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Reflections of a Music Publisher



Among all those who live for and off music, the music publisher plays the most ambiguous part. He stands at the crossroads of art and commerce, where enthusiasm for the art and business sense meet or miss each other; between artistic obsession and commercial acumen, promoting the art and translating it into good money. Composers expect from him both fame and fortune

The musical profession knows him as the man whose curious way of life it is to give with one hand and take with the other; but the millions of music-lovers hardly hear about him, although he supposedly renders them considerable services behind the scenes. Occasionally, though less frequently than formerly, they read his name on printed copies. There are even some publishers of operas and ballets who insist that their names be printed on the programmes, alongside those of the purveyors of shoes and wigs. This may flatter their vanity, but attracts no attention.

The publisher is a trader, but his trade is as specialized as his merchandise, which is not really his in the same way that a house or a pair of trousers would be. He acquires it from its first owner with many liens and on many conditions, and he acquires it in order not to sell but to exploit it. 'Exploitation' may seem an incongruous word in connection with works of the spirit, but it describes the publisher's function quite correctly, for in this new world the methods of distributing music and making it pay have greatly changed. It is true that the publisher of educational and classical music, in its proper sense, is no different from the book publisher. Both are simply selling their publications. But the publisher of contemporary or, more generally, protected music not only has to sell it- so far as that is still possible-but must deal with all the new aspects of music which were unknown fifty years ago and are of paramount moral and material importance for the composer today. This exploitation of all the old and new opportunities gives the music-publisher a much greater responsibility for, and greater influence over, the destinies of the musical art generally than the book- or art-publisher exerts on his own field. This has hardly added to the music-publisher's reputation, but it has made his position more delicate. He I6 like Abraham Mendelssohn between his famous father Moses and his even more famous son Felix-a parenthesis between the author and the public.

One might assume that the profession of a music-publisher is an eminently musical one. When music-publishing on a grand scale began, although there were some engravers among the founding fathers, such as Breitkopf or Artaria, the majority were in fact musicians, if of minor rank. Neither Anton Diabelli nor Giovanni Ricordi nor Nicolaus Simrock were composers of distinction-Muzio Clementi was probably the only notable exception-and these men were shrewd enough to recognize that they could achieve more with the genius of others than with their own modest talents. However, as businesses passed on to sons and grandsons and distant relatives, or changed hands altogether, while at the same time music became a permanent and reliable source of income with a future of growing promise, commercial problems tended to overshadow the purely musical aspects, and today one finds only a few musicians among publishers of serious music.

I have interviewed many young people who wanted to go into publishing because they were 'mad on music'. But the young man who is only mad on music sits reading proofs in a back room for the rest of his life. The musician who wants to be a publisher needs great powers of self-denial, and perhaps even a dose of frivolity to teach him that not everything he likes is necessarily good, that there is a type of music which one can publish only if one does not know it, that he must not be guided by the professional critic but that the public represents a supreme court against whose verdict there is no appeal-and other similar maxims which override the publisher's own personal leanings and convictions. His time is taken up by never-ending routine work and by legal, commercial and technical problems, and only now and then, for all-too-short periods, can he retire from the tumult of business to the quieter realm of the art he serves. And if he is just a lawyer or businessman he can well do without such respite.

On the other hand, musicians are usually in the forefront of 'popular' publishing. Managers of publishing enterprises concerned with pop-songs are often hard-boiled practitioners, former band-leaders or pop-singers or at least song-writers, people who cultivate the closest contact with the public and its fickle tastes, to which they have to conform instantly and unconditionally. Their attitude is much appreciated by the composers of popular music and their lyricists, eager to know what the public wants. But a similar attitude would quickly bring the serious publisher into disrepute. His task is to make the public like what his composers produce, to defy its preferences, to educate or even force it into accepting what at first may seem unacceptable even to him.

There is small comfort in the fact that the expert popular publishers too, with all their eagerness to please, make mistake after mistake.

How, and why, does one become a serious music publisher without inheriting a publishing business? There can be no specific gift, no sense of vocation, which would leave no other choice. One does not become a music-publisher out of the sense of duty that might call one to be a doctor, a mathematician or a minister of the church. Moreover, the young man or woman who decides to go into music-publishing seldom has a clear idea of the career it offers. It is a rather careless decision to make.

As a warning, or encouragement, I can only tell how I became a music-publisher myself.

