Husband and wife pianists Ivo Varbanov and Fiammetta Tarli are starting a new record label next month.

We asked them to explain the USP of ICSM Records. Fiamma, being Italian, muttered something about fighting the mafia. Ivo objects to the over-production that takes place on major labels.

We asked them to talk it through. So they did. Right here:



Ivo and Fiamma, why your own record label?

Fiamma: The cultural system these days is dysfunctional.

Ivo: Little public (and private) funding for classical music has not helped the present situation. But the main problem is ethics. It is morally unacceptable that a well-known octogenarian conductor would receive, say, an ?80,000 fee for a single concert. A fee of this kind in a 2,500 seats concert hall would make necessary the use of public money to cover losses. The consequence of this and similar scenarios leaves the remaining 99,99% of musicians in an awkward situation.

Fiamma: Being Italian, obviously I am very sensitive to the word “mafia”, and probably it is a very strong expression, but it is clear that the main culprits of the present situation (a network of greedy agents, not-so-competent promoters and orchestra managers, power-driven conductors, self-centred artists, and “dependent” record labels) intend to keep the status quo, and do not consider the consequences of their actions on a long-term basis.

Ivo: It is also obvious that the decision-makers and “guardians” of the public funds are not viewing this situation as disastrous and corrupt.

Fiamma: We have worked with commercial labels in the past, and we have plans to continue working with some – within limits. To have our own record label means first of all that we have artistic and financial control over our recordings.

Ivo: The market for quality and uncompromising recordings of classical music is tiny. Modern recordings often stink of surgical spirit and are made of plastic because of excessive interventions by people who believe they are making them better by intervention, when they are achieving the opposite. Also, labels expect to have a ready-to-sell product and very often rely on their own archives.

Fiamma: ICSM Records is going in the opposite direction: working with like-minded artists, sound engineers and people from the music world, daring more adventurous programming, searching for a personal approach and dialogue with audiences. Audiences should “get closer” to Music, not vice versa. We aim to reproduce the realism of the concert experience as close as possible.

Ivo: ICSM Records will not be a display of a circus-type of dexterity, as we believe that on the foreground should be music’s spiritual content. We call it “SLOW MUSIC” – inspired by the “SLOW FOOD” movement – which does not mean at all a preference for slow-paced pieces, but the fact that music, as every art form, needs time to develop and show its inner qualities from all sides: performers, who need time to assimilate the musical content, and audience, who needs the time to sit and understand it.

Fiamma: First and foremost we are human beings, secondly musicians, and finally instrumentalists. There is consequentiality. Every human being has the spiritual need of art, beauty, music, etc. Being a pianist should be the very last part of the “chain”. The instrument is only a medium for art content. Our listeners should not only enjoy our recordings but also find in them a source of beauty and meditation.