The First Recordings
Klaus Heymann now had a world-class violinist living in Hong Kong with little or nothing to do. “In order to keep her busy”, he explains, until she could build up her own career in Asia, he started to make recordings with her, among them the complete works of Fritz Kreisler.
Primarily to establish herself better in Hong Kong, in 1978 Takako Nishizaki recorded the famous Chinese violin concerto The Butterfly Lovers with the Nagoya Philharmonic, the orchestra of her home town, conducted by the Indonesian-Chinese Lim Kek-Tjiang. The recording became an enormous success. Hundreds of thousands of copies were sold legitimately in Hong Kong and South East Asia. Infinitely more were pirated in Taiwan, Malaysia, and Singapore. In mainland China, millions of copies have been sold between 1978 and today.
After this first great success with Chinese symphonic music, Klaus Heymann started a label devoted to this type of repertoire called simply “HK”. Initially, all recordings were made in Japan, the Hong Kong Philharmonic then being in his estimation not quite up to the standard required in commercial recording.
However, in 1982 Klaus Heymann also started recording with the Hong Kong Philharmonic and, shortly afterwards, with the Singapore Symphony Orchestra. In the meantime, his record business had grown. Heymann’s company, Pacific Music, was distributing more and more classical labels, among them Erato and Teldec, and eventually also started to import and license pop labels such as RCA, Arista, Virgin, Chrysalis, Fantasy and many others for Hong Kong and South East Asia.
From 1978, when the first version of Butterfly Lovers had been recorded by Heymann’s record company, until 1986, Pacific Music became the biggest international record company in South East Asia, with subsidiaries in Malaysia and Singapore as well as licensees in Korea, Taiwan, the Philippines and Thailand. In the meantime, the musical directors of the orchestras in Hong Kong and Singapore discussed the possibility, with Pacific Music, of recording Western repertoire. They were not satisfied with merely producing best-selling recordings of Chinese material.
Obviously, it would not have made sense to record standard repertoire with Asian orchestras. Heymann hit on the idea of recording rarities and, for this purpose, founded the Marco Polo label. Initially, all Marco Polo releases were recorded in Hong Kong and Singapore but eventually production was shifted to Hungary and Czechoslovakia because of business connections with Hungaroton and the Slovak Opus label, both of which had been distributed by Pacific Music since 1975.
Marco Polo started to grow into a well-respected label offering primarily symphonic repertoire composed between 1850 and the early part of the twentieth century. By 1987 Pacific Music had a well-organised production machinery for Marco Polo in place in both Hungary and Slovakia (Bratislava).