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Klaus Heymann Exclusive Interview: February 21, 2012

The Best of Naxos, Vol.1
Various Artists

CDs: 1
Tracks: 15

Naxos
Rel. 1 Jan 1992

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Klaus Heymann’s Top Naxos Picks, Vol. 1: Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven
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Klaus Heymann’s Top Naxos Picks, Vol. 2: Schumann, Bruckner, Sarasate, Mahler
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Klaus Heymann’s Top Naxos Picks, Vol. 3: American Classics Series
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Klaus Heymann
Naxos 25th Anniversary logo


On Monday, January 16, 2012, Classical Archives Artistic Director Nolan Gasser spoke with innovative record executive Klaus Heymann – founder and CEO of Naxos Records, which this year proudly celebrates its 25th Anniversary. In this engaging and edifying interview, Mr. Heymann takes us through the fascinating history of Naxos, from its 1987 origins as an experimental budget label to one of the most powerful classical music operations in the world – with a multitude of interconnected businesses: record label, physical and digital distributor, video and book publisher, educational resource, online library, etc. The two also discuss the vital artistic and business role played by Mr. Heymann’s wife, violinist Takako Nishizaki; Mr. Heymann’s knack for anticipating shifts in the music industry; the distinctive Naxos approach to artists and repertory; the various plans to celebrate this anniversary year; and much more. Our Naxos feature also includes a set of top Naxos album picks from Mr. Heymann himself, along with a set of three 1-Click Concerts based on those “top picks”; as a special treat, two of the three concerts are FREE to stream to all visitors; the third, “American Classics” allows full streams to subscribers only. Don’t miss this fascinating interview with the CEO of one of Classical Archives’ most valuable label partners!

“Telemann has not been recorded completely, C.P.E. Bach hasn’t either; there are hundreds and hundreds of great composers who are not. And there are composers you’ve never heard of, who wrote over 500 compositions or more. There is still much repertoire to be recorded for the first time.”
– Klaus Heymann

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Nolan Gasser: Klaus Heymann, welcome to Classical Archives. 2012 is a rather significant year in your business life, as it marks the 25th Anniversary of your label cum classical music empire known as Naxos. This is pretty remarkable for many reasons, not least in the fact that you initially envisioned putting out a mere 50 or so titles on this “budget” label before imagining your competitors would catch on and drive you out – and thus, just a bit shy of the over 5000 titles that you’ve actually produced so far on Naxos. We’ll be exploring some of the many dimensions of this fascinating history, but let’s begin by talking about the future. Can you tell us what special plans you have at Naxos to commemorate this significant milestone – in terms of special releases or projects?

Klaus Heymann: The first big thing is that Nicolas Soames has written a book about Naxos called The Story of Naxos, which will be published by the Little, Brown Book Group – a very reputable publishing house, as you surely know. The book will become the focal point at all the functions we’ll be doing around the world: we’ll start in May in London, Paris, Scandinavia, and Munich – for the Classical: Next Conference [May 30-June 2, a forum for classical labels, publishers, festival organizers, etc.]; we’ll have events in all these places: press conferences, and in some cases we’ll have concerts. In August, I’ll do events in Australia and New Zealand; in September, we’ll go to North America – to Los Angeles, Nashville, Washington, D.C., New York, and Toronto; finally, in October and November, we’ll do events in Asia, mainly Hong Kong, Japan, and Korea. There will be different kinds of functions, but at every one – where people understand English – I’ll read a few passages from the new book. In Munich, at the Classical: Next Conference, we’ll feature a concert with two of our artists.

In addition, we’ll be releasing between eight and ten CD box sets especially for the anniversary; each box set will have a distinct theme: around the great Russian symphonies, the great ballets, the great piano concertos, and so forth – basically the most popular in different genres. We’ll also have a very substantial release schedule for the year that we’ve just selected: featuring [American conductors] Marin Alsop and Leonard Slatkin, a new cycle of symphonies by [Russian composer Mieczyslaw] Weinberg, and several other really good releases.

NG: I can well imagine that you would save a few gems for this anniversary year, and it sounds like you've got a very strong program scheduled. It’s nice too that you're doing a book tour along with some concerts. Do you know in which cities in the U.S. there be a concert along with the book reading?

KH: We haven't figured that out yet; all the dates have been fixed, but what we're going to do depends upon whether we have any resident artists in the city in question. For example, our visit to Nashville coincides with the opening of the Nashville Symphony season; they’re performing Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, to which all of the people who come to the press conference will be invited. And when we’re in Washington D.C., we’ll take a side-trip to Baltimore for their season Gala.

NG: Right – for Marin Alsop and the Baltimore Symphony. Well, it all sounds exciting. One doesn't normally think of a tour for a record label – but it makes sense given how widespread the influence of the Naxos label has become. I’m sure that you'll be greeted with some very nice responses from the audience, and we’ll keep tabs of those new releases and box sets here on Classical Archives.

Lets now dive in a bit into years past. What began 25 years ago as a kind of experimental alternative to your primary label at the time, Marco Polo, has evolved into a truly dizzying amalgam of properties: a record label, a major physical and digital distributor, a video and book publisher, a vital educational resource, and an online library, among much else – and likewise a rare entity in the music business, a profitable company. So, as you reflect over the grand arc of this evolution, what are you perhaps most proud of?

KH: I think I’m most proud that we were the pioneers in digital distribution of classical music – actually, digital distribution overall, because we put our whole catalogue up online for streaming in 1996, well before there was iTunes, or all the various attempts by the major labels to run their own websites. I’m also proud that I had the foresight to invest in my own IT [Internet technology]; everything was developed in-house, and that we created our own data, which now has become quite valuable. We now have close to 70,000 CDs on our website.

NG: You certainly were pioneers in digital distribution; I recall a technology conference back in 2000 or 2001 – also before iTunes – with all the major record and computer companies: the take-away tagline was: “it’s easier to steal music than to buy it”. Clearly you saw the future, even back in 1996, when digital sales would become a viable part of the music industry.

