The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: ECM Records finally streams its entire catalogue of award-winning artists and recordings | November 18, 2017

By Jacob Stockinger

The critically acclaimed and award-winning independent label ECM (Edition of Contemporary Music) was founded in Munich, Germany, in 1969 by the Grammy-winning producer Manfred Eicher (below).

Known for its penchant for the contemporary and even avant-garde, Eicher’s label was nonetheless a conservative hold-out when it came to the newer technology of digital streaming.

The old technology has its points besides superior sound quality. When you got an ECM CD, you usually also got one of their terrific black-and-white photographs, often a square-format landscape, as a cover. (ECM even published a book of its photographic covers.)

But as of this past Friday, ECM finally gave into the inevitable and streamed its entire catalogue. Its rationale was that it was more important for its music and musicians to be heard than to remain loyal to certain platforms.

ECM also cited the pressure from unauthorized uploads to YouTube and bootleg versions of its recordings as the reason for the decision.

So as of yesterday, ECM, which has won many awards for individual titles and artists, will be available on Apple Music, Spotify, Amazon, Deezer, Tidal and other streaming services.

ECM is known for its popular and critically acclaimed jazz artists including pianist Keith Jarrett (below, of “The Köln Concert” or The Cologne Concert) and saxophonist Jan Garbarek and the Hilliard Ensemble (“Officium”). But it also included classical chamber music groups such as the Keller Quartet, the Trio Medieval, the Danish Quartet and others.

ECM is also known for championing contemporary classical composers (Arvo Pärt, below, who is the most performed contemporary composer, as well as Tigur Mansurian, Lera Auerbach, Gyorgy Kurtag and Valentin Silvestrov among others) and some outstanding crossover classical musicians, including Jarrett, a jazz great who has also recorded Bach, Handel and Shostakovich on both piano and harpsichord.

The Ear especially likes violist Kim Kashkashian and Harvard pianist Robert Levin (a frequent performer at the Token Creek Chamber Music Festival) in sonatas of Brahms. He is also fond of Alexei Lubimov in various piano recitals as well as the many recordings of Bach, Beethoven, Schubert, Janacek and Robert Schumann by the superb pianist Andras Schiff (below). In the YouTube video at the bottom, you can hear Schiff in a live performance of the Gigue from Bach’s Keyboard Partita No. 3.)

And there are many, many more artists and recordings worth your attention. Here is a link to an extensive sampler on YouTube:

Who are your favorite ECM artists?

What are your favorite ECM recordings?

What ECM downloads do you recommend?

The Ear wants to hear.

1 Comment »

  1. With no disrespect, another blah column that has little local interest.

    Meanwhile, here are some things locally (or within short drives) that people may well be far more interested in:

    1) The Echelon Quartet concert on 18th November at noon. It’s free. At Grace Church. This quartet is based at UW Whitewater and plays an eclectic mix of music from classical to jazz to you name it. Link:

    2) “Song of Romance” by Wisconsin Chamber Choir on 18th November, 1 P.M. at the Madison Club. Songs by H. Berlioz, Rossini, Grieg, Vivaldi, Fauré, Vaughan Williams, and Richard Rodgers, performed by pianist Mark Brampton Smith and soloists Natalie Falconer, Todd Fansler, Sherri Hansen, Amanda Sturm, Melanie Coyier, Joshua Schmidt, and others. Link:

    3) Nov. 19th at 4 P.M. Chicago Philharmonic String Quartet And Soprano ‘Holiday Strings And Song’. The program features works such as Tchaikovsky’s “Nutcracker Suite” and Bach’s “Ave Maria” as well as traditional holiday songs, including “White Christmas,” “Silent Night, Holy Night,” “O Holy Night,” “Greensleeves” and more. Venue: Seabury Room at George Williams College
    Event Location:
    350 Constance Blvd.
    Williams Bay, WI 53191

    4) Nov. 20th at 7 P.M. The Vienna Boys Choir (not to be confused with the group from Leipzig). Two-hour concert of sacred music in the the Cathedral of St. Joseph the Workman in La Crosse on Monday, Nov. 20 at 7:00 pm. Tickets are available through the Viterbo University Box Office website:

    5) Nov. 21 at 7:30 P.M. “All Is Calm : The Christmas Truce of 1914.” Theatre Latté Da brings an incredible holiday story to The Grand. All Is Calm recalls an astounding moment during WWI when Allied and German soldiers met in “No Man’s Land” and laid down their arms to celebrate the holiday together by trading carols, sharing meals, and burying the dead. Venue:
    The Grand Theater
    401 N 4th Street
    Wausau, WI 54403

    6) Nov 24, Friday at 2PM. Wisconsin Baroque Ensemble 20-year Anniversary Concert. Program:

    Luigi Rossi – “Io lo vedo, o luci belle”
    Georg Philipp Telemann – trio sonata for two recorders and basso continuo, TWV 42:F7
    Marin Marais – Pièces de viole, movements from book 2
    Jacopo Peri – “Solilario augellino” “O miei giorno fugaci”
    Benedetto Marcello – sonata for recorder and basso continuo, opus 2 nr 1
    Jakob Friedrich Kleinknecht – Sonata in G major for two flutes and basso continuo
    Michel Pignolet de Montéclair – “Les Syrenes”
    Alexander Munro – Bony Jeane, from A Collection of the Best Scots Tunes Fited to the German Flute (1732)
    Francisco de Santiago – “Ay, como flecha la Niña Rayos”

    Event Venue:
    Saint Andrew’s Episcopal Church
    Event Location:
    1833 Regent Street
    Madison, WI 53726
    NOTE: WPR has excellent calendars for events.

    And here’s a subject far more important than the highest note ever sung in an opera: Michael Tilson Thomas, MTT, the Conductor of the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra announced a few days ago he is retiring soon.

    In my opinion, the West (not the east) is where the “action” is in American classical music and it deserves more attention.


    Comment by fflambeau — November 18, 2017 @ 1:11 am

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