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Published by Piatkus
ISBN: 9780749956899
Hardback Bound, 464 Pages

Also available for download as Standard and Enhanced Editions – Enhanced Edition features over 30 audio extracts from Naxos recordings

‘this is an epic story that demands—and receives—dramatic treatment’
– EDITOR’S CHOICE, Classical Music (UK)
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A history of the super-budget label Naxos to mark its 25th anniversary becomes, perforce, an account of an unprecedentedly turbulent quarter-century in the recording industry. So a formidable task confronted Nicolas Soames.

But first some declarations of interest. Soames was a regular contributor to CM before setting up Naxos AudioBooks and is a long-time friend of this reviewer.

Worry not, though, dear reader about objectivity. The chapter on classical recording 1977–90 contains some dubious generalisations and there are some excruciating mixed metaphors: ‘the bubble had…burst and become a dogfight’. The presentation—third-person narration interspersed with interviews—leads to much repetition; but that can be helpful. Heymann’s frequently stated regrets that his German upbringing denied him a chance to learn a musical instrument may be a clue to what drove him to become a creative force in music from a business perspective.

But the sheer sweep of this book and the fascination in the tale it tells overshadow such quibbles. The phrase ‘business empire’ is overused in journalese but applies exactly to the house that Heymann built. From selling cameras to US soldiers returning home from the Vietnam war to a technology-fuelled operation that ranges from the little Finnish label Ondine to a squad of digital technicians in the Philippines, a business that grew from a French supermarket order 30 titles to one that delivers millions of hours of music via CDs, DVDs, downloads and online streaming, this is an epic story that demands—and receives—dramatic treatment.

Within the 450 pages there are also valuable insights about how the music business operates. Heymann acknowledges the failures—excursions into jazz, world music and DVD-Audio among them. But the success is undeniable, not least that a brand that was for years derided by the classical establishment is now in statistical terms the classical recording industry major of the 21st century. – © Phillip Sommerich, Classical Music (UK)

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‘Nicolas Soames…throws himself into telling the story… includes insights into production matters as well as interviews with musicians, conductors and composers associated with the label.’
– BOOK OF THE WEEK, TimeOut London
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There can’t be too many classical music lovers without a Naxos release from Klaus Heymann’s catalogue of both newly made and historical material, embracing a wide repertoire at budget price. Nicolas Soames (an erstwhile judo writer who runs Naxos AudioBooks) throws himself into telling the story of how the music-loving Heymann, a tennis coach-turned-businessman, built his recording empire and took it to that world. The secret of his success, the entrepreneur claims, is his not reading music, playing an instrument or previously having worked for a record company. The book tells the story of Naxos from its launch in 1987 and includes insights into production matters as well as interviews with musicians, conductors and composers associated with the label. Heymann is quizzed (courtesy of Gramophone magazine), the digital revolution is discussed and the future contemplated; meanwhile the Naxos story continues. – © Colin Anderson, TimeOut London

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‘fascinating story…Soames is good about letting Heymann do much of the speaking in the chapters that directly relate to the entrepreneur’s business decisions. And besides company history, we get nice asides relating to some of the artists who helped build the company artistic reputation in the early years.’
– © John Terauds, Musical Toronto
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‘…this is a fascinating trawl through Klaus Heymann’s personal and business life along with the story of the musical empire he has created…there are many highly interesting anecdotes here plus a coverage of the recorded repertoire of all the Heymann labels as well as artist profiles.’
– © The Spohr Society of Great Britain

‘The Story of Naxos explains the steps that led from the one incarnation to the other. The author currently runs Naxos Audio Books, but this isn’t entirely an insider’s company history…’
– © Bradley Winterton, Taipei Times
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‘comprehensive history of [Klaus Heymann’s] brilliant empire’
– © Laurence Vittes, The Huffington Post
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Klaus Heymann
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 worldwide 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 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 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.

The 450-page illustrated book describes the changing landscape of the classical music recording industry, tracing the rise of the label from its humble beginnings to its current position as the leading provider of classical music recordings. Divided into three main sections, the book profiles Klaus Heymann, then introduces us to the leading artists, composers and conductors in the Naxos catalogue, including Marin Alsop, Leonard Slatkin, Takako Nishizaki, John Corigliano and Sir Peter Maxwell Davies. The final section of the book outlines the company history and structure, providing a unique insight into the workings of a record label, and its evolution over time in response to commercial success and advances in technology.

About the Author

Nicolas Soames is a former classical music and judo journalist. For the past 18 years, he has run Naxos AudioBooks, the award-winning label with a particular reputation for its spoken word recordings of literary classics from Homer and Dante to James Joyce and Haruki Murakami.

Nicolas Soames in writing The Story of Naxos – an interview by The Tennessean

How I Write – Nicolas Soames talks to Time Out Hong Kong

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Enhanced Kindle Edition with Audio:

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Hard copies available now in most territories except USA and Canada,
where they will be on sale from September 2012.