KH: We also see a lot of streaming services by subscription today, but Naxos started that in 2002 – well before anybody else thought of the concept.

NG: Indeed, seeing into the future seems to be a leitmotif in your career. It’s clear from what I’ve read that you are quite a hands-on CEO, and that you take pride in being very cognizant of the industry. Yet, in gaining these insights – that the future lies with subscriptions or that content should be digitized – were there others you conferred with who helped trigger these insights?

KH: In 1995, my warehouse manager came to me and said, "Mr. Heymann, can we build a website?" I said, "What's a website?" I didn't really pay any attention to the idea until a short time later I read a story in either the Wall Street Journal or the New York Times, saying that digital distribution might well be the future of the industry; with that I became very interested. I then visited our website, and I was horrified – it took five minutes to load the home page! In those days we had a home page in 3-D – not what we have today. So, we shut it down and re-started properly from scratch. In the beginning, what we put on line was made available for free – as a marketing tool so people could listen online, and then hopefully they’d buy a CD.

I then began to worry that the major labels would try to control the Internet – to come together and monopolize it so that they could shut out unwelcome competitors like me. I didn’t want that to happen, so I began to form my own IT group. And then once bandwidth started to get cheaper, I began to think that maybe there’s a business there – to get people to pay for what they had been getting for free.

At that time, a paid subscription was a completely new concept. I remember that I would speak to people at universities – since in the beginning we were aiming at educational institutions – and they said, “What? You want us to pay, but we’re not going to own the music?” I said “no”; but fortunately people knew the Naxos name, so they trusted us. I told everyone, “If you ask for it, we’ll give you a hard disc with a backup of all the tracks you’ve bought, so that if we ever go out of business, you’ll have all the music.” No one ever took us up on the offer – and here it is nine years later. In all those years, I don’t think we’ve been down more than once or twice for an hour or two. The subscription side is the fastest growing part of our business – this year we probably have 15-20% growth over last year.

NG: We need to remember how young the notion of the “cloud” is: it’s just in the last year or so that people have become comfortable with the fact that they don’t actually have to own the music, or the books, or the movies – it’s all available through servers somewhere “out there.” So, you were really over a decade ahead of the curve; and we all now see how important subscriptions services are – such as we have here at Classical Archives.

Let’s now dive a bit further back – the pre-online part of the Naxos story, and how you got started in this business. The place was Hong Kong, the year 1978, and you decided to offer your young wife, Japanese violinist Takako Nishizaki, an opportunity to find a broader audience; and so you arranged to have her record [Zhanhou He’s and Gang Chen’s] The Butterfly Lovers’ Concerto – which instantly sold well, and has since sold over 1 million copies. What were your impressions of the record business at that point – and did you have any inking that this was going to mark a career move for you?

KH: Definitely not. At the time I was running other successful businesses: I ran a studio business, building recording studios in China and Southeast Asia; I was also a distributor for Bose hi-fi equipment. So, those first Chinese recordings of my wife performing The Butterfly Lovers Concerto – and even the whole Marco Polo label – was really a hobby. And it was quite an expensive hobby – although most of the Marco Polo recordings actually recouped their investment. We started with the Hong Kong Philharmonic and Singapore Symphony; the music directors of these orchestras didn’t want to record only Chinese music. I told them, “You can’t do a Brahms or Beethoven symphony cycle; instead let’s record things that have never been recorded before – people won’t mind who records it so long as the playing is acceptable.” And that’s how the Marco Polo label started. Then around 1987, CDs came onto the scene, and manufacturing prices came down; we then started to record in Eastern Europe – and I shifted the main focus of the company to Naxos.

NG: One thinks of Marco Polo as a label that began with a mission to explore less well-trodden repertoire, and so it’s interesting to learn that its impetus came as much from thinking about how to market the Hong Kong Philharmonic – that they couldn’t do Brahms and Mahler, so why not do repertoire that’s unknown; thus as much a practical as idealistic enterprise.

KH: I must also say that my musical tastes were really focused on late 19th-century / early 20th-century music. I love Mahler and Bruckner, don’t get me wrong; but it was a combination of factors: we’ve got to record works that aren’t available yet because people won’t buy standard repertoire performed by a non-Western orchestra such as the Singapore Symphony or Hong Kong Orchestra.

NG: Marco Polo began as a hobby in 1982; but when you started Naxos in 1987, you were still involved with your audio equipment activities. When did this all become a full-time business for you – was it when Naxos began to take off?

KH: No, even then Naxos was a side business – because I had the studio business until about 2001, and was still the Bose distributor until 2003. Although my heart was in the music business, I made my money from other business – which I then sank back into the music catalogue.

NG: Yes, I read that you’ve put some $80 million into the catalogue. This certainly demonstrates your commitment to Naxos, as well as your capacity to handle many different enterprises.

We’ve discussed your wife, Takako Nishizaki, and her recording of The Butterfly Lovers Concerto – along with a lot of other Chinese content that has likewise sold very well. Indeed, since forming Naxos, her recordings [in all, over 170 albums covering the music of more than 100 composers] have been some the label’s biggest sellers; for example, her 1987 recording of [Vivaldi’s] Four Seasons has sold over 1 million copies. I also understand that to this day she's very much your business partner, being intimately involved with selecting the roster of artists and helping you to proof masters. People marvel at the stability of Naxos as a company with a single leader – but it really seems that it's a company with a power couple at its helm; I assume you agree?

KH: Absolutely! I’ll say to her, "Sit down and listen to this; what do you think?" I don't tell her who is playing. She will then say, "Wow, very good – terrific", or “No, thumbs down.” And that's the end of it. There are a few instances where there is a dispute between us about whether or not something is releasable, but in the end she is the one who makes the decision.

NG: Well, I’m sure your input is equally persuasive – I’ve read about your encyclopedic knowledge of music; how despite the fact that you don’t play an instrument or read music, you are as knowledgeable as most conductors – a walking Grove Dictionary, I’ve heard you called.