My parents must have considered music an important thing in life, for I began having piano lessons before I started school. (I can still feel some of the fascination of that first encounter with music and in quiet moments the notes can look at me as they did then like messengers of an impenetrable mystery. It is a fleeting but delightful feeling not to have been completely overwhelmed by so many years of involvement.) I must have made quick progress and spent more time at the piano than my father liked. After my teacher, a pedant with a moustache, pince-nez and smoothly parted hair, had presented me in private circles, he arrived one day, put Mozart's piano concerto in E flat, K. 27I, on the piano and said peremptorily that I would play the work with orchestra in public. I then had five years of hard practising behind me, was ten years old and sure of myself as I was never to be again.

My father, when told, said nothing; my mother was not quite certain what to make of it. The concert took place in the small hall of the Rudolfinum in Prague; the success was as great as expected and the papers next morning were most flattering. But my father took me aside and spoke wisely and sternly to me: he was very happy with my dexterity on the piano, he knew that T imagined the life of a pianist to be wonderful and he knew that in this I was sadly mistaken. He disclosed to me that my music teacher had once hoped to become a great pianist himself, which impressed me very much. As an artist, he said, one had to be among the very best, a genius, in order to be really happy. Woe unto those who had no more than a pleasing talent! They would blame the whole world for not having the taste to recognize them, and would lead an embittered existence. In every other walk of life one could be satisfied with a nice income and good friends-one would not become a doctor, a lawyer or a merchant with the sole intention of being the best in the world. But without such ambition one could not even begin to think of becoming a pianist or musician, and such ambition was itself dangerous, for it held within it the seeds of lifelong disappointment. After all, the pursuit of music should not be a profession, it should be a sanctuary, a shelter in life. But a livelihood? Never! I should continue with my piano lessons, but I should also study, play tennis in summer and skate in winter. Father would leave the choice of a profession entirely to me, provided only that I chose a regular job because regularity was the most important thing in life. If I did not understand it then, I would do so later on and be grateful to him.

This was an unexpected sequel to the great event. But I was not as disappointed as one might think. My parents disliked everything ostentatious and never encouraged us children to attract attention. Modesty, if not actual subordination, was the guiding principle of our upbringing, and it must have suited my own constitution. Like all middle-class children at the end of last century I was born for a quiet life in secure circumstances. Even today I still belong to that small and slightly comic band who never drop a piece of paper where they should not; who with perfect sincerity declare to customs officers at frontiers and airports everything they carry, thereby making those officials all the more suspicious; who never tire of establishing a cordial understanding with all those appointed to run their lives, from the park-attendant to the tax-collector. At the root of such an upbringing and education was certainly a belief in the higher wisdom of Governments, and a longing for normality.

As soon as this normality was disturbed, however-and in my time it was more violently disturbed than it had been since the collapse of the Roman Empire and the Great Migration-that hankering after reason, tranquillity and order dangerously reduced one's chances of survival. It must have been the much-maligned hand of providence which has guided me without permanent harm, and even with some inner gain, through the adversities of two world wars and emigration. I could hardly reproach my parents and teachers for having sent me into this world without any wholesome suspicion. A Bantu boy-at least at that time-had still to be taught what to do in order not to be eaten by a lion. After all, wild beasts are fanatics for order and regularity, but who can fathom human nature?

So I believed my father when he told me that integral calculus and the history of the War of the Spanish Succession were even more important for my future happiness than music. I was quite content not to have my interests confined to a single subject, and this was particularly important in the last years before and the first few years after the First World War, when so much new and astounding knowledge was demanding attention. I well remember those first terms at Prague University, still housed in its old building of AD I 346, with its dark, vaulted corridors and lecture-rooms where Philip Frank, Albert Einstein's successor in the chair of theoretical physics, said blasphemous things about the universe. I remember too the mixture of fear and amazement with which we greeted the traces of broken atoms in Wilson's cloud chamber, and how hesitatingly we allowed ourselves to be persuaded that the difference between a car and a carrot was 'structural' and not material.

For a time music, unable to compete with all these revolutionary and revolting things, withdrew to the very edge of my world, but I was in no real doubt that I wanted to spend my life in her company. Having strayed through many fields, physics and mathematics, philosophy and history, the piano master-class at Prague's Conservatoire, I obtained my law degree and entered music publishing, which seemed a sensible compromise between realistic necessity and idealistic fancy. I expected nothing more than to render some useful service to the goddess to our mutual benefit. To this end I I also spent some eighteen months in a special school for the graphic arts, in printing offices and paper-mills, anticipating that, even for music-publishing, a general attitude would not be enough and that some specialized knowledge of a technical nature must be useful, if not actually necessary. The rest has followed as if it could never have been otherwise, and I have seen music in all its aspects: as an I art and as a commodity; as a system of staff lines, heads and tails, dots and slurs hammered into the zinc plate by the engraver and printed by the offset machine with monumental indifference. But music, in spite of it all, has remained a true friend, graciously forgiving me my pianistic shortcomings.