The Soundtrack

The Story of Naxos: The Soundtrack

It is a considerable challenge to justify the title The Story of Naxos: The Soundtrack with just thirty-seven tracks! After all, we cannot pretend that these total the principal jewels from the thousands of CDs in the Naxos and Marco Polo catalogues covering twenty-five years of active recording (probably the busiest recording programme of any classical label since it all began a century ago). Such a task would be truly impossible. But each of these tracks pinpoints a story about the music or about the musicians who have made Naxos what it is today: the single most comprehensive survey of recorded classical music available.

Some of these recordings date back to the beginning of the label; some are more recent. They cover almost every genre. A glance at the nationality of the composers and performers indicates the remarkable international breadth – which of course reflects how classical music (by which we mean mainly Western classical music) has become a cultural lingua franca. This is particularly appropriate for a label that famously began in Hong Kong, where it retains its headquarters whilst now having centres throughout the world.

I hope that you will enjoy this soundtrack, and that it will lead you on to look more closely at the music on Naxos and Marco Polo.

– Nicolas Soames, author of The Story of Naxos

Also Available

Bestselling Naxos Recordings 1987-2012


‘All of these best-selling titles come from the first 10 years of the label and feature our most successful artists. Some are still recording for us, including violinist Takako Nishizaki, the co-owner of the Naxos label; Jenő Jandó, who is busy recording Bartók’s piano music; Jeremy Summerly and his Oxford Camerata; and Antoni Wit whose new recordings with the Warsaw Philharmonic are among the finest in our catalogue. Norbert Kraft is still active as producer of the Naxos guitar series and much of our chamber music. Although he no longer records for Naxos, Stephen Gunzenhauser is still active as a conductor. Sadly, Zdeněk Košler to whom we owe many great recordings with the Slovak Philharmonic passed away a few years ago. Others have retired or disappeared altogether from the musical scene. Therefore, in a way, this compilation is a tribute to all the artists who made the success of Naxos possible in the early days of the label.’ – Klaus Heymann


  1. COPLAND Fanfare for the Common Man (8.550282)
  2. BINGEN O pastor animarum (8.550998)
  3. BACH Violin Concerto in A minor, BWV 1041:
    I. Allegro
  4. MOZART Requiem in D minor, K. 626: Sequence:
    I. Dies irae
  5. BEETHOVEN Piano Sonata No. 14 in C sharp minor,
    Op. 27, No. 2, ‘Moonlight’: I. Adagio sostenuto
  6. BRAHMS Hungarian Dance No. 1 (version for orchestra) (8.550110)
  7. RACHMANINOV Piano Concerto No. 2 in C minor,
    Op. 18: II. Adagio sostenuto
  8. RAVEL Valses nobles et sentimentales: I. Modéré – très franc (8.550173)
  9. ORFF Carmina Burana: O Fortuna (8.550196)
  10. GÓRECKI 3 Olden Style Pieces: I. — (8.550822)
  11. RODRIGO Concierto de Aranjuez: I. Allegro con spirito (8.550729)
  12. HANDEL Water Music: Suite No. 2 in D major,
    HWV 349: II. Alla Hornpipe
  13. SATIE Gymnopédie No. 1 (8.550305)
  14. VIVALDI The Four Seasons: Violin Concerto in E major, Op. 8, No. 1, RV 269, ‘Spring’: I. Allegro (8.550056)
  15. MOZART Serenade No. 13 in G major, K. 525,
    ‘Eine kleine Nachtmusik’: IV. Rondo: Allegro
  16. FAURÉ Requiem, Op. 48: Sanctus (8.550765)
  17. GERSHWIN Piano Concerto in F major: III. Allegro agitato (8.550295)
  18. DVOŘÁK Symphony No. 9 in E minor, Op. 95,
    ‘From the New World’: IV. Allegro con fuoco

Edward Seckerson of The Independent interviews Klaus Heymann

“The super-budget priced label NAXOS came into our lives 25 years ago at a time when the notion that you only got what you paid for and that anything so inexpensive couldn't possibly be good was beginning to get turned on its head. In just a quarter of a century Naxos has created—and I quote—“a catalogue comprising the largest number of individual works and the widest available repertoire of any classical label since the beginning of the recording era.” Indeed Naxos has gone from being a bargain-basement label licensing core repertoire recordings from obscure Eastern European orchestras and conductors to a super-budget label hosting top-flight international talent like Vasily Petrenko and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra whose cycle of Shostakovich symphonies is continuing to pull ecstatic reviews from across the globe. The great and the good are now queuing up to be a part of the Naxos experience. In this exclusive audio podcast Klaus Heymann, who founded the label out of Hong Kong, tells Edward Seckerson the unlikely success story with reference to cornerstone recordings and more than a few startling statistics. To borrow a show-business epithet this one will run and run.”

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Naxos Records, a member of the Naxos Music Group