KH: Yes, I can always meet with a conductor and can say, "I know more about the repertoire than you do," and they agree [laughs]. We were a real “mom and pop” record label in the beginning; obviously things have grown and we have more people now: we have an A&R [artists and repertoire] person here who is very knowledgeable about repertoire – the former general manager of the Hong Kong Philharmonic; we have Anthony Anderson, the Managing Director of Naxos UK, who is responsible for building up our English repertoire and who has a very wide knowledge of repertoire. So, it’s now a lot more diversified – including the decision-making process, which is now a more consensus-driven process; we discuss release plans for the subsidiaries. It’s a team now; it’s a company with a team of executives who have all been with us for a long time. But, absolutely, my wife is still very important to the business.

NG: I’ve read about those blind listening sessions with your wife that you just talked about – where she can say “yes” or “no” after only a few bars. Have you gotten a sense of what she’s looking for – obviously good technique, but something else as well?

KH: Yes, something else – because good technique nowadays is a given. There are so many young players with terrific fingers today. So it’s about a musician expressing him- or herself, regardless of whether or not you agree with how they express it – but it’s got to have personality, and their own, recognizable tone. It’s difficult, of course, given that there are so many musicians out there.

NG: On average, how many new artists send their CDs to you for consideration to enter the Naxos roster each year.

KH: Hundreds – we are the label to which everybody goes. We may have been a bit easy to get in over the last couple of years, but we have to cut back now, because we can’t continue to put out 20 or 25 new releases a month. Now we have to ask, “Is this something that we should record with this artist?” And if the answer is “no”, we will not take on the project.

NG: Ah, so you’ll now begin to lessen the number of Naxos releases that come out each month?

KH: Yes, we’ll try to get down to 10 or 12 a month maximum, so we can better promote the important releases. In the old days, we had dealers who would automatically take everything we released. But once we started to release really obscure repertoire or a lot of American contemporary music, the dealers became more choosey. Sales per release have come down – there’s no doubt about it. I’d say that 90% of what we record loses money in terms of physical sales; things that would have sold 30,000 copies in the early days of the label, we’re now lucky to sell 3,000 or 4,000 copies, maybe 6,000 – which is not enough for us to break even. But we have so many other sources of revenue, that overall we are quite profitable.

NG: Clearly, that’s a big part of Naxos’ success over the past 25 years: you’ve discovered that there are many ways to utilize the content to generate various streams of revenue.

So, let’s continue delving into the Naxos story. After working on this hobby label, Marco Polo, and seeing some nice success, in 1987 you saw another opportunity: to offer recordings of core repertoire at a price about 1/3 of what CDs were then going for; again, you imagined this would be short-term experiment, 50 CDs or so, before the majors took over this space. Why do you think that the major labels did not follow your lead and produce their own roster of budget releases?

KH: At the time we started, in 1987, they were too busy exploiting their back-catalogues at full price. You may remember those days: everything was released at full price, even CDs with short playing times. They only woke up to the Naxos approach in the early 1990s – at that time, PolyGram [a now defunct label started by Phillips, later absorbed into the Universal Music Group] came out with a budget label; BMG came out with Arte Nova, and so forth. But by then we had already raised our audio quality, and had started to record in Western as well as Eastern Europe. By contrast, the majors tried to create budget labels with their back-catalogue, and not even the best things from their back catalogues. In the beginning, Arte Nova tried to record too quickly and didn’t pay attention to quality – which was bad for the label; only later did they also record at the same quality as Naxos, and now I believe they’re semi-dormant.

NG: The majors seem to have concluded that on the basis of their names, and especially the big-named artists on their rosters, that people would pay a higher price even for back catalogue. By contrast, you were of the mind that people are more concerned with the actual repertoire than who’s playing it – so long as it’s a quality performance.

KH: Yes, though nowadays, with our online presence, we are also building up our artists – because that is absolutely essential for us as well. For example, [conductor] Marin Alsop would have made her career even without us; but her early recordings of [Samuel] Barber helped her a lot, and certainly accelerated her career. And we have others, such as [conductor] Vasily Petrenko, and quite a few “hot” young conductors on the label now.

NG: Indeed, you have many high-profile artists – beyond Marin Alsop, you have [conductors] Leonard Slatkin, JoAnn Faletta, and Barry Wordsworth; the Kodály Quartet, [pianist] Jenö Jandó, among many others. But it sounds like you will soon be seeking out an even higher-profile roster?

KH: Yes, we will probably have to; and if we’ll want to attract more big name artists, we’ll have to offer them interesting repertoires. So we probably will begin something I've tried to avoid: to start recording the standard repertoire over again.

NG: We’ll come back to that topic in a bit. But returning to Naxos’ development: it began as an experiment – as a budget label – which in turn allowed you to indulge in a broader repertoire, including the “war horses”. And eventually, the mandate became to record the broad dimensions of the full repertoire – both known and obscure – throughout music history. I found one comment you made fascinating: your assertion that there are about 2 million hours composed since the Middle Ages, of which only about 100,000 have been recorded so far. I’m not sure how exactly you arrived at those numbers, but it does underscore why you don't actually aspire to record everything – only, as you say, “a reasonably comprehensive encyclopedia of classical music that covers all of the most important repertoire, and a few byways.” This simple philosophy has been at the heart of your success. What was it, going back to those early years that gave you the “chutzpah” to imagine that you could achieve this grand task?

KH: It started organically: I recorded the first 50 or 100 CDs, and when the majors didn’t come out with a competing budget label, we said, “Okay, we have recorded four of the Beethoven symphonies – let’s do them all; we have six of his piano sonatas – let’s do all of them.” In the early days, people asked me if we were ever going to record the music of C.P.E. Bach, for example, and at the time I said “probably not”; but then we had the output of J.S. Bach pretty well complete, so it made sense to expand to the music of C.P.E Bach, and other more rare repertoire.

