the first artist who remained closely connected to the label until his death and who contributed in various ways to the development of an artist base that continues to define the profile to the present day.

Up-and-coming singers like René Jacobs and Dominique Visse joined Deller.

Harmonia Mundi quickly became a permanent brand for French and English music from the Renaissance and Baroque periods, the Clementi Consort and the Clemencic Consort, the Concerto Vocale, Konrad Junghänel, Jaap ter Linden and Philippe Herreweghe became permanent records here.

Entry through the bookstore


In 1971 Eva Coutaz joined them.

Born and raised in Düsseldorf in 1944, she first completed an apprenticeship as a bookseller and then went to Marseille as an au pair.

This was followed by a position at a large bookstore in Montpellier, and in 1971 she worked in a cultural center in Aix-en-Provence.

There she came into contact with Bernard Coutaz.

As an autodidact, she initially worked as an assistant to the harpsichordist Kenneth Gilbert, but she quickly became indispensable for the company and the boss, married him and moved with both of them to the vicinity of Arles.

There she became production manager.

And made the independent label bigger and bigger: Sales companies also abroad were added, as well as a French bookstore chain that still exists today.


"From our point of view, 'independence' is not just the company motto, it is an absolute 'must' in order to be able to survive as a company in the long term: economically and artistically", Eva Coutaz once outlined the Harmonia Mundi model.

And she continued: “We don't function like an AG, where every product has to make a profit.

Neither my husband nor I have ever drawn royalties on our shares.

What is left over is distributed to the employees or reinvested. "

For a long time they had resisted lucrative takeover offers from the majors of the classic business, at peak times more than 350 employees worked for Harmonia Mundi and the subsidiary labels in Spain and the USA.

Of course, when her husband withdrew more and more and finally died eleven years ago, Eva Coutaz had always been very concerned about the German market, where business in France was the best.

Jonas Kaufmann didn't fit in with the family

Contracts with Andreas Staier, Isabelle Faust, the Rias Chamber Choir, the Berlin Academy of Early Music, the Freiburg Baroque Orchestra, Andreas Scholl and Matthias Goerne go back to her.

Only with Jonas Kaufmann could she not.

He did not fit in with the family and left the company after his first solo record.

In 2015 Harmonia Mundi and the Belgian indie pop label PIAS merged, partly because there was no legacy.

The very high-quality, artistically exceptional and well-equipped Harmonia Mundi recordings continue to do well, most recently the early music conductor and countertenor Raphael Pichon with his ensemble Pygmalion and Sébastien Daucé with Les Correspondances.

In the past few years, there were difficulties with the company's own chain of stores in France and with the closure of various music trading companies in England that no longer paid for their goods.

Unfortunately, not everything went as smoothly as planned, PIAS often lacks sensitivity.

Eva Coutaz, of course, who was still involved in the shrunken, independently run bookstore chain, had long since withdrawn completely, but was still involved in the development of her artist, and was also happy to be present at recordings in the Berlin Teldex studios.

Now the grande dame of the classic record industry has surprisingly died of complications from kidney failure.

She was 78 years old.