Hong Kong – Naxos was launched in 1987 as a budget classical CD label, offering CDs at the price of an LP at a time when CDs cost about three times more than LPs. The focus was on recording the standard repertoire in state-of-the-art digital sound with outstanding, if unknown artists and orchestras, initially mainly from Eastern Europe. From these humble beginnings, Naxos developed into one of the world’s leading classical labels, recording a wide range of repertoire with artists and orchestras from more than 30 countries.
The Naxos Music Group recently celebrated the 30th anniversary of the launch of Naxos with events in Munich and London, including a gala concert on May 16 at the Court Chapel in Munich featuring Naxos artists Boris Giltburg, Tianwa Yang, and Gabriel Schwabe.
At the gala event in Munich, Klaus Heymann, the founder of Naxos, received the Special Achievement Award of the International Classical Music Awards (ICMA) awarded to him on April 1, 2017. Says ICMA President Remy Franck: “Klaus Heymann has changed the recording industry and without him it would never have achieved the dynamic it has today, despite all the problems which might exist. Due to his strong visions, his incredible efficiency and has profound love for the music he became the industry’s major player.”
Naxos releases about 200 new titles per year, offering many world première recordings but also installments of huge complete works projects such as the complete piano music of Liszt and the complete symphonies of Villa-Lobos. The Naxos catalog now consists of more than 9000 titles of mostly unduplicated repertoire recorded in state-of-the-art sound by well-known artists and orchestras, prize-winners, and other rising young stars. The label features many series targeting specific national markets, none more important than its American Classics whose composers, orchestras, conductors, soloists, and producers among them have won 19 GRAMMY® awards.
A major Naxos project is a complete recording of Wagner’s Ring with the Hong Kong Philharmonic conducted by Jaap van Zweden and featuring soloists such as Matthias Goerne, Michelle deYoung, Stuart Skelton, Simon O’Neill, and others. In a video interview with Klaus Heymann, Music Director Designate of the New York Philharmonic, van Zweden had this to say about this important undertaking: “I am enjoying this [journey]. I want to thank Klaus for having the courage, in the times we live in now, to do this [Ring cycle] with us… I’m so proud of this project.” Das Rheingold was released in 2015 and Die Walküre in 2016, both to great critical acclaim. Siegfried was recorded in January 2017 and will be released in November this year.
Parallel to the growth of the label, Naxos built a worldwide infrastructure for its own and most other independent classical labels. It offers these labels a wide range of services ranging from physical and digital distribution and logistics to marketing and promotion, licensing, royalty administration, and collection of public performance royalties. Naxos also has brought a number of independent classical labels under its umbrella offering them its infrastructure while maintaining their artistic independence. Among these labels are Capriccio, Dynamic, Ondine, Orfeo, and 13 others.
Naxos is also the industry leader in the digital presentation of classical music. In 1996, it made the complete catalogs of Naxos and its sister label, Marco Polo, available for streaming, the first labels in the history of the industry to do so. In 2002, the company launched Naxos Music Library, the industry’s first subscription streaming platform, four years before the launch of Spotify. Since then, streaming platforms for jazz, world music, spoken word, and audiovisual productions were launched.
The Naxos online libraries are used by thousands of educational institutions and music professionals around the world. They offer not only music listening but also a wide range of reference material including an interactive music dictionary, pronunciation guides, guided tours and many other resources. Beyond these libraries Naxos has made big investments in music education ranging from books with CDs to e-books and apps. The hardcover My First Classical Music Book has been published in 10 languages and the App based on the book has been one of the most successful ever in classical music.
A limited edition boxed set offering 30 CDs selected from the vast Naxos catalog has been released worldwide. It offers landmark recordings from the 30-year history of the label.