Originally, a lot of material that’s is now out on Naxos would have come out on Marco Polo; but then a lot more labels started to focus on rare repertoire – for example, CPO and Chandos, who are very often digging in the same ground that we are; Hyperion to a lesser extent, although they now have a “Romantic Piano Concerto” series – we had this same series long before they did, but we didn’t package it as such. But we eventually began to realize that there was no longer any point in having a separate novelty premiere recording label, and so a lot of that shifted to Naxos.

NG: So, is Marco Polo becoming a sort of dormant label itself?

KH: No, now all the “light” music comes out on Marco Polo: we’ve almost finished with the music of Johann Strauss Sr.; we just released the 21st volume – and have just four more to go, which we’ll record in July. At that point we’ll have Johann Sr. and Jr. complete, as well as [Johann Jr.’s brother] Joseph Strauss – all out on Marco Polo.

NG: It’s been pointed out in various interviews that you are the main selector of repertoire for Naxos, aided by your encyclopedic knowledge of music – although you also have others helping you these days. Yet, given your own background – not reading music or trained on an instrument – how do you make decisions about works that haven’t yet been recorded – say an obscure chamber work from the early Baroque era or an anonymous motet from the Renaissance?

KH: In fact, I would say that I’m quite knowledgeable about music from the second half of the 18th century, as well as the 19th and 20th centuries, and contemporary music. Everything before that I go to people who know better. Jeremy Summerly, the conductor Oxford Camerata, for example, planned most of the early music recordings we did in the early days of the label. We have another fellow working on the complete madrigals of Monteverdi, as well as the madrigals of Gesualdo. We also worked quite a bit with the Ensemble Unicorn in Vienna, who came up with projects of music of the Middle Ages and Renaissance; they would explain the project to me, and I’d say “yes” or “no”. So, anything written before, say, 1750, I have to go to an expert.

NG: I also read that if there’s something you don’t know, you’ll sometimes ask for a sample recording from the artists. I understand too that there are also some of your key artists – such as Jeremy Summerly and JoAnn Falleta – who will come to you with their special projects; and as you trust them, chances are that you’ll give them a green light.

KH: Yes, as with JoAnn, she comes to me with various 19th and 20th century repertoire that she really wants to record. I generally know about most of it, but I didn’t know about this composer Marcel Tyberg – a composer she champions. I listened, and it’s good music, so I said, “If it makes you happy, we’ll do it.”

NG: As you may know, I had the pleasure of interviewing Maestra Falleta, and I know how grateful she is to you for allowing her to record his 3rd Symphony – which is quite powerful.

One last question on repertoire involves a topic that you’ve already touched on a bit: the notion of offering multiple renderings of a single work. You’ve just now started to re-record works that you originally recorded 20 or 25 years ago that don't, as you say, “stand up to today's standards”. For example, you've recorded a new cycle of the Szymanowski symphonies with the Warsaw Philharmonic. One the other hand, you've noted that you have no interest in re-recording the Mozart violin concertos, since you can't imagine a better rendering than that done by your wife. I understand your pride in her recordings – they are wonderful, but isn't it also part of the magic of the classical repertoire, especially the great masterpieces, that they warrant, if not demand, different renderings, without one offsetting the value of the other?

KH: Well, as I've said before, we are now faced with the question of how to attract specific artists to record for us – and that will often require us to offer them standard repertoire. I’m not sure about the Mozart violin concertos, but we will certainly give artists a chance to look again at the Beethoven sonatas, the works of Chopin, a lot of standard concertos – even the recordings of my wife that have a 3-star rating in the Penguin Guide; I’ll still consider that.

NG: It shows that Naxos is continuing to evolve.

KH: Yes, but there’s something that happens at the major labels, where an artist under contract will say that they want to record something, say a Beethoven piano concerto – but the label already has 5 or 10 or 15 recordings of that same work. That is a trap I will never fall into. We will selectively re-record things that in the early days were perhaps not so good. Although sometimes I myself am surprised: for example, we just re-recorded the Gershwin Concerto in F with the Buffalo Philharmonic and [pianist] Orion Weiss. I said to my wife, “let’s listen to the first recording we did of this work with the Slovak Radio Symphony conducted by Richard Hayman, with the young Australian pianist Katheryn Selby – and it really sounded damn good!

So, it will be really be on a case-by-case basis. Consider, for example, our original recording of Ravel’s orchestral music – by this same Slovak Radio Symphony, 22 years ago; they had never played this music before, but they did a fantastic job. Still, we are now re-recording Ravel with Slatkin and L’Orchestre National de Lyon.

NG: You are certainly right that other labels form a stark contrast. I just spoke with [violinist] Joshua Bell, who recently recorded the [César] Franck Violin Sonata [in A, M.8] on Sony Classical – less than a year after another Sony Classical violinist, Ray Chen, recorded the same work. And with the notion of those 2 million hours of music, you have good grounds to not want to wade too often in familiar pools.

KH: [Georg] Telemann has not been recorded completely, C.P.E. Bach hasn’t either; there are hundreds and hundreds of great composers who are not. And there are composers you’ve never heard of, who wrote over 500 compositions or more. There is still much repertoire to be recorded for the first time. All these Baroque composers – they were so prolific, I don’t know when they ever slept!

NG: Yes, it was an amazingly prolific period. Again, I understand your perspective, and we’re all very much indebted for it; without it, so much great music would only be available in manuscript, and not in our ears.

So, in this 25th Anniversary year, can you give us a little sampling of some of your favorites from the Naxos catalogue – your “desert island picks”?

KH: I like our Bruckner symphony cycle, conducted by Georg Tintner – which many have said is the best Bruckner cycle on the market. I also like our cycle of suites by Janácek [conducted by Peter Breiner] – for which I commissioned the arrangements and paid for the recording; also our cycle of [Joseph] Haydn’s string quartets [recorded by the Kodály Quartet], Jenö Jandó’s cycle of the Beethoven piano sonatas; of course, my wife’s recordings of the Mozart violin concertos. I’m also very proud of our recording Mahler’s Symphony No.8 [conducted by Antoni Wit], which many say is the best on the market – though I know that’s a hard claim to sustain… And I’m very proud of our recording of Schumann’s Scenes from Goethe’s Faust [likewise conducted by Antoni Wit] – this is another of my pet projects; we’ll lose money on it, but it’s such great, though neglected, music. Finally, I like our series of the complete works for violin and piano by [Pablo de] Sarasate [with violinist Tianwa Yang] and our [multi-volume] American Classics series. So, these are some of my highlights.

