Category Archives: Publishers

Comments on the music publishing business

Heinrich Strecker vs Franz Sobotka

‘Helene… Helene..!’ by Heinrich Strecker, words by Alfred Steinberg-Frank. Published by Elite, Vienna in 1921 and illustrated by Camillo Kubicek.

Heinrich Strecker (1893-1981)  is an Austrian composer. He was born in Vienna but was educated in Belgium in a Catholic school run by German brothers. Strecker would later remember his school years: “Given my extraordinary musical talent my teachers gave me free lessons in piano, cello, tenor horn, trumpet, flugelhorn, horn, trombone and organ. Besides I was trained to play the violin upon a master level. I was soon regarded not only as the best musician but also as the best singer of the school. No feast day went by without me singing Gregorian chants as a soloist in Church or performing before the highest ecclesiastical and secular dignitaries like the King of the Belgians for whom I played, as a climax, my own composition, a violin concerto.” Ahem…

heinrich strecher
Heinrich Strecker in a rebel-like pose, s.d., source:

In 1910 Strecker returned to Vienna and would become the self-proclaimed saviour of the Wienerlieder (Viennese Songs). Wienerlieder were critical, ironic, funny songs about life in and around Vienna, sung in the local dialect and blending humour with melancholy. These popular songs had known their heyday in the 19th century’s last quarter. According to Strecker the Wienerlied had little chance against the modern foxtrot: “Publishers had only a pitying smile for my futile struggle for the dying Wienerlied”. Still, Heinrich Strecker sensed the financial potential of its revival and in 1922 founded his own music publishing company, the Wiener Excelsior VerlagHe composed operettas and hundreds of songs which “glorified Vienna and began their triumphal march throughout the world”.

excelsior strecker
The covers of four Heinrich Strecker songs published by his own company Wiener Excelsior Verlag in 1924 and illustrated by Gabor Ferenchich.

We are coming to the gist of our story. In 1933 Strecker became member of the NSDAP, the German Nazi party. At that time the Austrian government tried to suppress National Socialism, and his Nazi affiliation cost Heinrich Strecker six months of detention in 1936. After his release he conveniently made an extended tour in Germany. Strecker returned to his homeland in 1938, right after the Anschluss. Our composer welcomed this annexation of Austria to the German Reich with two songs: Deutsch-Österreich ist frei! and Wach auf Deutsche Wachau. This last song became also known as the Ostmarklied, ‘Ostmark being the new Nazi name for Austria.  The words of the song allow little doubt as to Strecker’s sympathies:

     Von Burg zu Burg die Frage geht,
     wann denn die Ostmark aufersteht,
     ob auch der Bruder endlich heimwärts fand,
     heim in das große Vaterland?
     From castle to castle the question spreads,
     when will Ostmark rise again,
     whether the brother finally found home,
     back into the great fatherland?

No wonder that this Ostmarklied became a Nazi battle song. The same ‘honour’ also befell Heimat, another one of Strecker’s successes.

‘Heimat’ by Heirich Strecker, published by Wiener Excelsior Verlag, Vienna in 1927 and illustrated by H. Woyty-Wimmer.

Tellingly, it was in Bremen (Germany) that his operetta The Eternal Waltz premiered in February 1938. Not until three months later, after the Anschluss, could Strecker triumph its premiere at the Vienna Volksoper. By that time Nazi rules already had started the persecution in the Austrian musical world. Jews were prohibited to own commercial enterprises. The work of Jewish composers and authors were banned: performances were prohibited as was the sale of their sheet music. Their printed scores were destroyed or marked as unavailable.

wo bist du
Wo bist du mein schönes Wien! by Heinrich Strecker, lyrics by Alfred Steinberg-Frank. Published by Lyra Verlag in 1920.

Barely three months after the annexation, Heinrich Strecker became vice president of AKM, the music copyright agency. It was then already fully compliant with Nazi rules. Earlier, in March 1938, AKM’s council had been dismissed and a Commissar Chairman appointed. Immediately a questionnaire had been sent to all members asking racial and religious questions. In June of the same year the AKM was replaced by STAGMA, the society for musical performing rights from Nazi Germany. STAGMA was administered by the Reichsmusikkammer directed by Joseph Goebbels.

Booklet with the members of the AKM. ‘A’ stands for Autoren (authors), ‘K’ for Komponisten (composers) and ‘M’ for Musikverleger (music publishers). Stamped by Stagma – Vienna City Library.

In 1939, in a booklet containing an AKM membership directory someone deleted the names of Jewish members by hand with a neat red line. The legend written on the booklet reads: ‘- = Jüden’. These were to be blacklisted!  A handwritten note inside this booklet chillingly explains that some members had not yet been crossed off because they had not submitted their completed questionnaires, asking them about their race.

‘According to a notice from STAGMA, some of the persons whose name is deleted with a red line are Jews. The crossing out did not take place because these persons did not submit the questionnaire.’

