My father knew Elliott Carter

Feb 5 2009 - From Newsweek interview with John Adams - 'Yeah, (Naxos) do [all right], but their product is so mediocre'.

Feb 8 2009 - From list of 51st Grammy Award winners via Associated Press ... Chamber Music Performance: Carter, Elliott: String Quartets Nos. 1 and 5, Pacifica Quartet (Naxos).
Do you agree with John Adams? Give your view in the poll at the top of the side-bar. Feb 16 - poll results here More on that Grammy winner here.
My Father Knew Charles Ives is a work by John Adams; listen to a sample here. Any copyrighted material on these pages is included as "fair use", for the purpose of study, review or critical analysis only, and will be removed at the request of copyright owner(s). Report problems to - overgrownpath at hotmail dot co dot uk


pathogan said…
yeah, well my hope is that somehow Mr Adams was quoted out of context...thank God for Naxos!I guess Im simply unsophisticated, my ear being untrained and plebian at best,so I actually enjoy many of the Naxos releases I have purchased.Are their clunkers? Certainly. Are there Clunkers from DG,EMI,Columbia?...I am looking foward to more Carter releqses from Naxos,this one is superb
Pliable said…
'Somehow Mr Adams was quoted out of context' - well yes, that is always a possibility.

But it is worth remembering that artist royalties are calculated on the retail (or trade) price of CDs. And Naxos sell at a super-budget price while Nonesuch ('my label') are full price - i.e. more than twice the value.
Pliable said…
And the Nonesuch website plugs the interview - '... a number of Nonesuch artists, including composer John Adams.'

Nonesuch is, of course, owned by Warner Music.
Anonymous said…
Pliable said:

artist royalties are calculated on the retail (or trade) price of CDs.And Naxos sell at a super-budget price ...

From ...

Basically, Naxos pays, on average, the same for its orchestras and artists as other independent record labels, and we always pay up-front, with our up-front fees frequently being higher than what artists and orchestras can make from royalties.
Pliable said…
Scott, in that statement Naxos are referring to the one-off session payments they make to the performers.

Central to Naxos' business model is the replacement of royalty payments to performers by flat fees. It is a tight, effective and very successful model. But one that is not greatly liked by some artists.

The situation with John Adams is more complicated as he both conducts for Nonesuch, and records his own music - for which there will be hire fees.

I have no prior knowledge. But, I would be very surprised if John Adams, in his conducting role, does not receive a royalty based on retail (or trade price) of the CDs he has recorded for Nonesuch. I am also pretty certain that those royalties will total considerably more than the one-off fees paid by Naxos.

In simple terms, I would be very surprised if John Adams' agent (which is the heavyweight IMG Artists for North and South American conducting engagements) is currently negotiating to move him from Nonesuch to Naxos.

The story below is interesting. But it is not Naxos. It is Hyperion, who, of course, sell at full price:
Anonymous said…
Pliable, I'm aware of most of the additional info you mention. I was reacting only to the juxtaposition of "royalties" and "Naxos."

And I know that some dislike the Naxoz approach. A friend with some 20 commercial recordings has a visceral dislike for the Naxos "flat fee" approach. He'll admit that it's "hard to argue with success," but that doesn't mean he likes the approach.
Henry Holland said…
If anyone would be intimately familiar with what's "mediocre", it would be the utterly mediocre John Adams.

I recently got the final installment in Naxos' Complete Lutoslawski edition and the series is quite good. The wonderful Third Symphony is the best one I have of about a dozen performances, the vocal works are fine too.

I'm in the midst of listening to the Penderecki symphony cycle on Naxos and I'm really enjoying the discs. Sure, it's not Berlin or Vienna or one of the other glamo(u)r bands, but the music is well played and since the conductor, Antoni Wit, studied with Penderecki, very well conducted.

I can't vouch for Naxos' standard rep stuff, but for the more fringe byways, they're invaluable.
Unknown said…
There's certain Naxos recordings that I think are the best on the market--Håkon Austbø's Messiaen springs to mind. He studied with Yvonne Loriod and was a winner of the Concours Olivier Messiaen, and I prefer his colorful interpretations on the whole over any competitor, and I've listened to most of them (Peter Hill, Peter Serkin, Pierre-Laurent Aimard, Roger Muraro, even Yvonne Loriod). I haven't heard the Pacifica's recordings yet but I'll probably buy both volumes of Carter when the second comes out. I've also heard great things about Antoni Wit's recordings. I've heard some of the Penderecki issues which were fantastic, and I have a wonderful Schnittke disc featuring Irina Schnittke and Mark Lubotsky, two definitive interpreters of his music.

Maybe Adams was talking about the physical product, the drab cover art and sometimes skimpy program notes. I'd probably agree with him there. But there's no question that Naxos puts out some recordings of the highest quality, particularly in modern and contemporary music.

Incidentally this interview was a matter of discussion elsewhere in the blogosphere for his rather derogatory comments about young composers...

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