NG: That’s terrific [see the separate tab with Mr. Heymann’s “top Naxos picks”, as well as the set of three 1-Click Concerts with selections from these recordings; the first two allow FREE streams to all visitors]. I’m glad you mentioned Jenö Jandó – he’s actually one of my favorite pianists, so versatile: his Bartók, of course, is amazing, but I also think his recording of the Mozart Piano Concerto, K.467 is the most moving I’ve ever heard. How did you get so lucky to get him on the roster so early in the label’s history?

KH: That was my wife – when she heard the first three Beethoven sonatas recorded by Jandó on the Hungaroton label, she said to me, “We’ve got to sign him!”

NG: I can understand; I wish he were better known, at least here in the States.

KH: Well, he doesn’t have management; he’s a rather shy person, and not so media savvy. He loves teaching – he teaches in Budapest at the Liszt Conservatory, and in Tokyo; he’s very happy with his life. He will finish up the complete Bartók for us, and then will back to me and say, “Okay, Klaus, what’s next?”

NG: Well, please extend my personal gratitude for his talents.

So, as we move into the final portion of our conversation, I’d love to pick up the thread about your additional streams of income beyond album sales – for example, through distribution and licensing for so many companies, beyond Classical Archives: services like iTunes, Spotify, Rhapsody, and Pandora – where you may know, I am the architect of the Music Genome Project.

KH: Yes, Pandora’s a good source of income. We also have new products: our iBooks are doing quite well – not huge yet, though still relatively new; they’re books with embedded music. We also have many composers’ biographies, and we’ve now packaged these into iBooks as well – where if the text mentions a work, you just click it to listen.

Then we have a new [mobile] app – called “My First Classical Music.” It’s an educational app, and is available in the iTunes store for $4.99; we’ve sold close to 10,000 already.

NG: That sounds great for all the young budding musicians. You also have been releasing DVDs and music videos – which you’ve spoken about as part of the future of streaming on your Naxos Library service. Is that something to which you’ll be giving more resources?

KH: We do have a Naxos video library – around 1,500 programs; and we expect to add a substantial number of programs in the future. Getting streaming rights is far more difficult than for audio because the rights are so fragmented. The DVD labels only have DVD rights, the TV networks give TV rights to some people, Internet rights are given to yet other people; it's thus quite difficult to assemble the content for video. But there will be more in the coming months. We are currently negotiating video rights with several owners, and hope to get at least 2,000 or 3,000 more programs.

NG: And do you plan on licensing that content as well?

KH: Actually, only about 60-80 of the 1,500 titles come from our own DVD label; for the rest, we don’t have the ability to license to third parties.

NG: Two final questions for you. First, you’ve been so good at predicting this changing music market, as well as the changing technology – and how best to situate yourself for the future. So, can you give us a sneak peek into Klaus Heymann’s crystal ball of what the classical music landscape will look like in the next 5 years or so?

KH: In terms of market share, in five years we’ll still have a physical format: we’ll still cell CDs, Blu-Ray discs, and other new physical formats. I think that about 50% of the market will be via subscription of some sort – we don’t know yet whether Spotify is the way to go. There may be other specialized services with better search engines coming out, and other players will certainly enter the market. For example, I could think of perhaps a cable or telephone or electricity company – that has access to people’s homes – getting in on the subscription approach. And then, 25% will remain in downloads. That’s my forecast.

NG: That all makes sense, and I won’t argue – especially given our own firm belief in the subscription model as well. You’ve mentioned before that you don’t believe that downloads will be much of a major force in the future, so that will be interesting to watch.

Finally, Klaus, I just want to return full circle to the topic of your wife, Takako Nishizaki. Clearly, her recording of The Butterfly Lovers Concerto is a seminal part of her and the Naxos story. As noted, she’s also recorded a tremendous amount of other Chinese works. In reading of her background, I was struck by how her manager in Tokyo asked her in 1974 if she wanted to perform a concert in Hong Kong, to which she replied, “Where’s Hong Kong?” And yet, she’s gone on to sell millions of CDs of Chinese music. So, how did this Japanese-born, American-trained violinist come to be such an expert performer of Chinese music, and such a revered performer of Chinese violin music?

KH: She will tell you, “It's music, period.” That's the explanation. I remember when I first came up with this project, I said to her, “Look, you now live in Hong Kong, you have to connect with the local audience, you should record this concerto.” She looked at it, and when she started playing it, she said, "Oh, this is actually very nice." At first, she had no idea of the story behind the two lovers, the tragedy, and so forth. She simply looked at the music, and saw it as music – like a romantic violin concerto by Tchaikovsky or Beethoven; that’s the way she played it.

When the LP of the Concerto came out, the critics said, “Oh, she’s Japanese, she cannot understand Chinese music.” But then it started selling like hotcakes; it was the first modern recording of the work. Two years later one of the two composers of the work, Chen Gang, came to Hong Kong; he lectured on The Butterfly Lovers Concerto, and always played a recording by the violinst Yu Lina made in 1959 or 1960, even though everyone in the audience had my wife’s recording. Chen Gang then said, “Oh, this is not good; she doesn’t know how to play the piece.” My wife said, “Okay, invite him to our home, and let him tell me how to play it.” They went through the piece, measure by measure, after which my wife said, “Let’s go to Japan and make a new recording.” But when that came out, it was not as “Chinese” as the first one; everyone liked the first one better; and she’s since then made seven or eight different recordings of the piece with various Chinese orchestras.

