A Dictionary of Music and Musicians/Breitkopf and Härtel

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BREITKOPF & HÄRTEL. On Jan. 27, 1869, this renowned firm of music-publishers in Leipsic celebrated the 150th anniversary of its existence. Its foundation was laid in 1719, when Bernhardt Christoph Breitkopf, member of a mining family of the Hartz, born at Clausthal March 2, 1695, set up a printing press at Leipsic. His first publication was a Hebrew Bible, quickly followed by a number of theological and historical works, in which Breitkopf's friendly relations to the poet Gottsched were of much use to him. In 1732 a printing office was built with the sign of 'zum goldnen Bär,' which in 1765 was increased by the addition of the 'silberne Bär.'

In 1745 Breitkopf gave up the printing business to his only son, and in 1765 the firm became B. C. Breitkopf & Son. On March 26, 1777 the old man died, aged 83. He had raised himself from a common printer to be the head of the first printing establishment in Germany, and he also had the happiness, which Gottsched had predicted, of seeing himself eclipsed by his son. The son, Johann Gottlob Immanuel, born Nov. 23, 1719, devoted himself with ardour, while a lad, to the acquirement of learning, leaving professional knowledge till later. His acquirements in literature were developed by intercourse with such scholars as Lessing and Winkelmann. He laboured to improve the practice of printing, and with that view wrote several papers. By the introduction of separate movable music type he produced, as early as 1750, a revolution in the music trade. In 1756 the first fruits of his innovations appeared in the shape of a splendid edition of an opera in full score, and in 3 vols., entitled 'II trionfo della fedeltà, dramma per musica di E. T. P. A.' (the initials of Ermelinda Talia Pastorella Arcada, a name assumed for the occasion by Antonia Amalia Walburga, Princess of Saxony). After this, Breitkopf published a long series of important compositions by C. P. E. Bach, Graun, Hiller, Leopold Mozart, etc. He had hardly begun to realise the results of his invention in the music trade when his energy found a new channel. During the Seven Years War (1756–63) he had organised on a large scale a warehouse of German, English, French, and Italian music, both MS. and printed, and had started a special trade in music, through the publication of systematic descriptive catalogues referring to his stock, and embracing the whole field of musical literature. Between 1760 and 80 he issued catalogues of printed music, both theoretical and practical, in six parts; of MS. music in four parts; and a third (especially important for the history of music)—a thematic catalogue of MS. music only, in 5 parts, with 16 supplements (1762–87). His activity was absolutely unceasing. In 1770 he founded a manufactory of playing cards (which he sold in 1782), a coloured paper manufactory, a bookselling business in Dresden and another in Bautzen. He died Jan. 29, 1794, honoured as the reformer of the music trade, and secure of a place in the history of the art of printing. His portrait is extremely interesting. The well-formed head, the speaking eye, the intelligent features, show intellectual power and strong will. Immanuel had two sons, who learned the printer's craft from their father. Bernhard Theodor (born 1749), was musician enough to compose some pretty music to Goethe's 'Jugendlieder' in 1769. He went in 1777 to Russia, and founded a printing office and bookselling business in Petersburg—was teacher in an institution for the education of girls, and died at a great age as Russian 'Staats-Rath.' His second son, Christoph Gottlob (born 1750), remained with his father. He was an amiable dilettante, to whom the burden of his vast business was intolerable; after carrying it on therefore for a year he gave it up to his friend G. C. Härtel, at the same time making him his heir. He died much lamented in 1800, the last scion of a gifted race. Since then the business, though entirely in Hartel's hands, has been conducted under the well-known title of Breitkopf & Härtel.

