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Reflections of a Music Publisher


(1966: first published by Cassell London)

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FRONT FLY (written 1966)

Dr. Ernst Roth has spent a lifetime in music and there can be few people now living with a greater knowledge and experience of the art itself and of the great creative figures of the past sixty years. Born in Prague in 1896, he studied the piano under Alfredo Pellegrini and Karel Hoffmeister, and in 1922 he entered the great music publishing house of Universal Edition, where from 1928 to 1938 he was head of the Publications Department. In 1938 he joined Boosey & Hawkes in London and is now Chairman of their publishing company. In this capacity he has been publisher, counsellor and friend to such distinguished composers as Richard Strauss and Stravinsky, Bartok, Kodaly and Benjamin Britten. He is therefore that almost unique figure in the world of music, both l'homme d'esprit and l'homme d'affaires.

In the first part of this remarkable book Dr. Roth looks at the vast changes that have come over both serious and popular music with the arrival of the mechanical and electronic age and at the commercial implications of these changes in the complex matters of copyright and performing rights; he discusses with special authority the many problems which now confront music publishers and composers alike. In the second part of the book he writes about the art of music itself and particularly about 'new' music. He gives the reader some fascinating personal reminiscences of the great composers who have been such an intimate part of his life: of Richard Strauss's last unhappy years; of Stravinsky and the comic story of the first performance of Rake's Progress; of Schoenberg, Berg and Webern; of Prokofiev and KodMy; of the withdrawn, taciturn genius of Bart6k; and of Benjamin Britten. In writing of the new music of Boulez and Stockhausen and of the lesser, though by no means inarticulate, innovators, he is forthright, outspoken and controversial. The reader is left in no doubt that, for Ernst Roth, Stravinsky is the last protagonist of the golden age of music. Yet he is no philistine and accepts new music without approving of it. As he himself says in his book, 'New music is neither the destruction nor the salvation of the art.'

This is an important book, full of wit and wisdom and of the accumulated experience of a highly civilised man.



Dr. Ernst Roth was born in Prague in 1896. He received his first piano lessons at the age of five from Alfredo Pellegrini of the Prague Conservatoire and subsequently went to Prague University to study law, music and philosophy. After graduating as a Doctor of Law, he moved to Vienna where he read music at Vienna University with Guido Adler. In 1922 he entered the music publishing house Wiener Philharmonische Verlag and six years later became head of the Publications Department of its parent company, Universal Edition. There he was responsible, among other things, for the new revisions of the piano works of Mozart, Schubert, Schumann and Brahms, and of an anthology of music of one hundred volumes.

In 1938 Dr. Roth joined Boosey & Hawkes in London as assistant to the late Ralph Hawkes. In 1949 he was appointed General Manager, was elected to the board the following year and afterwards became Chairman of the firm's publishing company. At Boosey & Hawkes he started and built up the series of Hawkes Pocket Scores, writing the analyses for over a hundred scores. He was responsible for publishing the later works of Richard Strauss (in particular the complete edition of his songs in four volumes) of Bartok, Stravinsky and Kodaly. He also edited and arranged the works for wind instruments of Bach, Beethoven, Mozart and Schubert, and has translated into German over 200 songs and operas of Britten, Walton and Martinu. Since 1959 he has been Vice-President of the Music Section of the International Publishers' Association.

Dr. Roth has contributed many articles on musical and historical subjects to publications throughout Europe and is the author of four books, also published in Europe.

Copyright Notice

Clearly this material is copyright . This is the first time I have knowingly published anything on this website without the appropriate clearances and permissions. In spite of approaching Boosey and Hawkes and  Cassell I have been unable to trace the Roth family to seek permission.

This book is fascinating and illuminating and of historical importance and being out of print I felt publication here was merited. I do hope that this will lead to contact with the family being established.

Len Mullenger (2001)

In 2008 I received the following:

Dear Mr Mullenger

I recently came across your site and the reference to Ernst Roth’s book, The Business of Music. Although I never met Ernst I was lucky enough to be the lawyer and friend of his wife, Kate, and was also the executrix of her will. They had no children or close family and their only relatives lived abroad.

Kate’s obsession in her later years was to ensure that Ernst’s life and work should be remembered and preserved. She would have been thrilled to find his book on the world wide web.


Jenny Hammill

CONTENTS (For a taster start with Richard Strauss)

1. The Great Change
2. Intellectual Property
3. Organization
4. The Music Publisher: I
5. The Music Publisher: II
6. Economics
7. An Unhappy Relationship

1. Introduction
2. 'La musica a' miei tempi'
3. The Viennese School
4. The World Around
5. Resurrection
6. Richard Strauss and Igor Stravinsky
7. New Developments
8. Traditionalists (Britten)
9. The Public and New Music
10. Popular Music
11. Is Music Still a Great Art?


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