She just feels the music; and by now she knows all the Chinese melodies, and has heard them played on Chinese instruments. If it’s a folk piece, it will probably need a bit of a slide [portamento] effect, but basically she feels the music intuitively. She’s also done a recording of Thai classical music, if you can believe it.

NG: Yes, I read that.

KH: It was actually the best selling classical record in Thailand – ever! It’s the same thing: she looks at the music, plays it through, says, “That’s the way I feel it”, and then pronto!

NG: She’s absolutely right: if it's good music, a good performer can feel it's strengths, and communication them to an audience. As an eclectic musician myself, I always say the same thing: good music is good music.

KH: She has that in common with Jandó. When they were preparing to record the Beethoven or Mozart violin sonatas together, they hardly ever spoke. They looked at each other; they were both so well prepared. They began, stopped every five minutes or so, exchanging a few brief questions, like “What are you doing here?” I know other artists who spend weeks and weeks discussing interpretation ideas; but those two, never. Jandó always says that the most important thing is to understand the style – the rest is just fingers.

NG: And Takako was recently given the utmost validation in her intuitive approach to Chinese music when in 2009 she was invited to perform The Butterfly Lovers Concerto at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing – to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of this work. I’m assuming you were at that event as well?

KH: Yes, of course. It’s a huge hall, and it was broadcast nation-wide on Shanghai TV; it was a huge thing for her – she “owns” that concerto. Chinese musicians too often play it like a virtuoso showpiece, whereas she treats it much more reverently, more seriously; again, she plays it like it were by Tchaikovsky or Beethoven.

NG: Yes, I’ve seen her quote about music and her philosophy on teaching: on the importance of focusing on the spirit of the music, and its communication – and not getting lost in virtuosity or pyrotechnics. It’s clear that you are very proud of her, as well you should be, and that she’s been critical to your success.

KH: Yes, and she's a very good wife too!

NG: I have no doubt. Well, thank you so much, Klaus, for your time – it’s been a real pleasure.

KH: Thank you – it’s been great talking to you.

In our interview, Klaus Heymann shared with us a set of his favorite recordings from the Naxos label, most of which are found below – and each available as a 1-Click play for our subscribers. In addition, and thanks to the generosity of Naxos, we’ve assembled two 1-Click Concerts that allow FREE streams to all visitors; a third, dedicated to the “American Classics” series allows full streams for subscribers only. As suggested by Mr. Heymann’s comments, these recordings feature works from the late 18th, 19th and 20th centuries – including a set of Mozart concertos recorded by his talented wife, violinist Takako Nishizaki. Enjoy browsing this great collection of albums, and be sure to enjoy the set of 1-Click Concerts based on Mr. Heymann’s “top picks”.

Scroll down to see the albums associated with the following works:

Joseph Haydn, String Quartets. Kodály Quartet

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Violin Concertos. Takako Nishizaki, violin; Capella Istropolitana; Johannes Wildner, conductor Stephen Gunzenhauser, conductor; Ladislav Kyselak, viola

Ludwig van Beethoven, Piano Sonatas. Jenö Jandó, piano

Robert Schumann, Scenes from Goethe’s Faust, WoO3. Antoni Wit, conductor; Warsaw National Philharmonic Orchestra; Warsaw Philharmonic Choir

Anton Bruckner, Symphonies. Georg Tintner, conductor; Royal Scottish National Orchestra; Irish National Symphony; New Zealand National Orchestra

Gustav Mahler, Symphony No.8 in Eb (‘Symphony of a Thousand’). Antoni Wit, conductor; Warsaw National Philharmonic Orchestra

Pablo de Sarasate, Works for Violin. Tianwa Wang, violin; Navarre Symphony Orchestra; Ernest Martínez Izquierdo, conductor; Markus Hadulla, piano

Leoš Janácek, Orchestral Suites. Peter Breiner, conductor; New Zealand National Orchestra

American Classics Series (partial list). Various artists



Joseph Haydn, String Quartets. Kodály Quartet

Haydn: String Quartets, Op. 1, Nos. 0 & 6, Op. 2, Nos. 1 & 2
Kodaly Quartet

CDs: 1
Tracks: 20

Naxos
Rel. 8 Jul 1992

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Haydn: String Quartets, Op. 1, Nos. 1-4
Kodaly Quartet

CDs: 1
Tracks: 20

Naxos
Rel. 24 Feb 1992

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Haydn: String Quartets, Op.2, No.3; Op.2, No.5; Op.3, No.1; Op.3, No.2
Kodaly Quartet

CDs: 1
Tracks: 17

Naxos
Rel. 14 Mar 2003

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Haydn: String Quartets, Op.2, Nos.4 and 6; Op.42
Kodaly Quartet

CDs: 1
Tracks: 14

Naxos
Rel. 22 Oct 1993

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Haydn: String Quartet, Op. 3, Nos.3-6
Various Artists

CDs: 1
Tracks: 14

Naxos
Rel. 12 Aug 2002

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Haydn: String Quartets Op.9, Nos.1, 3 and 4
Kodaly Quartet

CDs: 1
Tracks: 12

Naxos
Rel. 17 Mar 1994

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Haydn: String Quartets, Op.9, Nos. 2, 5 and 6
Kodaly Quartet

CDs: 1
Tracks: 12

Naxos
Rel. 17 Mar 1994

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Haydn: String Quartets, Op.17, Nos.1, 2, and 4
Kodaly Quartet

CDs: 1
Tracks: 12

Naxos
Rel. 15 Jan 1999

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Haydn: String Quartets, Op.17, Nos.3, 5, and 6
Kodaly Quartet

CDs: 1
Tracks: 12

Naxos
Rel. 19 Apr 1999

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Haydn: String Quartets, Op.20 ('Sun") Nos.1-3
Kodaly Quartet

CDs: 1
Tracks: 12

Naxos
Rel. 26 Nov 1993

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Haydn: String Quartets, Op. 20 ('Sun') Nos.4-6
Kodaly Quartet

