In 1987, a budget classical record label was started in Hong Kong by Klaus Heymann, a German businessman who loved classical music. Swiftly, it gained a world wide reputation for reliable new digital recordings of the classics at a remarkably low price. Despite opposition from the classical record establishment, it grew at a remarkable pace, and soon expanded into opera, early music, contemporary music and specialist repertoire so that it became appreciated by specialist collectors as well as the general music lover. It is now the leading provider of classical music and as an innovator in digital delivery. At the heart of Naxos is one man: Klaus Heymann. The combination of his broad knowledge of classical music and his acute business acumen has enabled him to build the most varied classical music label in the world, but also the most effective distribution network to ensure that his recordings are available everywhere. This fascinating story explains how it happened, how a one-time tennis coach in Frankfurt became a classical recording mogul in Hong Kong and how, at the age of 75, he still holds the reins as firmly as ever.
Insider (he has run Naxos AudioBooks for 18 years) and music critic Soames offers what amounts to an exhaustive set of admiring liner notes that offer the details of Naxos' calculated rise to the top of the classical recording world. Drawing on interviews and conversations with Naxos founder Heymann, Soames pedantically chronicles the growth and development of the company from its earliest days in 1987 to its flourishing business in the early 21st century when other record labels have faced tremendous challenges. Heymann started Naxos as a budget line of classical recordings that could be sold outside of chain and independent record stores, thereby offering an entirely new audience a chance to buy and hear classical music. As Soames points out, Naxos CDs presented new digital recordings of reliable performances of various classical pieces, introducing listeners to artists, musicians, and composers from outside of Europe and thus expanding the world of classical music. Soames's definitive history of Naxos is flatly written and often repetitious but worthwhile if only for the tale of a canny entrepreneur dedicated to bringing the beauty of classical music into lives around the world.