Went out today and bought a couple of Naxos recordings. I'd never bought any of that label before, but I wanted to give a listen to some of Marin Alsop's work and that was the only game in town. The first one I tried was the Brahms First Symphony with Alsop conducting the London Philharmonic. I thought I might be having a bad day when I had to strain to hear the pizzacato strings early in the first movement, but then my wife who was far from the sweet spot and listening only casually while doing something else spoke up and said, "What's wrong with the system? Everything sounds muddled." She was absolutely right. I stopped the record and put on the London CD of the CSO/Solti performance and everything was as expected - nothing wrong with the system, just a really lousy recording. Since I was in the mood to hear the Brahms, I switched again to the London vinyl of the CSO/Solti. This was better still, and provided the whole symphony.
My other purchase was Alsop again conducting the Bournemouth Symphony Chorus and Orchestra doing a variety of Bernstein stuff including the Chichester Psalms and excerpts from On the Town and On the Waterfront. Sonically, this recording was all one could ask from a CD and gave me a chance to enjoy what the conductor and the musicians were doing. Marin Alsop is definitely worth another listen, but is Naxos the answer?
Two recordings - really a small sample. One just fine and the other atrocious. I don't like the idea of writing off a label with lots of apparently interesting stuff in their catalog and budget pricing, but if half of what you buy are throw-aways the pricing is lots less attractive.
Someone out there must have a lot more familiarity with Naxos than I do. What can you tell me?