Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Tiresome critic disses Naxos

Supersnob critic Norman Lebrecht is busy demonstrating once again that even when he's probably right, he's insufferable. Lebrecht, the kind of fellow who disses Mozart to generate attention, has jumped into the ongoing debate over whether the classical music recording industry is alive and well or headed for the edge of a cliff.

It's been an interesting debate. Alex Ross points out that claims that classical music recordings are vanishing are nothing new, while Lebrecht argues to the contrary, concluding that "The truth is out there - in the idle studios, in the shut-down record stores, in the shrinking space for classical debate in mainstream media." Greg Sandow agrees with Lebrecht.

In his blog post, Lebrecht takes a gratuitous slap at the Naxos record label, writing, "Naxos, based in Hong Kong, is the only label to maintain consistent classical output, but it does so without artist promotion, denying the element of interpretative individuality which has fuelled the history and tradition of classical recording."

I guess Naxos isn't allowed to find new ways to stay alive. The label has been a good friend to fans of modern music, issuing lots of music by living composers which simply isn't available elsewhere, including good recordings of William Bolcom and Margaret Brouwer.

Several folks post objections to Lebrecht's comments, including conductor John McLaughlin Williams: "Naxos doesn't need artist promotion to sell records, because it sells repertoire, not star appeal, and thankfully so, as all that gets you is another Beethoven 9th. Your third posit (...denying the element of interpretative individuality...) is an opinion you could not possibly take if you've really listened to more than several of the recordings. Can you really quantify that? Unlike those of us who are actually recording, I think you may be too hung up upon the concept of an historical classical recording tradition. I'm not."


mberry said...

Thanks for the comments about Naxos and responding to Lebrecht's article. My name is Mark Berry and I'm the publicist for Naxos of America.

Naxos isn't perfect but it's served us well and has provided people with a lot of great music. As a company with distribution divisions worldwide (including Naxos of America) we've also opened up avenues for companies with different business models to be successful and reach international audiences in stores and on the internet.

I post to a Naxos Blog on Sequenza21.com (http://www.sequenza21.com/naxos) and write about the music industry from a classical music perspective. Of course, there's also some stuff up there about Naxos composers.

jurajjak said...

Lebrecht's a clever fellow, but the conductor, Williams, is correct--what is important here is the repertoire, not perpetuating the cult of personality. People buy Naxos CDs because they can get rare repertoire at an affordable price, and no one else out there is doing that. They are performing a valuable service, and their CDs have introduced me to pieces I would never have heard otherwise.

mberry said...

By the way, I see you have Phillip Bush's web site linked to your blog.

Phillip and his parents are friends of my in-laws from Charlotte.

Ron said...

"Naxos, based in Hong Kong, is the only label to maintain consistent classical output, but it does so without artist promotion..."

Sure, that's why the new Brahms symphony cycle from Naxos has Marin Alsop headshots on every cover--because Naxos doesn't do artist promotion.

Cleveland Okie (Tom Jackson) said...

Hey Everyone,
Thanks for checking in. I've added the Naxos blog to my links.

I've never met Phillip Bush, but I read his blog and downloaded some of his music, so I feel like I know him.

mberry said...

In response to Ron's comment about artist promotion, in general Naxos doesn't engage in artist promotion. Marin Alsop is an exception. And, actually, our embrace of her has come as a result of the consistently high quality of her recordings and her willingness to help promote the label. We didn't start out with Marin to promote her individually; it was a gradual, mutually-beneficial relationship that developed over time.

Here in the US at least, we just can't engage in the systematic promotion of particular musicians. We just don't have the infrastructure. Having said that, we will help musicians who have a track record with Naxos and who aske for it. A good example of that is the Nashville Symphony.

JW said...

Just a word about Alsop and Naxos. Naxos did virtually nothing to promote her, because they didn't have to. They simply jumped on a train that had already left the station.

Mark said...

Well, Naxos didn't quite "jump the train that had already left the station" with Marin. We started recording her long before she had attained her big success.

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