CDs: 1
Tracks: 12

Naxos
Rel. 25 Nov 1993

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Haydn: String Quartets, Op.33 ('Russian'), No.1, No.2 ('The Joke'), No.5 ('How do you do?')
Kodaly Quartet

CDs: 1
Tracks: 12

Naxos
Rel. 3 Nov 1994

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Haydn: String Quartets, Op.33 ('Russian'), Nos.3 ('The Bird'), 4 and 6
Kodaly Quartet

CDs: 1
Tracks: 12

Naxos
Rel. 21 Oct 1994

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Haydn: String Quartets ('Prussian'), Op. 50, Nos.1-3
Kodaly Quartet

CDs: 1
Tracks: 12

Naxos
Rel. 26 May 1998

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Haydn: String Quartets ('Prussian'), Op.50, Nos.4-6
Kodaly Quartet

CDs: 1
Tracks: 12

Naxos
Rel. 3 Nov 1998

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Haydn: String Quartets, Op. 54, Nos. 1-3
Kodaly Quartet

CDs: 1
Tracks: 12

Naxos
Rel. 11 May 1990

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Haydn: String Quartets, Op. 55
Kodaly Quartet

CDs: 1
Tracks: 12

Naxos
Rel. 1 May 1991

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Haydn: String Quartets, Op.64, Nos.1-3
Kodaly Quartet

CDs: 1
Tracks: 12

Naxos
Rel. 17 May 1993

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Haydn: String Quartets, Op.64, Nos.4-6
Kodaly Quartet

CDs: 1
Tracks: 12

Naxos
Rel. 17 May 1993

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Haydn: String Quartets, Op. 71, Nos. 1-3 "Apponyi Quartets"
Kodaly Quartet

CDs: 1
Tracks: 12

Naxos
Rel. 25 Apr 1990

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Haydn: String Quartets, Op. 74, Nos. 1-3
Kodaly Quartet

CDs: 1
Tracks: 12

Naxos
Rel. 1 Apr 1990

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Haydn: String Quartets Op. 76, Nos. 1-3
Kodaly Quartet

CDs: 1
Tracks: 12

Naxos
Rel. 15 Mar 1990

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Haydn: String Quartets, Op. 76, No. 4 "Sunrise", No. 5, No. 6
Kodaly Quartet

CDs: 1
Tracks: 12

Naxos
Rel. 15 Mar 1990

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Haydn: String Quartets, Op.77, Nos.1 and 2
Kodaly Quartet

CDs: 1
Tracks: 8

Naxos
Rel. 1 Jun 1995

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Haydn: The Seven Last Words of Jesus Christ, Op. 51; String Quartet, Op. 103
Kodaly Quartet

CDs: 1
Tracks: 11

Naxos
Rel. 15 Mar 1990

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Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Violin Concertos. Takako Nishizaki, violin; Capella Istropolitana; Johannes Wildner, conductor Stephen Gunzenhauser, conductor; Ladislav Kyselak, viola

Mozart: Violin Concertos Nos. 1 & 2; Rondo, K211; Andante, K269
Capella Istropolitana, Johannes Wildner

CDs: 1
Tracks: 8

Naxos
Rel. 6 Nov 1990

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Mozart: Violin Concertos Nos. 3 & 5; Adagio; Rondo
Capella Istropolitana, Stephen Gunzenhauser

CDs: 1
Tracks: 8

Naxos
Rel. 29 Dec 1990

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Mozart: Violin Concertos Nos.4 and 5; Rondo
Capella Istropolitana, Takako Nishizaki

CDs: 1
Tracks: 7

Naxos
Rel. 1 Jan 2007

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Mozart: Violin Concerto No. 4, K218; Sinfonia concertante, K364
Capella Istropolitana, Stephen Gunzenhauser

CDs: 1
Tracks: 6

Naxos
Rel. 1 Apr 1990

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Ludwig van Beethoven, Piano Sonatas. Jenö Jandó, piano

Beethoven: Piano Sonatas, Vol.1
Jenö Jandó

CDs: 1
Tracks: 9

Naxos
Rel. 7 Mar 1988

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Beethoven: Piano Sonatas, Vol.2
Jenö Jandó

CDs: 1
Tracks: 7

Naxos
Rel. 5 Feb 1988

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Beethoven: Piano Sonatas, Vol. 3
Jenö Jandó

CDs: 1
Tracks: 12

Naxos
Rel. 6 Oct 1988

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Beethoven: Piano Sonatas, Vol. 4
Jenö Jandó

CDs: 1
Tracks: 7

Naxos
Rel. 15 Dec 1988

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Beethoven: Piano Sonatas, Vol. 5
Jenö Jandó

CDs: 1
Tracks: 13

Naxos
Rel. 15 Oct 1988

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Beethoven: Piano Sonatas, Vol. 6
Jenö Jandó

CDs: 1
Tracks: 13

Naxos
Rel. 15 Oct 1988

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Beethoven: Piano Sonatas, Vol. 7
Jenö Jandó

CDs: 1
Tracks: 11

Naxos
Rel. 15 Dec 1988

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Beethoven: Piano Sonatas, Vol. 8
Jenö Jandó

CDs: 1
Tracks: 14

Naxos
Rel. 15 Dec 1988

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Beethoven: Piano Sonatas, Vol. 9
Jenö Jandó

CDs: 1
Tracks: 9

Naxos
Rel. 15 Apr 1989

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Beethoven: Piano Sonatas, Vol 10
Jenö Jandó

CDs: 1
Tracks: 19

Naxos
Rel. 24 Oct 1990

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Robert Schumann, Scenes from Goethe’s Faust, WoO3. Antoni Wit, conductor; Warsaw National Philharmonic Orchestra; Warsaw Philharmonic Choir

Schumann: Scenes from Goethe's Faust
Antoni Wit

CDs: 2
Tracks: 14

Naxos
Rel. 1 Feb 2011

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Anton Bruckner, Symphonies. Georg Tintner, conductor; Royal Scottish National Orchestra; Irish National Symphony; New Zealand National Orchestra

