- 25 January, 2013
- 6 Comments
Welcome to our new blog. We’ll be picking up on recent news from both within the company and outside, and hope you’ll enjoy this weekly opportunity for a spot of easy reading.
Last week’s breaking news concerning the financial difficulties and uncertain future facing HMV again raised the question of whether physical CDs have an impossible future when faced with the easy confidence of streaming and downloading services. Who can precisely foretell the future, however? A friend of mine still listens only to his vinyl collection, having resisted the trend to CD domination. He remarks how it’s too easy to track-hop with a CD, but with vinyl he wouldn’t dream of lifting the needle before a side had ended and he had fully digested every note.
He also told me that, when purchasing an LP as a youth, he could tell its source by sniffing the sleeve! Germany, Holland, the UK—they all carried a distinctive whiff. Modern jewel-boxes presumably aren’t nearly so much fun.
DVDs were supposed to spell the end of cinemas, but the latter have doughtily resisted such a fate. It’s reckoned by some that cinema screenings of operas from houses like the Metropolitan Opera in New York will soon undermine the operations of less stellar companies, but the debate about the advantages of 3-D over 2-D continues apace.
So I asked our chairman, Klaus Heymann, for a comment on the subject raised by those latest ripples from HMV.
“It’s sad to see another chain of record stores go under,” he replied. “The Naxos walls of the two Oxford Street stores have been a great source of pride for me over the years but, like many other record stores, the HMV chain in the UK never managed to adapt to the era of online shopping and online marketing and promotion.
“Still, I’m grateful for all the business HMV gave us over the years and hope that at least some of the stores will survive as outlets for recorded music—classical CD and DVD sales around the world are actually quite stable, and overall physical sales for our group of companies increased slightly in 2012 over 2011.”
It’s been gratifying to see the company continuing to pick up so much critical acclaim, not least for David Hill’s recording of Delius’ A Mass of Life with the Bach Choir and the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra (8.572861-62). It had many critics reaching for superlatives and topped off the year by clinching the Gramophone Holiday Critic’s Choice. Veteran baritone soloist Alan Opie’s fine performance garnered praise from many quarters, and subscribers to the Naxos Music Library can trace Opie’s recording career by streaming through his dozens of opera recordings, ranging from Donizetti’s Maria Stuarda (CHAN3017-18) through to Richard Strauss’ Ariadne auf Naxos (CHAN3168-69) and Harrison Birtwistle’s The Mask of Orpheus (NMCD050).
Two Naxos discs have picked up a Diapason d’Or award this month: the Amar Quartet for their recording of the Hindemith String Quartets Nos 5, 6 and 7 (8.572164); and the Chinese violinist Tianwa Yang for her recording of Wolfgang Rihm’s complete works for violin and piano (8.572730). Yang will be back in February’s new releases with the intriguing pairing of Mendelssohn’s staple E minor Violin Concerto with its younger sibling, the one in D minor (8.572662), written in 1822 when Mendelssohn was still only thirteen years old, but composed with a remarkable assurance and maturity … an accolade that similarly applied to Yang in her teenage years!
One of this month’s new releases features the stunning skills of the Russian-born pianist Valentina Lisitsa on a disc of Beethoven, Schumann, Liszt and Thalberg (8.572491). If you’re unfamiliar with the music of the latter, that’s probably because not many people can play it. If his “Grande fantaisie sur des motifs de Il barbiere di Siviglia” is a mouthful to say, it’s certainly a handful to perform, as Lisitsa explains: “The piece takes seven or eight minutes to play, it has more notes per square inch than practically anything I’ve ever played, it’s unbelievably difficult, yet sounds very elegant and light. Only pianists can know how difficult it is to play.”
On a more sombre note, this month’s release of Mozart’s Divertimenti Nos 11 and 17 performed by the Cologne Chamber Orchestra (8.570990) serves as its own eulogy to Helmut Muller-Bruhl, the ensemble’s music director from 1963-2008, who died this time last year. It was the last disc he made and it’s fitting that such deliciously joyful music has been able to set a seal on Muller-Bruhl’s career, to which Naxos owes a debt of gratitude: this conductor-orchestra pairing produced some of our most successful recordings, including Telemann’s Darmstad Overtures (8.554244) that bagged a Cannes Classical Award in 2001.
The Christmas tinsel may now be back in its box but, with over 60-CD recordings on the Naxos label slated for release in the first quarter of 2013, the festive season just seems to keep on coming!
Before we get too lost in this year’s stream of new releases, however, you may like to take a backward glance and check out the successes of the past year by casting a look over the sixty-four 2012 Grammy nominated discs that are available for downloading from the ClassicsOnline website (classicsonline.com). If you’re still hungry for more, there’s also the 25 discs singled out by reputable critics as their picks for 2012, also on ClassicsOnline.
Finally, if you want to measure your preferences against those of the wider market, check out the Naxos 2012 Bestsellers by following this link: http://www.naxos.com/feature/The_Naxos_Bestsellers_2012.asp.