In 1962 when the WERGO label released its first recording – Schoenberg’s “Pierrot lunaire” with the Domaine musicale under Pierre Boulez –, it was a risky venture whose outcome could not have been predicted. Werner Goldschmidt – an art historian, a collector, and an enthusiast in the best sense – laid the cornerstone for the label that has for over 50 years been one of the leading labels for the music of our time.
The standard that Goldschmidt demanded of his “studio series new music” has not been abandoned: to stimulate interest in listening to and reading new music and to document it in productions with outstanding performers documented by specialists in extensive commentaries on the works.
More than thirty LPs were released in the series, with red and black type against a white background, before the undertaking became too large for one person. Beginning in 1967 the music publisher SCHOTT became increasingly involved in the label, finally taking it entirely under its wing in 1970. Since then more than six hundred productions have been published (including one of the first DualDiscs on the European continent), which have won countless prizes and which represent an important archive for the music of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.
There is hardly a successful contemporary composer who is not found in the catalog. Since 1986 the catalog has been supplemented by the Edition of Contemporary Music of the German Music Council, which has grown to include more than eighty portrait CDs with works by young German composers. In addition to this collaboration there are also cooperative efforts with the Center for Art and Media Technology in Karlsruhe(“Edition ZKM”) and the Studio of Acoustic Art of the West German Radio (“Ars Acustica”). In the area of world music WERGO works closely with the Berlin House of the Cultures of the World and with the Music Department of the EthnologicalMuseumin Berlin. The “Jewish Music Series” presents the the wide variety of musical traditions of the Jewish people on different continents. Numerous releases with computer music have appeared in the series “Digital Music Digital”. In recent years, new editions such as the legendary “Contemporary Sound Series“ of the composer Earle Brown or of the ensemble musikFabrik have been added.
The diversification that WERGO’s program has experienced over the fifty-odd years of its existence is as much a consequence of an expansion of contemporary musical consciousness as it is a contribution to it – and that is a task to which WERGO will remain committed in the future as well.