How does the publisher find a composer, or the composer a publisher? This is a vital question for both.

A publisher rarely has the good fortune of a Cimabue who, on his travels, met the boy Giotto scratching a masterpiece on a rock. Every post heaps mountains of unsolicited manuscripts on his desk, and these-contrary to widespread suspicion-are examined, because there is always a possibility of an undiscovered talent. The music-publisher is better placed in this respect than the book publisher, who has to deal with typed offerings of no immediately recognizable individuality. Music, conveniently, must be written by hand, and to do this well requires years of practice. Nothing gives away the immature dilettante more mercilessly than an inexperienced hand, and so a quick glance is often enough for a manuscript to be returned with the stereotyped friendly phrase in which the unhappy recipient reads only the word 'no'. In more than forty years I remember only one case when I found a good piece in this way and published it. It was quite successful, but the composer never wrote another. Once, too, I heard a piece on the radio which attracted my attention. The name of the composer was not announced. My inquiries led to a reprimand for the conductor, who had smuggled the work into his programme without first submitting it to the controlling panel; but the composer was found and has made quite a respectable career.

However, these are exceptions. Normally a relationship begins more prosaically. In this well-organized world nobody can hope to be discovered in anonymous seclusion: the young composer must go to school, his teachers must observe the first signs of talent and recommend their pupil. It then remains the publisher's task to separate winged genius from crawling mediocrity. Here, perhaps, is the one gift the publisher needs; the flair which is unaffected by experience.

It cannot have been easy at any time, because the great mass of published music has always been mediocre. Even in the nineteenth century, when every work seemed to be stamped with unmistakable signs either of excellence or of imperfection, only the average could really have been beyond doubt, conforming as it did to all the accepted precepts. True greatness, like true incompetence, is no respecter of rules. In times of greater artistic security composers could be divided into two types: the traditionalist and the original genius. Bach, Haydn, Mozart and Brahms fall easily into the first group; Beethoven, Chopin, Wagner and Debussy into the second. The original genius writes music such as nobody before him has written; the traditional genius writes essentially the same music as his contemporaries but does it better. It is a question of temperament rather than of artistic merit.

The publisher may not always recognize the traditional genius as a genius, but he will always find his work remarkable. If, however, he is confronted with an original genius, with music thoroughly new and unproven, he cannot be blamed if he is beset by doubts. Imagine seeing for the first time the first of Chopin's Preludes, Op. 28, in manuscript, a graphic image such as had never been put on paper before, and having to decide whether publication would be a sound investment. (One should not take umbrage at that word. It is the publisher's profession to invest money in art so that the art, the artist and the publisher himself may all three benefit. Only then does the publisher completely fulfil his mission. The possible sales potential remains a necessary, though not always acknowledged, consideration because it produces both fame and fortune.) So Chopin's first publisher-a little swindler, by the way-had his qualms, but times were secure, and the passion of the public for new music still burned fiercely.

Even so, the young Wagner could not find a publisher. Today it sounds rather comical that Franz Schott, when offered Rienzi six months after its successful premiere, could reply that he was too busy with Herr Lindpaintner's new opera The Sicilian Vespers to find time for Wagner. Rienzi may not be particularly alive today, but it is certainly not as dead as Lindpaintner's whole oeuvre. But at that point, in 1843, Lindpaintner was arrivé and Wagner a beginner. Wagner did not find Schott's refusal improper, although, a few months later, he did take exception when Breitkopf and Hartel declined The Flying Dutchman and published Halevy's Charles VI instead. Wagner had no choice but to finance the publication of his first operas-Rienzi, The Flying Dutchman and Tannhauser-himself, and it took him thirty years to settle the resulting difficulties.

The young Richard Strauss fared little better. Had he started by writing such voluminous and costly operas as Wagner, he too would have had to publish them at his own expense. As it was he found a small publisher who bought-for a pittance-his early songs and his best symphonic poems. Gustav Mahler, with his gigantic symphonies, was not so lucky and had to pay all the costs of having them published under the imprint of a Viennese printing firm. Among the avant-garde at the turn of the century only Debussy seems to have had no difficulty in finding a proper publisher.

