For almost 250 years, Schott has been writing history in music. Read now how Schott was founded in the 18th century, soon came to be one of the leading music publishers, attracted many of the greatest international composers and thus became a centre of the international music scene.
The Schott publishing house was established in Mainz in 1770, the year of Ludwig van Beethoven’s birth, by the young copperplate engraver and clarinettist Bernhard Schott (1748 – 1809). Schott has subsequently remained a family-owned company and its head office is still situated in the original publishing house built in a patrician style in 1792 which has now been listed as a historic building. During the early years of the publishing firm, the Electorate of Mainz had its own court orchestra and the city enjoyed a rich cultural life including public concerts. There was a large market for musical material of the most popular works of the day created by the numerous musicians in the residence city, music-making members of the aristocracy and the newly established court opera. This initially prompted Bernhard Schott to issue works by the leading composers of the Mannheim school including Carl Stamitz, Franz Xaver Richter and Georg Joseph Vogler alongside virtuoso music for social events and Spieloper [light comic operas with spoken texts].
In 1780, Bernhard Schott became the first recipient of the “Privilegium exclusivum” in Mainz accompanied by the title “court music engraver” which was conferred on him by the Bishop and Elector Friedrich Karl Joseph von Erthal. This honour guaranteed the successful economic future of the young company as it prevented any other publishers within the electorate from re-engraving or selling any works already published by Schott. At the end of the eighteenth century, Schott was the first major publishing house to introduce the innovative duplicating process of lithography which had been invented in 1796: this development soon enabled publications to be printed and distributed in large print runs.
Bernhard Schott’s two sons, Johann Andreas and Johann Josef, to whom the publishing house thanks its long- utilised name B. Schott’s Söhne, soon succeeded in expanding Schott beyond the confines of Germany: in 1824, a branch was founded in Antwerp, followed by additional branches in Paris in 1826, London in 1835, Leipzig in 1840 and finally in Brussels in 1843. Through the acquisition of other publishing firms and the rapid expansion of its international publication programme, the Schott publishing house soon achieved a significant position.
Right from the start, Schott had particularly dedicated itself to the publication of contemporary music. In late eighteenth century Germany, this meant above all the music of the Mannheim School, but Schott also published the piano reductions and first editions of Mozart’s operas Don Giovanni and Die Entführung aus dem Serail. During the period of intermittent French occupation of Mainz between 1792 and 1814, the publishing firm printed works by numerous French composers. This was augmented during the first decades of the nineteenth century by the late masterworks of Ludwig van Beethoven which have still retained their association with the name Schott up to the present day: the Ninth Symphony with the famous concluding chorus Freude schöner Götterfunken, the Missa Solemnis and the String Quartets Op. 127 and Op. 131.
Thanks to its active connections with its subsidiaries, Schott was additionally able to publish the works of numerous composers of international renown such as Adolphe Adam, Daniel Francois Auber, Gaetano Donizetti, Charles Gounod, Ignaz Pleyel and Gioachino Rossini and promoted the wider dissemination of Italian and French Spieloper in German-speaking countries with works such as Adam’s Le Postillon de Lonjumeau and Auber’s Fra Diavolo. The publication of compositions by Franz Liszt and Peter Cornelius indicated a growing re-interest in German repertoire. During the first half of the nineteenth century, Schott also issued the leading contemporary music periodical,Cäcilia (1824 – 1848); the tradition of publishing music periodicals has been upheld to the present day (for example the Neue Zeitschrift für Musik and Das Orchester). At an early stage, Schott also augmented its musical programme with book publications, for example theBiographie universelle de musiciens von Francois-Joseph Fétis (1837), and books on musical topics still play a significant role in the company’s current activities. The printing of the Nouvelle Méthode de basson by Carl Almenräder around the middle of the nineteenth century heralded the equally long-standing tradition of music education publications which has continued ever since.
In 1859, Franz Schott (1811-1874), a grandson of Bernhard Schott, honorary mayor of Mainz and co-founder of the choir Mainzer Liedertafel, succeeded in gaining Richard Wagner in a collaborative project for the Mainz publishing house involving the printing Wagner’s stage works Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, the four operas of the cycle Ring des Nibelungen and Parsifal. This project entailed certain financial risks due to the substantial investment necessary for the performance material. A grand total of more than 800 editions of Wagner have been issued by Schott. Wagner also stipulated exorbitant advance payments for his operas which almost exhausted the financial resources of the publishing house. For this reason, Schott wrote to Wagner on 21 October 1862 as follows: “A music publisher is simply not in a position to cater to your needs: this can only be achieved by an enormously wealthy banker or a count in possession of several million…” As is well known, Wagner soon found a generous patron in the young King Ludwig II of Bavaria.
