Amazing Stuff: Klaus Heymann of Naxos Page 3

Heymann: The idiosyncratic interpretations of the old conductors wouldn't be acceptable today—the Mengelbergs, Furtwänglers, Weingartners. Critics would say, "He's distorting the music."

The greatest influence on music-making was Toscanini. He said, 'This is the way the composer wrote it and this is how it should be played.' Whether or not Toscanini played it as the composer wrote it is open to question.

Tellig: But there were some conductors whose recordings people collected.

Heymann: Yes; von Karajan sold, and still does. He had a sound. But he wasn't the greatest conductor of our time. I think he was a reasonably great conductor when he was a young man. In his old age, there was all this hype and this super-rich Cinerama sound he created. But today when you listen to ____ _____ or _____ _____ or _______ _____, it's impossible to distinguish one from the other. I can't tell.

Tellig: So why not Anissimov on Naxos for one-third the price?

Heymann: Exactly. Can you tell the difference? Very few people can. The Irish orchestra is fabulous. There are a lot of young people in the orchestra, fresh from music school and technically very competent. They play in a wonderful hall, and they have a plenty of time to rehearse. They have five or six rehearsals for a concert—which is a lot more than the London orchestras—and then they record the work for us.

Tellig: Naxos is known for unusual repertoire. When you record Cannabich [see sidebar], does it sell?

Heymann: Yes, everything sells equally well for the first year. Then the repertory splits into three groups. We have the hits—the Verdi Requiem, which sells 10,000 copies a year. Then we have the cash cows, which sell 3000 to 5000 copies a year steadily. Then we have the water-carriers, which sell 1000 to 2000 copies a year. With obscurer stuff, sales drop off.

Tellig: Are you recording with American orchestras?

Heymann: We did our first Berlioz recording with the San Diego Symphony a few years ago, and we've recorded more Berlioz with them. We recently recorded a Hanson symphony with the Nashville Symphony, our home town in the US. Several other US symphony orchestras are interested in recording for Naxos, because they know our international presence. In a year's time, we may have relations with as many as five or six US symphony orchestras.

Tellig: What determines whether an orchestra makes a recording of a particular work?

Heymann: Ah, good question. There are sponsors. They want to have gifts to give away, so they pay for the recording, get their logo on it, then send out 10,000 copies for Christmas. This doesn't interest us. Then there is the vanity of conductors. A conductor wants to document himself doing the great masterworks. That's not reason enough for us to record.

If an orchestra tours internationally and a conductor wants to have an international presence, then recordings are necessary. We can put CDs in record shops around the world. Naxos is the right place to go nowadays.

Tellig: I'll tell ______ _______ [a conductor of a US symphony orchestra who is desperate to be recorded].

Heymann: We cannot afford to pay American union rates and sell at our price—or UK labor rates, either. It costs $100,000 to make a recording with a US symphony orchestra. We make 75 cents or $1 profit per CD. We would have to sell more than 100,000 copies, and, even at our price, we cannot sell that many.

Tellig: So sponsorship makes the recording possible.

Heymann: Yes. In the US, sponsorship tends to be private money. In the UK, we have sponsorship from various trusts—the Walton Trust, the Delius Trust, etc. On the continent, the radio orchestras receive grants from the regional or provincial government, and sometimes sponsorship money. The orchestra records as part of their regular work—the musicians are on salary. Of course, the recording fees do not cover the real costs of the recordings.

Tellig: At least one American orchestra has started its own record label—the St. Louis Symphony and their Arch Media label. Do you see that happening more?

Heymann: It's not a very good way to get distribution. You may sell a few thousand copies locally, but that's it.