Fit To Print: A “Hyperhistory” of the Current State of American Music Publishing

C. F. Peters Musikverlag (CFP) was founded 200 years ago in Leipzig. The first work published by the firm was the first symphony of a young composer from Bonn named Beethoven. The complete and complex history of CFP can be found on their Web site, but

The rising tide of anti-semitism during the 1930′s led members of the Hinrichsen family (unfortunately not all) to escape Germany. Max Hinrichsen established a branch of C. F. Peters in London, while brother Walter established a branch in New York. Following WWII, a third partner re-established CFP in Germany with a branch in Frankfurt. Today, there are three independently and family-owned businesses in the three cultural capitals.

Of the three companies in the CFP family, it is the American version that has made the biggest investment in contemporary music. CFP made an important gamble in the 1960′s, devoting much energy and effort to the promotion of works by John Cage. They also were among the first to recognize the talents of Milton Babbitt, and they publish important works by Pulitzer Prize-winning American composers such as Charles Wuorinen, Roger Reynolds and George Crumb. Dr. Bruce Taub, head of publishing for CFP in New York, says that CFP has an advantage in “discovering” these artists “because we have a large number of composers and musicians on staff, and they are very active and involved in new music circles.

Unlike some of the other publishing firms that seek out exclusive agreements with composers, CFP determines what to publish on a work by work basis. When asked why, Taub explains that “not everything is marketable. We don’t like to work with binding contracts, but we have gentlemen’s agreements with several composers. For example, we have no contract with Milton Babbitt, but we would not turn anything of his down.” Composers must appreciate the trusting nature of this relationship, as there has been very little turnover during Taub’s 21 year tenure with CFP.

Taub stated that “plans are in place to more aggressively promote performances of the music in our catalogue,” but he admits that CFP hasn’t been as active as they should be in the recruitment of younger composers to the roster. However, he hinted that activity in this area will significantly increase in the next year or two. If CFP is to build a more significant presence in contemporary American music, the roster must grow. Plans are already in place to remedy this with a roster that is likely to include talented younger composers such as David Rakowski of Brandeis University and Ross Bauer of UC-Davis, who are already affiliated with the firm.

From Fit To Print: A “Hyperhistory” of the Current State of American Music Publishing
by John Robinson
© 2000 NewMusicBox

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