All this figures in the publisher's register of sins of omission. It must not be forgotten, however, that the old and powerful publishing houses followed the changes in music with greater anxiety than Press and public. If music strayed from the well trodden path to success to throw itself into doubtful experiments they had much to lose. Publishers north of the Alps in particular must have been irritated by events in Italy, where composers continued with irrepressible vigour to write their operas to the old recipes and carry home the laurels from an enraptured musical and unmusical world. Little had altered since the days of Rossini. While the ageing Verdi produced his amazing Otello and still more amazing Falstaff, the young Puccini, Mascagni and Leoncavallo, and lesser figures such as Ponchielli, Giordano and Cilea, were waiting on the doorstep of the hall of fame. The massive chain of mountains seemed to be having on music the effect it has always had on the weather: the stormy, unsettled conditions which beset composers and publishers in the north were unknown in the south.

Historians often call the nineteenth century the 'century of German music'. It is certainly true that German symphonic, chamber and instrumental music far outshone the comparable achievements of other nations. But in the domain of opera, which occupied a very large section of musical life, if not the largest, Italian was still the common language. Mozart's operas took a long time to become internationally accepted. Even such standard German works as Beethoven's Fidelio or Weber's Freischutz still remain comparatively provincial successes, within the German Kulturkreis. Wagner, in the second half of the century, heralded a general change of national emphasis in music; but in the crisis of the 1890s Italian opera stood firm, and the publishers on the banks of the Po did not share the worries and consequent frequent mistakes of their northern colleagues.

The latter's fears soon proved to be well founded. The years before the First World War, disturbed not only by Debussy and Richard Strauss but also by Stravinsky and Schoenberg, were only the beginning-though these composers made Wagner sound traditional. After the war atonality seemed to outpace Debussy and Strauss. By the time I entered music-publishing in 1922 it had become almost impossible to discover unmistakable signs of merit or futility in music. The publisher could only choose between resisting the aggressive beliefs of 'new' composers and their friends and being carried away by their arguments. Defying all conventional ideas about music, this new generation demanded not only the professional services of the publisher but also his artistic conviction. Wagner had previously started what seemed to be a new relationship between composer and publisher when he wrote that he could deal only with a publisher who had faith in his mature works. No word has been handed down from Beethoven to suggest that he expected more from his publisher than a fee. Now that music had embarked upon the rejection of its past achievements and the quest for a new promised land it became an article of faith; the publisher became a crusader.

Persistent success often creates treacherous ideals. Music publishing owed its standing and prosperity to the music of the nineteenth century. The new atonality, and the dodecaphony which followed it, were so much at loggerheads with everything that had made music great, successful and remunerative that they could scarcely fail to appear as sinful iconoclasm. Publishers could muster neither the faith nor the money to embark on adventures whose success was, to say the least, very doubtful. This new music was not for them.

So it was perhaps to be expected that, instead of one of the great and long-established publishers, it should be an outsider who threw in his lot with the New Music. Universal Edition, of Vienna, and its director Emil Hertzka owed nothing to the past but a 'classical edition', thought to be impervious to changes, the early works of Richard Strauss and some minor works of Max Reger.

Hertzka rose from obscurity to become the figurehead of everything new in music. The last shot of the Great War had hardly been fired when he clashed head-on with public opinion by assembling all new music of no fixed abode under the roof of his publishing business-first and foremost the 'star' trio of Arnold Schoenberg, Alban Berg and Anton Webern, but also many others who did not belong to that 'school', such as Bela Bartok, Zoltan Kodaly, Alfredo Casella, Ernst Krenek, Kurt Weill, Gianfrancesco Malipiero, Darius Milhaud and a host of lesser names who are now forgotten.

Emil Hertzka was no doctrinaire; nor was he fastidious. He also published operas by Franz Schreker and Eugen d'Albert without blushing, and in the midst of all the noise created by 'new music' the successes of Krenek's Jonny spielt auf, Jaromir Weinberger's Schwanda and, particularly, Weill-Brecht's Dreigroschenoper were as welcome to him as the riots and fisticuffs which surrounded Pierrot lunaire and Wozzeck. There was no clear intention, no consistent, exclusive conviction in his policy. Anyone who had a grudge against 'old' music-or against its representatives-was welcome at Universal Edition. Hertzka almost seemed to specialize in works rejected by other publishers. But he may have had the feeling that a new art was about to arise, and that he could seize an opportunity which older and wealthier publishers were sure to misjudge and therefore miss. This hectic activity brought not only a few operatic successes but also some bestsellers, such as Bartok's 'Allegro barbaro' and Casella's 'Pieces enfantines'. But the bulk of his publications mouldered on the shelves, awaiting their day. This was unusual, for a publisher habitually has an eye on the paying (and buying) opera- and concert-going public.

