Music critic's book is pulped as Penguin loses defamation case

For years the critic Norman Lebrecht bestrode the classical music world inspiring fear, loathing and respect in those whose careers he could push out of joint with a few acerbic words from his pen or over the airwaves on his Radio 3 programme.

Now, however, Lebrecht faces a fall from grace after losing a defamation battle with the head of Naxos, the largest independent classical record label, Klaus Heymann.

This week Penguin agreed to pulp all copies of Lebrecht's book, which criticised Mr Heymann.

Behind the scenes the victory has been greeted with glee by figures in the classical music world who have yearned for Lebrecht's wings to be clipped.

The book Maestros, Masterpieces and Madness: The Secret Life and Shameful Death of the Classical Record Industry, accused Mr Heymann of paying eastern European musicians a pittance, while using the proceeds to build an estate in New Zealand. It also claimed Mr Heymann fired artists who asked for better terms.

Naxos, which sells classical music CDs for less than £10, has been criticised in the past for poor-quality recordings and the use of cheap musicians. On the other hand, it has been praised for bringing classical music to the masses.

My Heymann said that the five pages on Naxos contained 15-20 errors, four of which were libellous.

In the High Court this week Penguin capitulated. A statement said: "Penguin Books accepts that there is nothing whatsoever behind any suggestion of business malpractice on the part of Mr Heymann." It also apologised and agreed to pay damages.

The agreement, however, does not affect the US publication of the book by Random House. Mr Heymann said yesterday that he will seek its withdrawal there as well.

"The book made me look like a shit, so something had to be done," he said. "When Lebrecht talks to people he doesn't take notes so he confuses and confounds what people say."

Lebrecht – who won the Whitbread first book award in 2002 for his novel The Song of Names – is regarded as a gifted writer but has been known to make errors.

His polemics on the music industry have also made him many enemies, which is why this humiliation has been met with glee. Such is his power as a critic that few are willing to speak publicly against him.

One of the world's leading conductors, however, told the IoS that Mr Lebrecht has, "for years, been getting away with "pompous, preposterous judgment" and "inept research".

Lebrecht said he could not comment on the Naxos case, but added: "The book contains a handful of minor errors, as most books do. They are being corrected."

He also denied not taking notes or confusing his facts.

News
peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
Sport
Lewis Hamilton will start the Singapore Grand Prix from pole, with Nico Rosberg second and Daniel Ricciardo third
F1... for floodlit Singapore Grand Prix
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvHe is only remaining member of original cast
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Sport
Fans hold up a scarf at West Ham vs Liverpool
footballAfter Arsenal's clear victory, focus turns to West Ham vs Liverpool
New Articles
i100... she's just started school
News
news
New Articles
i100
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
life
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
Sport
football
New Articles
i100... despite rising prices
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam