Saturday, April 07, 2007

Classical music under different stewardship


"I read with interest Martin Kettle's review of Norman Lebrecht's new book, Maestros, Masterpieces and Madness, (Vanishing acts, G2, April 3). The impression given by the piece is that the classical-record industry is in its death throes, which is far from the reality. While it's true the major record companies have markedly reduced their classical output, shifting significantly into "crossover" projects, it is the vibrant independent sector (comprising Naxos and many other labels) which is as active and creative as ever in the production of new classical recordings.

Kettle's statement that "production is down to just 100 new discs a year - many in the crossover repertoire ..." is belied by the profusion of new classical releases which come into the market each month. In 2006 Naxos released 238 new classical recordings and new issues from other independent labels easily numbered in excess of 1,000. All these recordings - and the large number of back-catalogue titles - are now available to the public not only through high street stores, but also through retailers and, in many cases, digital downloads or online streaming: consumer accessibility and choice is broader then ever before.

It is undeniable that the past business models of the major record companies have been shown to be unsustainable and have been abandoned, but the inference that the industry is dead is as illogical as it is untrue. Other record companies run successfully on a quite different basis - without the excesses depicted in Lebrecht's book. Far from being "on the verge of disappearing", the classical recording industry is alive and well, but just under different stewardship."


Anthony Anderson managing director Naxos UK writes in today's Guardian:

But now read a view on how Naxos dumbs-down technical standards, how we have to pay the piper, and how we are moving towards music like water.
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3 comments:

JW said...

Does anyone really still care about the "majors" anyway? Their astounding lack of imagination has hastened their own entropy. Example: the Cleveland Orchestra hasn't made a recording in nearly a decade, and when they finally get the wherewithall to do so, on DG no less, what do they announce? Beethoven's 9th. The yawns are deafening. I can't remember the last time I bought a major label recording.

Don Cox said...

I have plenty of Naxos CDs. I find the quality varies just as much as it does with the old major companies -some discs sound excellent, some are average, and others disappointing.
A large budget is no guarantee that the engineer will know where to position the mics, or how many to use. A small budget may be a good thing if it encourages the use of fewer mics.____I agree that obvious mains hum should have been removed (Cedar have a module for this).

Elaine Fine said...

There are many great things about Naxos. They keep their older recordings available, and they use their many arms to explore all sorts of lesser-charted waters of the repertoire, but perhaps the best thing is that their primary function is to make music available to people easily and cheaply.

In the beginning they didn't record super stars. They recorded excellent musicians. They introduced me to Jeno Jando, Ilya Kaler, the Eder Quartet, and a lot of music by "unknown" composers through their Marco Polo label.