Emil Hertzka was a strange man, a mixture of commercial astuteness and rash idealism. True enough, Europe was suffering from a degree of inflation which pre-war economists would have thought impossible, and money lost both its value and its appeal. But Hertzka could have spent his worthless money on something more pleasurable than the printing and publishing of music which nobody else printed and nobody wanted to perform or to hear.

His appearance seemed to contradict his actions: he looked as old-fashioned as any fin-de-siecle artist, with his long hair, long beard, brown velvet jacket and large black tie-a majestic figure, half Wotan and half Brahms, who contrasted strangely with revolutionary music and its vociferous composers and propagandists. Although I worked for quite a few years next door to him I never discovered whether he could even read music, nor did I ever hear him talk about it with enthusiasm or even sympathy. He was more feared than loved; his thin, sharp voice seemed not to belong to his imposing figure. He was not a kindly or genial man but displayed a biting and often cynical sarcasm (which, incidentally, was apparently his most effective weapon in dealing with Arnold Schoenberg). It was said that Hertzka, for all his costly and unremunerative patronage of new ideals, never lost sight of his own personal interests, and we, his assistants, used to sing an uncomplimentary little song about it to a tune from Tchaikovsky's 'Pathetique'. And still he did what no other music-publisher at that time dared to do, and considerable sums of money were spent not only on engraving, printing, paper, binding and publicity but also on supporting financially the struggling prophets of the new art. All this was done without charm, grace or warm-heartedness, without any evident generosity-and yet it was still a unique undertaking. Finally, in the great economic crisis of the late twenties and early thirties, trouble came to Emil Hertzka and his publishing house and a timely death spared him much humiliation. The orator at his funeral declared that no one would ever be able to speak of the new music without mentioning Hertzka's name.

Now, since the end of the Second World War, more has been said and written about new music than ever before, but Emil Hertzka is forgotten. It is futile to speculate on what might have happened to mankind without Julius Caesar and Napoleon-and to music without Emil Hertzka. I do not believe that one man can change the course of events, for this is pre-destined by forces more powerful and incalculable than the whims of any individual. But one man of genius can accelerate or slow down the otherwise inevitable development. This alone is his glory or his damnation. And Emil Hertzka should be remembered.

However-and it is perhaps characteristic of the general attitude -although some kind of halo surrounds the names of less adventurous but better rewarded music-publishers of the nineteenth century, no publisher of our own pioneering age has attained any comparable fame. With great reverence the story is told of that patriarch of all publishers Aldo Manucci, who risked his fortune by printing the first Greek books. He died a wealthy man and nobody seems to begrudge it. But today it would be said that the music-publisher's patronage of the arts is marred by his expectation of future profits, while his business sense is put in question by his speculating with an unsuitable product. Hertzka did not die in the poor house either-and posterity seems to owe him nothing.

The revolution of the 1920s was only a rumble of distant thunder; the storm broke in earnest after the Second World War. Schoenberg, Berg and Webern have almost become classics, and the publisher, while still insisting on being the promoter and protector of art and artist, is faced by a young generation of composers to whom experience is repulsive, tradition a burden, concession an abomination. In more secure times, both artistically and generally, even the original genius wanted to be heard and performed-to be successful in the normal, uncomplicated sense. If Schoenberg once wrote that he had as little consideration for the listener as the listener had for him he probably meant no more than Beethoven when he refused to consider Schuppanzigh's violin. But today we are solemnly told that, in a world of mass civilization, true art must be reserved for a select few, for an elite whose understanding is more important than the applause of the multitude. It is proclaimed, with a kind of hollow pride, that artistic value and public rejection are synonymous. This was not so in happier times: when Titian's 'Assunta' was unveiled in the Frari in Venice on 20 March 1518 there was a public holiday!

And yet even those composers who profess to care little for public recognition still seek a publisher. What can the publisher do? It is not for him to share the solitude of those who scorn the world. On the contrary, he has to promote music, he has to make it known and, if at all possible, liked. He is not in the happy position of the art-dealer who has achieved everything expected of him if he finds a single member of a wealthy elite to buy an abstruse painting or sculpture. It is a sad fact that the elite of music-lovers, the young men and women at the beginning of their careers, are mostly impecunious and can contribute little more than the encouragement of their applause to the well-being of composer and publisher. The publisher needs that general public which, as Richard Strauss once put it in his blunt Bavarian way, fills the concert-halls and pays the full price for its tickets.

