No other record label has done more for American classical music in recent years than Naxos. Originating in Hong Kong as a budget imprint of dubious repute, Naxos has in the last decade amassed a stable of thoroughbred releases that not only attract picky aficionados but offer reasonable odds for newcomers willing to gamble $6 or $7 (instead of $17.98) on a new CD of classical music.
Other labels, including New World Records, Bridge, and the late, lamented CRI, remain invaluable; invisible vanity press outfits such as Master Musicians Collective and Centaur issue the occasional gem, such as UW Composer Richard Karpen's Solo/Tutti (Centaur). Yet in contrast to New World, whose generally fine new releases and reissues proceed deliberately by ones and twos, Naxos spews a steady avalanche of worthwhile discs.
I'm quite enamored with its "American Classics" series, especially the latest disc, Schuman: Symphonies Nos. 4 and 9. William Schuman (1910-1992), like Aaron Copland and Roy Harris, was essentially a symphonic orator; Gerard Schwarz and the Seattle Symphony navigate the tempestuous moods of these symphonies—harrying brass stabs, ennobling declarations by the strings, woodwinds frolicking in counterpoint, and mournful interludes—superbly.
Additionally, I recommend Naxos's cycle of Bruckner symphonies conducted by the late Georg Tintner as well as their Penderecki series, whose first volume contains riveting performances of the legendary Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima and the unjustly neglected Fluorescences.
Another jewel in Naxos's crown is the recently launched Robert Craft Collection. Craft, a longtime friend, aide-de-camp, and chronicler of Igor Stravinsky, made great (yes, great) recordings of just about every Stravinsky composition for MusicMasters and Koch in the 1990s. Naxos has begun to reissue these shamefully out-of print recordings; Three Greek Ballets boasts three Stravinsky masterpieces: Apollo, Agon, and Orpheus. Essential. And inexpensive. CHRISTOPHER DeLAURENTI