Bruckner: Symphonies Nos. 8 (1887 Version) & 0 (Die Nullte)
Irish National Symphony Orchestra, Georg Tintner

CDs: 2
Tracks: 8

Naxos
Rel. 24 Jun 1998

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Bruckner: Symphony No. 1 (1866)
Royal Scottish National Orchestra, Georg Tintner

CDs: 1
Tracks: 5

Naxos
Rel. 30 May 2000

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Bruckner: Symphony 2
National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland, Georg Tintner

CDs: 1
Tracks: 4

Naxos
Rel. 21 Jan 1998

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Bruckner: Symphony No.3 (1873 Original Version, ed. Nowak)
Royal Scottish National Orchestra, Georg Tintner

CDs: 1
Tracks: 4

Naxos
Rel. 18 Jul 1996

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Bruckner: SYMPHONY No. 4 "ROMANTIC" (1878/80 version, ed. Haas)
Royal Scottish National Orchestra, Georg Tintner

CDs: 1
Tracks: 4

Naxos
Rel. 26 Nov 1998

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Bruckner: Symphony No.5
Royal Scottish National Orchestra, Georg Tintner

CDs: 1
Tracks: 4

Naxos
Rel. 15 Apr 1997

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Bruckner: Symphony No.6 in A major
New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, Georg Tintner

CDs: 1
Tracks: 4

Naxos
Rel. 31 Dec 1997

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Bruckner: Symphony No.7
Royal Scottish National Orchestra, Georg Tintner

CDs: 1
Tracks: 4

Naxos
Rel. 4 Mar 1999

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Bruckner: Symphonies Nos. 8 (1887 Version) & 0 (Die Nullte)
Irish National Symphony Orchestra, Georg Tintner

CDs: 2
Tracks: 8

Naxos
Rel. 24 Jun 1998

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Bruckner: Symphony No.9
Royal Scottish National Orchestra, Georg Tintner

CDs: 1
Tracks: 3

Naxos
Rel. 19 Aug 1999

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Gustav Mahler, Symphony No.8 in Eb (‘Symphony of a Thousand’). Antoni Wit, conductor; Warsaw National Philharmonic Orchestra

Mahler: Symphony No.8 ('Symphony of a Thousand')
Warsaw National Philharmonic Orchestra, Antoni Wit

CDs: 2
Tracks: 26

Naxos
Rel. 18 Apr 2006

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Pablo de Sarasate, Works for Violin. Tianwa Wang, violin; Navarre Symphony Orchestra; Ernest Martínez Izquierdo, conductor; Markus Hadulla, piano

Sarasate: Music for Violin and Orchestra; Zigeunerweisen; Airs Espagnols; Viva Sevilla!
Ernest Martínez Izquierdo

CDs: 1
Tracks: 7

Naxos
Rel. 27 Oct 2009

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Pablo Sarasate: Music for Violin and Orchestra, Vol.2
Orquesta Sinfónica de Navarra, Tianwa Yang

CDs: 1
Tracks: 10

Naxos
Rel. 26 Oct 2010

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Sarasate: Music for Violin and Orchestra, Vol.3
Navarre Symphony Orchestra, Tianwa Yang

CDs: 1
Tracks: 6

Naxos
Rel. 5 Apr 2011

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Sarasate: Concert Fantasies
Various Artists

CDs: 1
Tracks: 8

Naxos
Rel. 27 Nov 2007

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Sarasate: Spanish Dances; Serenata Andaluza; Balade
Various Artists

CDs: 1
Tracks: 12

Naxos
Rel. 29 Aug 2006

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Leoš Janácek, Orchestral Suites. Peter Breiner, conductor; New Zealand National Orchestra

Janácek: Orchestral Suites from the Operas, Vol.1
New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, Peter Breiner

CDs: 1
Tracks: 11

Naxos
Rel. 24 Feb 2009

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Janácek: Orchestral Suites from the Operas, Vol.2
New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, Peter Breiner

CDs: 1
Tracks: 11

Naxos
Rel. 28 Apr 2009

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American Classics Series (partial list). Various artists

John Adams: Nixon in China
Colorado Symphony Orchestra, Marin Alsop

CDs: 3
Tracks: 41

Naxos
Rel. 27 Oct 2009

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Leroy Anderson: Orchestral Music, Vol.1
BBC Concert Orchestra, Leonard Slatkin

CDs: 1
Tracks: 17

Naxos
Rel. 27 Jan 2008

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Antheil: Ballet Mécanique
Daniel Spalding

CDs: 1
Tracks: 8

Naxos
Rel. 10 Aug 2001

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Barber: Violin Concerto; Music for a Scene from Shelley: Souvenirs
Royal Scottish National Orchestra, Marin Alsop

CDs: 1
Tracks: 13

Naxos
Rel. 2 Nov 2001

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Bernstein: Symphony No.2 ('The Age of Anxiety'); West Side Story Symphonic Dances; Candide
Florida Philharmonic Orchestra, James Judd

CDs: 1
Tracks: 20

Naxos
Rel. 30 Jul 2003

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Copland: Appalachian Spring Suite; Clarinet Concerto; Quiet City
Nashville Chamber Orchestra, Paul Gambil

CDs: 1
Tracks: 6

Naxos
Rel. 24 Dec 2002

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Gershwin: Piano Concerto; Second Rhapsody; I Got Rhythm Variations
Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, JoAnn Falletta

CDs: 1
Tracks: 5

Naxos
Rel. 7 Feb 2012

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Ives: Symphony No. 3
Northern Sinfonia Chorus, James Sinclair

CDs: 1
Tracks: 8

Naxos
Rel. 23 Feb 2003

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Rorem: Selected Songs
Carole Farley

CDs: 1
Tracks: 32

Naxos
Rel. 17 Dec 2001

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Thomson: Symphony No1; Symphony No3
New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, James Sedares

CDs: 1
Tracks: 12

Naxos
Rel. 9 Dec 1999

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