But this paying public is indifferent to 'new music', and we shall have to deal specifically with this attitude, which is novel and quite unprecedented. 'New' music occupies an extremely small place in both the performers' repertoire and the publishers' catalogues. It is idle to speculate which comes first. The problems are too deep seated to be solved by the new means of mass communication, let alone by the old means of publishing, printing and promoting by letters and words of mouth. The question of how composer and publisher get together is therefore more momentous now than ever; for each is equally incapable of managing without the other.

Once composer and publisher have found each other they conclude an agreement in writing: such is now the rule. This agreement is the foundation on which rest the spiritual and material well-being of the composer.

Book- and art-publishers have, in general, a better reputation than music-publishers who are frequently represented as hardboiled businessmen living off their unworldly victims. Who has not been touched and angered by the stories of Pergolesi, Mozart, Schubert, Chopin and Schumann and has not, secretly or openly, held their publishers responsible for their early deaths? The past hangs over the publishers like a dark stormcloud.

Among the money-making arts music is certainly the youngest. Whereas for thousands of years it seemed that music and money had nothing in common, literature was an object of commerce long before printing was invented. Famous works were copied and sold by professional scribes or by professional dealers-more than three hundred fourteenth- and fifteenth-century hand-written copies of Dante's Commedia Divina are still known. Yet there is no trace of a similar trade in music. Only a few copies of renowned pieces were made, not enough to create a commercial market. Even when, two generations after the first books were printed, music too could be duplicated mechanically, the trade remained small and could not provide a living for the composer.

But then music itself was a minor art. Even after the beginning of its great upsurge it lacked the standing of the visual arts or poetry, being regarded as a craft rather than an art, and the composer-musician as an artisan rather than an artist.

How easily, by comparison, did the visual arts come to terms with money! One can read this in Vasari's Vite, where, with frankness and pride, he tells how Domenico Ghirlandaio received 1,200 gold ducats for the Capella Tornabuoni; Filippino Lippi 2,000 ducats for the Capella Caraffa; Jacopo della Quercia 2,200 gold pieces for the Fonte Gaia; and so on. 'Much money and great honour' (in that order) is his usual expression, although he does not disclose his own fees. Later, when the fine arts had had their golden age, one no longer finds such frankness. Carlo Ridolfi, almost a century after Vasari, writes of Carpaccio only, Acquisto Vittore non poco grido' ('Vittore acquired no small reputation'). But even today the papers busily report the fantastic prices paid at auctions- half a million pounds for a medium-sized Cezanne, a sum which must have made Cezanne shake his head wherever he is now. Not to mention Picasso and the fortune he can legitimately amass.

This has never happened to music. It was, no doubt, much appreciated, but it never enjoyed that respect which finds expression in large sums of money. Composers, however prominent, were employed in 'tied' jobs which they owed to their craftsmanship, to their aptitude for providing the right type of music for the right occasion. They may have expected no more. When copies of their works circulated, it enhanced their reputations but not their incomes.

Palestrina was certainly held in great esteem, but the 'Maestro di cappella' had not the standing of the architect of St Peter's. Musicians in fixed employment led a modest but secure life. Even J. S. Bach, with his extravagantly large family, was never really hard up, although, like Palestrina and other outstanding musicians before him, he had to quarrel with his employers about every increase in his salary and sometimes lost his patience with them. But he lived at the meeting-point of two ages and wavered time and again between the respectability of an appointment in the church and the much less respectable station of musical 'valet' who had then begun to replace the Cantor. In the next generation the musician was indeed a valet, condemned to seek his material security in his livery, a man without dignity who must have felt that he was born for the highest purpose and reduced to the lowest. This was the critical time, when music became aware of its own greatness, and it could not pass without social and moral difficulties.

The date 8 June 1781 is something of a red-letter day in the social history of music. On that day a forgotten nobleman, Count Arco, dispatched Mozart from the security of the retained musician into the uncertain existence of the freelance composer. His contemporaries could not appreciate the importance of this event. Leopold Mozart, who had the highest opinion of his son's genius and hated his own servile position intensely, could not believe that anyone could live by composing alone. It was, indeed, not easy, even if it was not quite as bad as Mozart's heartbreaking letters and subsequent historians make out. Anyone who takes the trouble to find out what Mozart earned, even in the dark years of I789-9I, will discover that, while it was no princely income, it was by no means desperately little. If he and Constanze had not had the fatal habit of always spending more than they had there should have been no misery. Joseph Haydn died a wealthy man; Gluck had money to spare for speculating in stocks and is said to have left a fortune of 600,000 florins, thereby rivalling. any composer or publisher who ever made money with music. But that era had not yet arrived.

