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don’t bugger naxos

24th March 2004 permanent link

Now here’s the right way to do business. I was looking through the usenet group (again), and people were discussing a new set of Shostakovich symphonies released by Naxos. The previous Naxos Shostakovich set was coming in for some heavy criticism. One guy said the conductor of the previous set was actually great, but they used a mediocre orchestra and the recording wasn’t too good either. Then up pops none other than Klaus Heymann, founder and chairman of Naxos, who says:

Dear Interested Parties,

I agree with Alan Watkins about Mr. Slovak being a great Shostakovich conductor. That’s why we released his cycle and it will remain available as a boxed set.

However, the orchestra at the time was not first-class, nor was the sound. The new cycle, to be shared between Mssrs. Yablousky and Kuchar will have better orchestras and surround sound! No need to bugger NAXOS!

Klaus Heymann

Link here. Interview with Klaus Heymann here, with a lot of insider information on the economics of recording classical music.

For those who don’t know: Naxos was one of the first ultra-budget classical music record labels. They started off recording famous works that were then only available in expensive CD versions, with lesser-known performers, many of them East European. In their early days they had a reputation for rather mixed quality performances and sometimes dodgy sound, although some of their stuff was good. These days there is a lot more competition, particularly with big labels releasing legendary back catalogue recordings from the 1940s and 50s at amazingly low prices. But Naxos have got better too, both in terms of better recording quality and branching out into obscure never-previously-recorded music – as well as also becoming a major player in the legendary historical recordings niche. These are marvellous times for people who want to buy recorded classical music – and brutally hard times for people who want to make it, who are competing not only with their contemporaries but also with the greats of half a century ago. But some of them are succeeding: see my previous postings on Beethoven symphonies and Vivaldi’s Four Seasons.

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