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Leading German publishing house, founded in 1800 in Leipzig, and acquired by Carl Friedrich Peters in 1814.

Correspondence with Schenker

Twenty-four physical items of correspondence are known to survive between Peters and Schenker, amounting to twenty-two distinct communications, not all of which were sent. These are preserved as OJ 5/28 (Schenker to Peters, 3 items, undated, 1913, 1934--all unsent); in the Sächsisches Archiv, Leipzig (Schenker to Peters, 5 items, 1913-30); OC 1 (Schenker to Peters, 18-23, 30-39: carbon copies of 2 Sächsisches Archiv items; 65-66: carbon copy); OJ 13/17 (Peters to Schenker, 11 items, 1897-1928, cf. OJ 59/14, which contains a transcript of a non-extant item, thus bringing this sequence up to 12); OC B/278 (Peters to Schenker, 1 item, 1921).

Dealings with Schenker

On April 20, 1897, Schenker offered three of his compositions ("Fünf Klavierstücke, Op. 1" and "Legende und zwei Scherzi, Op. 2") to Peters for prospective publication. Peters asked to inspect them, but rejected them (described now as "Klavierstücke, Op. 1-3") on April 27. Peters ultimately did not publish any of Schenker's compositions.

On September 10, 1913, Schenker was approached by Peters with a view to his producing an edition of selected Beethoven piano sonatas, to which he sent a twelve-page reply on September 18 making stipulations about the commentaries to the putative editions, followed by a nineteen-page letter on October 29 proposing the "Moonlight," "Waldstein," "Appassionata," and "Les Adieux" sonatas, and the E-minor sonata Op. 90, and proposing the honorarium. Two months later, communications were severed when it dawned on Peters that Schenker already had extensive dealings with Universal Edition. This correspondence is reported in detail also in Schenker's diary.

Seven years later, on March 25, 1920, Schenker wrote (and on the same day almost identically to J. G. Cotta of Stuttgart, and Breitkopf & Härtel of Leipzig) what amounts to a prospectus for his planned Kleine Bibliothek , as well as seeking their interest in a complete edition of the Beethoven piano sonatas, only to receive an outright rejection of both plans six days later (and from the other two houses within the next few days).

There were further exchanges of letters in 1930 regarding the scores of two concertos by J. C. Bach and in 1933-34 regarding an edition of J. S. Bach Inventions.

Schenker's Attitude toward Peters

In the 1913 correspondence, Schenker considered Peters' initial approach "inappropriately lordly," and its final letter full of "arrogance" and "charlatanerie." He later commented to Hertzka at UE: So you might ask yourself why I cheerfully forewent 12,000-15,000 Kronen from Peters, who asked me for some Beethoven sonatas replete with footnotes. Peters certainly did not understand me when I tried to make abundantly clear to him that I prefer to subject myself to hard work and the exaction of proof, rather than put together an edition on the level of Artur Schnabel, Carl Flesch and others that will already require a new edition in five-to-ten years' time. I would have been able effortlessly to have fashioned footnotes a thousand times better and more ample for the requested sonatas, given my intimate acquaintance with the material, and done it all within a year, and nevertheless I turned the proposal down. (draft letter, OJ 5/16, [2], May 1914; final letter, modified, WSLB 211)

And he later remarked: "If only Peters had had the intelligence to invite me to provide not just fingerings but 'elucidations'"! (letter to Hertzka, WSLB 236, January 18, 1915). The same letter reveals Schenker's disillusionment with Austria and re-evaluation of Germany: "So why is it that the Austrian publishing companies up to now (notwithstanding Doblinger [and] Robitschek are certainly filthy rich businessmen) have none of the quality that the German ones do; why, I ask, if not the failure to recognize the material importance of great authors?" His estimate of the great Leipzig publishing houses rose steadily at the cost of UE.


  • Marko Deisinger and Ian Bent

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