Franz Schott together with his wife Betty (1820-1875), an excellent pianist, established a foundation which was to have great significance for the musical world in Mainz, enabling the establishment and financing of a permanent orchestra and providing substantial additional support for the musical life of their home city. The couple also donated the 32 letters Beethoven wrote to Schott to the city of Mainz which are currently housed in the Stadtbibliothek Mainz [City Library]. As Franz and Betty Schott remained childless, they handed over the publishing company in 1874 to the young privy councillor Dr. jur. Ludwig Strecker (1853-1943, pictured). Further composers from Richard Wagner’s circle were signed by the company, including Peter Cornelius and Engelbert Humperdinck who was actually also employed by Schott for a number of years: initially as musical editor and later as advisor and arranger. He entrusted the publishers with his fairy tale opera Hänsel und Gretel which received its first performance in 1893. The two sons of the privy councillor Strecker, Dr. jur. Ludwig Strecker (1883-1978) and Willi Strecker (1884-1958), both entered their father’s firm in 1909, accompanied by Ludwig Strecker’s son-in-law Heinz Schneider-Schott (1906-1988).
The era of musical editions from the twentieth century begins with the publication of works by Igor Stravinsky(pictured) who remained a lifelong close friend of Ludwig and Willi Strecker. Schott printed a number of Stravinsky’s most significant compositions including the early orchestral works Feu d’artifice and Scherzo fantastique, the ballet L’ oiseau de feu (The Firebird) and the Violin Concerto, theSymphony in C and the Symphony in three movements. The association with the Frankfurt composer Paul Hindemith commenced in 1920 and Schott subsequently became the exclusive publisher of the composer’s complete oeuvre, including the operas Cardillac and Mathis der Maler. Carl Orff, the innovator of the world of music theatre and creator of the worldwide successful Carmina Burana, also entered into a lifelong exclusive association with Schott. Erich Wolfgang Korngold, Joaquín Rodrigo, Kurt Weill, Michael Tippett, Karl Amadeus Hartmann, Wolfgang Fortner and numerous other composers born around the turn of the century came to Schott with their works. In collaboration with the publishers Adolphe Fürstner, Schott additionally undertook the supervision of the stage works of Richard Strauss in 1950.
After the Second World War, the only twenty-year-old Hans Werner Henze (pictured, with CEO Willy Strecker) concluded an exclusive contract with Schott in 1946. During the post-war period and the 1950s and 1960s, a number of the most significant composers of the twentieth century such as Heinz Holliger, György Ligeti, Aribert Reimann and Bernd Alois Zimmermann were signed up and Schott also acquired the rights to major works byArnold Schoenberg, including the operas Von Heute auf Morgen and Moses und Aron. Schott is also responsible for the complete works of Krzysztof Penderecki and also manages numerous other composers including Peter Maxwell Davies, Peter Eötvös, Henri Dutilleux, Luigi Nono, Dieter Schnebel, Rodion Shchedrin, Toru Takemitsu, Mikis Theodorakis and Peteris Vasks.
Since the 1970s, historical-academic complete editions of major composers’ works have played a prominent role in the publishing catalogue. The long-term project Richard Wagner Complete Edition was inaugurated in 1970 and has been completed in Wagner’s bicentenary year 2013. Collected editions of the works of Robert Schumann, Arnold Schoenberg, Paul Hindemith and others have also been produced in cooperation with academic institutions and partner publishing companies.
The current CEO Dr. Peter Hanser-Strecker, manager of the company since 1974 and a grandson of Ludwig Strecker, has like his ancestors always been especially committed to the encouragement of the music of our time and lent his support to the nurturing of musical life.
Hanser-Strecker was responsible for setting up two major musical foundations: the Pro Musica Viva – Maria Strecker-Daelen Foundation and the Strecker Foundation. Since the year 2000, over forty new composers including a large number of young artists have been signed internationally to the company under his auspices, the majority of these within the framework of an exclusive collaboration. Many former young composers have now embarked on prestigious careers, such as Richard Ayres, Chaya Chernowin, Toshio Hosokawa, Christian Jost, Thomas Larcher, Andrew Norman, Fazil Say and Jörg Widmann.