Gottfried Christoph Härtel, son of Dr. Christoph Härtel, Burgomaster of Schneeberg, was born there Jan. 27, 1763. Having given up his former occupation, he applied himself with vigour to improve the business by undertaking the publication of musical works of the highest order. Thus he brought out the works of Mozart in 17 vols. (1798–1816); of Haydn in 12 vols. (1800–1806); of Clementi in 13 vols. (1800–1818); and of Dussek in 12 (1814–1818)—an undertaking which was the forerunner of many popular and critical collected editions. Härtel also started the 'Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung,' which long maintained its position as the best musical periodical, and advocated the interests of music from 1798 to 1848; he further published a literary paper, the 'Leipziger Literatur-Zeitung' (1812–1834), enlarged his stock of music and books, and made various practical improvements in printing. Amongst other things he introduced the system of engraving music on pewter plates, to which in 1805 he added a lithographic establishment, with the personal co-operation of Sennefelder, the inventor. Procuring workmen from Vienna, he next started the first factory of pianos in central Germany. Being a man of great cultivation and refinement, such constant absorption in business was not to his taste, but he accepted the task which fate had laid upon him, and executed it faithfully till his death on July 25, 1827.

Up to 1835 the business was carried on by his nephew Florenz Härtel. But at that date Hermann Härtel, the eldest son of Gottfried (born April 27, 1803), entered the house as head, in partnership with his younger brother Raymund, who had joined in 1832. Hermann's fine character had been improved by an excellent education; he read law, and took his doctors' degree in 1828, and his love of art had been cultivated by a two years' residence in Italy. Both in public and private life he was a man of noble disposition and true culture. The brothers lived to see a remarkable spread of taste, and to publish many works of Mendelssohn, Schumann, Chopin, and other eminent modern composers; they brought out new editions of Schubert, Weber, and Hummel. Their catalogue up to 1874 included over 14,000 works, extending over the whole range of music. In 1866 they began the issue of a series of cheap editions of classical works in red covers, which are now widely known. They assisted in the formation of the Bach-Gesellschaft, which, like the companion Handel Society, owes much to their energy, taste, and accuracy. In 1862 they projected a complete critical edition in score and parts of the works of Beethoven, which was completed in 1866, and is now (1876) being followed by a similar edition of Mendelssohn.

The list of their publications contains treatises by Kiesewetter and others on the history of music, important works by Tucher and Winterfeld on the church music of Germany; biographies, such as Bach by Spitta, Händel by Chrysander, Mozart by Jahn; thematic catalogues of Beethoven by Nottebohm, and Mozart by Köchel; works on the theory of music by Chladni, Hauptmann, Lobe, Köhler, Marx, Sechter, etc., as well as a long list of publications on literature, law, theology, medicine, natural philosophy, philology, archæology, etc., etc. The practical part of the business has increased so much that the Goldene Bär was in 1867 exchanged for a much larger building. By 1871 the printing had developed to such an extent that it became necessary to use the space formerly occupied by the pianoforte manufactory. Since the death of Hermann [App. p.562 "Aug. 4, 1875"], Raymund, youngest son of Gottfried (born June 9, 1810), has been at the head of the house, assisted by two grandsons of Gottfried's—Wilhelm Volkmann and Dr. Georg Oscar Immanuel Hase [App. p.562 "Raymund Härtel retired from business in 1880, leaving the two grandsons of Gottfried at the head of affairs" App. p.819 "Raymund died Nov. 10, 1888"]. It is for these gentlemen to complete the edition of Mendelssohn, and to crown the great undertakings already enumerated, by the edition of Mozart's great works in score which they have already announced (1876). [See Leipzig.]

[App. p.562 "Since the appearance of the article, the editions of Mendelssohn and Mozart, as well as an edition of Chopin, have been completed; editions, on the same scale, of Palestrina and Schumann, are in an advanced state, and a similar issue of the works of Schütz, Grétry, and Schubert has been undertaken. The 'Jahrbücher für Musikalische Wissenschaft' (see vol. ii. 30) were discontinued in 1867, after the appearance of the second volume; their place has been taken by a 'Viertel-jahrschrift für Musikwissenschaft,' edited by Dr. Chrysander, Professor Spitta, and Herr Guido Adler, which has been published quarterly since 1885. A supplementary volume to the complete edition of Beethoven's works is announced (1887)."]

(The above is taken by kind permission from papers in the archives of the firm.)

[ C. F. P. ]