When it did, things changed rapidly and radically. A sentence from a letter written by Beethoven to his school friend Wegeler on 20 June 1800 shows the new situation: '. . . my compositions are earning much and I can say that I have more commissions than I can carry out; also I can choose for each work from six or seven publishers, or more if I tried; no one bargains with me, I demand and they pay....' Music had come of age at last; for it must be the measure of the maturity of any art that it is not only appreciated but paid for, just as the artists of the Italian Renaissance were rewarded not only with honours but with money. In Beethoven's later life commissions disappeared and the publishers' fees replaced the generosity of patrons. They provided him with all the amenities he wanted-and, at the end of his life, with the absurd idea that he was poor. Even literature had not achieved so much. In Beethoven's day writers could hardly live on the revenue from their works, however successful. They had to earn their livings as professors, librarians or preceptors, and could write only in their spare time.

But a fair system of monetary reward for the composer could not be easily or quickly found. One would like to think that no amount of money could pay for the pleasure The Magic Flute has given to succeeding generations of music-lovers. But we have seen, when discussing the period of subsistence of copyright, that it is only the spirit, not the money, which is eternal

When music became a regular livelihood for composers and publishers there seemed to be only one reasonable method of paying the composer: the publisher bought a work outright for a flat sum. It was almost impossible to calculate that sum; it was a guess, based on the chances of the work's success as the publisher saw them. If he sold more copies than expected he had a good bargain and the composer lost; but the reverse was more frequently the case, because failures are always more numerous than successes, although history does not register them. There was no need to sign formal documents; an exchange of correspondence was sufficient. If, like Beethoven, the composer had the public behind him the publisher could not bargain. He probably did not even try because he had to outbid the five or six other competitors. If the composer was less well established the publisher secured for himself a premium for the risk he took.

How the overall price of music had risen appears from the fact that for each of his late string quartets Beethoven received exactly as much as Mozart thirty years earlier had received for a complete opera. Carl Maria von Weber's cousin Aloysia Lange recounted that Weber had earned more with his Oberon alone than Mozart with all his operas together. This custom of the flat rate, a fonds perdu, as it was called with a hint of sarcasm, continued well into this century, which may be taken as a sign that both composers and publishers were satisfied. Beethoven had many successors, other composers with whom the publisher could not bargain, who demanded and obtained what seemed equitable to them. Richard Strauss still sold his publishing rights for lump sums, reserving for himself performing and mechanical rights.

As a rule this system both protected the composer against total loss and barred him from total success. In retrospect nothing seems to have done more harm to the reputation of music-publishers. Generations of publishers are said to have bought the best works for a pittance and made great fortunes without ever concerning themselves with the misguided composer. The few known cases are stains which no detergent can remove, where art and money are in head-on collision. If an ordinary tradesman knows how to buy cheaply and sell at a profit, and so legitimately accumulates a large fortune, people take off their hats and praise his efficiency. He may even be knighted. But a similarly shrewd music-publisher is suspect to everybody, contemptible to many. His wealth has an air of illegitimacy and it will be whispered that the degree of his comfort varies according to the degree of discomfort of his composers.

Those who take this line always adduce one of the same handful of cases to 'prove' their point. For example, in 1859, the year of the first performance of his Faust, Gounod sold his 'Ave Maria, meditation religieuse sur le premier prelude de J. S. Bach' for five hundred francs, then a very modest sum. After a performance by Pasdeloup the piece was badly received by the Press and the publisher probably thought little of it. But composer, publisher and expert critics were all mistaken, and the absurd assumption that the absent-minded Bach had omitted the melody which his 'accompaniment' required resulted in a work which became-and probably still is-a worldwide success. Millions of copies of dozens of different arrangements must have been sold. Gounod himself-described by his biographers as a dreamy, unworldly man?????aw this happening but made no complaint. His successors, however, took exception to his short-sightedness. They engaged the best lawyers they could find, and almost a century after the unhappy deal the matter came before the courts, which did not hesitate to take the side of the composer and make the publisher pay a huge sum so that justice was seen to be done.

Such things happened in the nineteenth century. It is often forgotten that, in those days of defenceless composers and rapacious publishers, the most cordial relationships nevertheless existed between the best of both sides. Giulio Ricordi was a true friend of Verdi and Puccini; Fritz August Simrock a close friend of Brahms; Marie-Auguste Durand an intimate of Debussy. Generally, composers and publishers trusted each other, so much so that the 'agreements' which were concluded were often curiously informal documents. When I once tried to establish exactly what rights Boosey & Hawkes held in Offenbach's Vie parisienne a long search produced a handwritten letter, dated 1868, from Offenbach himself which simply said: 'Monsieur, bien recu la somme de 1,000frs. pour 'la Vie parisienne' agreez . . .' This was the document covering the rights for Great Britain and the British Empire-half the world at that time.

All this has changed. Thanks not to charity but to their art the beggars of other days have become a community of high standing and repute, and every rise in the social scale has invariably been followed by a widening of worldly experience. The successful but naive composer no longer exists. Today he is no long-haired dreamer but dresses like other mortals and receives sound advice from many quarters about the debt mankind and publishers owe him for his gifts. So an agreement is made which bears as little resemblance to the contracts of the last century as the jet plane does to the mail coach.

In some countries, such as France and Germany, the law has declared the substance of copyright inalienable and ruled that only the 'right of exploitation' can be assigned by the composer to a third party. This is not much more than a polite compliment to the mystery of the creative mind which is foreign to the more prosaic Anglo-Saxon outlook. In Britain and the United States the composer regularly assigns the copyright itself, this assignment usually being made for the whole period of copyright and all possible future extensions, a stipulation not recognized in every country. With serious music it is normally made for all countries of the world, though French publishers, following scientific developments with greater attention than others, are now demanding the rights for the entire universe.

According to his importance-and thence his bargaining-power -the composer receives a varying share in the proceeds of his music: a sheet royalty of 10-15% of the selling-price of all copies sold; 25-50% of hire fees or rentals for orchestral materials; 66-75% of performing fees of dramatic works, operas, musicals, ballets, which also covers the librettist's cut; So-66% of all royalties resulting from mechanical reproductions; 50% of all fees paid for the inclusion and synchronization of single excerpts in films, but 66% of such fees if the composer's work supplies all or the major part of the music for the film; and finally 50% of all fees and royalties payable by a sub-publisher, if any. This makes an impressive catalogue of financial expectations.

But this is not all. In one critical respect the new face of music has affected the relationship of composer and publisher: the composer not only receives money from the publisher but also has to pay something in return. When becoming a member of a society he must undertake to assign to it the performing rights in all his present and future works. At the time of signing his agreement with the publisher, therefore, he does not dispose of these rights. The agreement with the publisher provides for the share in them which the composer allows the publisher, and the statutes of the societies establish the maximum the publisher can claim: normally 33%, exceptionally-in the United States and Great Britain-50%. The societies would not recognize and would not pay a larger share to the publisher, but he may have to be content with less than the statutory maximum. As performing fees are a substantial part of the potential earnings of a musical work, this payment by the composer is as important to the publisher as his revenue from all other sources.

All this is well established, and the publisher's scope for shrewdness in his dealings with the composer is strictly limited. However, the object of the agreement is a curious one. No composer would be happy if the publisher were to behave as one behaves in normal commerce, correctly and punctiliously fulfilling the letter of a legal document. In spite of all the commercialization there is an invisible wall between art and commerce which prevents music from becoming merely merchandise and the publisher's business from degenerating into mere commerce.

Indeed, the publisher is expected to do many things for the composer which either defy legal definition altogether or at best can only be hinted at in a written document. The most important of these is obviously publicity. Almost every agreement contains a clause to the effect that the publisher will 'use his best efforts', which can mean everything or very little, in this direction. Composers who have already achieved fame require little publicity. A new work by Stravinsky need only be advertised; any attempt at recommendation would be ludicrous. But the young composer, the new music, require an effort beyond any contractual obligation. It rarely happens that the composer is satisfied with his publisher's efforts he, and many others, are inclined to overrate the power and influence publicity can exercise. There is a widespread notion among composers that every success is due to them and every failure due to the publisher, implying that the publisher could compel success and prevent failure.

Indeed, there are many who believe that music might have been spared the tribulations of the twelve-note doctrine if Emil Hertzka had not drummed it into so many heads with his ruthless and aggressive propaganda, spearheaded by a periodical called Anbruch (Daybreak, or Dawn of a New Era), which was as uncompromising as day and night themselves. When this publicity was unleashed, however, although it was sustained for quite a few years, it was largely ineffective. The general public, which never read the famous Anbruch or saw any of the countless leaflets, remained unaffected and could not be persuaded to like the new music. The small circle of converts which supplied the contributors and readers of Anbruch were certainly fortified in their belief, but the overwhelming majority of musicians-composers, conductors, singers and instrumentalists alike-were indifferent and impervious to all the frantic recommendation and abuse. During the economic and political troubles of the 1930s this propaganda became much more subdued and finally ceased. When twelve-note music rose from the ashes of the Second World War, there was no publicity at all. Its surviving supporters were themselves surprised.


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