Franz Sobotka, a Viennese music publisher owning several companies, was part of the list but his name was not deleted. Nonetheless in mid-May, the month in which Strecker was attending the premiere of his operetta, Sobotka fled Vienna with Hermine, his Jewish wife. He had heard that his family was at risk of imminent arrest by the Gestapo. They crossed the border to Czechoslovakia and reached the safety of Karlsbad (Karlovy Vary). Later Strecker will do away with the Sobotka’s refuge as a ‘health cure’.

Two covers of a monthly magazine published by Sirius Verlag, belonging to Franz Sobotka. The left one is illustrated by Krommer in 1929. The right one is from 1932.

From Karlsbad, the family emigrated to New York. Sobotka’s car was confiscated and he was expropriated of a great deal of his assets. In 1939 Heinrich Strecker acquired the publishing companies (Bristol Verlag, Sirius and Europaton) which belonged to his ‘long-time friend’ Franz Sobotka for a paltry sum. At that time the companies had 18 employees and totalled a significant revenue. Strecker merged Sobotka’s companies together with his own to form the ‘Am Schubertring Verlag’.

Two scores published by Am Schubertring Verlag, established by Strecker in 1939. The left one is illustrated by MA in 1940, and the right one by Woyty Wimmer in 1939.

While Sobotka was forced to rebuild his life in New York, Strecker was successfully performing in Austria, with many sold-out evenings. In 1942 he was able to buy a castle-like villa.

Villa Strecker, located in Baden about 26 km south of Vienna. The villa boasts a cast-iron veranda porch, coming from the Austrian Pavilion in the Paris Exposition.

At the end of the war Strecker fled from Vienna. In 1946 he was accused of high treason for illegal activity, abusive enrichment and insult to the dignity of the librettist Alfred Steinberg-Frank. Streckers publishing house was placed in the custody of the American Property Control: Franz Sobotka, now a US citizen, reclaimed his properties and accused Strecker of taking over his editions under the guise of aryanisation. Aryanisation meant confiscation or forced sale far below the real value. The exchange of letters between Strecker, Sobotka and the American Property Control is made public by Fold3, an online collection of original US military records. The scanned, typewritten letters make a fascinating read.

Two covers by Edition Bristol, Vienna. Left illustrated by Ernst Deutsch-Dryden in 1923 and right illustrated by Lunzer in 1930.

Strecker’s defence is a litany of self-pity, presenting himself as a victim of the German ‘occupation’ and of unfortunate circumstances. Like so many other Austrians he refused to acknowledge that he had participated in the persecution of Jews. He denied ever being a member of the Nazi Party: it was his father, conveniently also called Heinrich, who had been a member. He himself ‘was persecuted by the Nazis’. Strecker enumerated his countless successes as a composer and blamed slander by jealous people for his present situation: “Viennese art was my goal, glory my companion, and I was envied by the yapping pack of incompetents as is often the case for successful artists.” In his defence Strecker recounts how in 1944 he got into trouble with a Nazi rival and subsequently his business was closed down. He also argues that he worked closely together with Jewish artists. Which is true: he created for example several songs together with Alfred Steinberg-Frank, who would later accuse him in 1946. Strecker also argues that Goebbels wanted to destroy the Wienerlied. Thus Strecker having been its “pioneer, front runner and king, he also had to fall”.

The Strecker Home Page
The home page of the Heinrich Strecker Bühnen- ind Musikverlag (2015)

Strecker declared that after hearing about the aryanisation by Goebbels of several music publishers (Universal Edition, Josef Blaha Verlag, Figaro Verlag, Josef Weinberger Verlag and Friedrich Hofmeister Verlag) he wanted to save at least one Viennese publishing house, namely Bristol Verlag. The perfidious argument of Strecker was that he couldn’t  be accused of aryanisation because Sobotka wasn’t a Jew, but an ‘Aryan’. Also part of his defence was his allegation that due to Sobotka’s manipulations he had bought an almost worthless business. Or in Streckers words: “by being so magnanimous I had suffered a terrible ordeal”.

sobotka strecker
Declassified document concerning the USA Property Control case Strecker-Sobotka.

Never in all the letters and accounts did Strecker show a hint of empathy with the Sobotka family who had been forced to flee and had been stripped of its possessions. He was ultimately convicted for high treason. Heinrich Strecker asked for clemency, and  in 1950 after a few years of being ostracised, he was reintegrated and rehabilitated. For three decades he continued his work, public activity and lived in the Villa Strecker with his third wife Erika, who is 45 years his junior.

Austria gradually comes to terms with its Nazi past. In 2013 Austrian president Fisher said: “the crimes of Hitler’s Third Reich could not have taken place without the help of the ‘countless perpetrators, accomplices, informants and Aryanisers’ who worked as cogs in the Nazi machine”.

kennst du wien
Kennst du Wien? by Josef Sirowy, lyrics by Alfred Steinberg-Frank, published by Edition Bristol, Vienna, New-York in 1949.

Further reading: Carla Shapreau

The other side of sheet music: illustrated catalogues

Publicity for Salabert records by Roger de Valerio
Publicity for Editions Francis Salabert by Roger de Valerio on the back of a 1924 sheet music album.

Publishers often use the back cover of sheet music to make their own publicity. But on this last page they also promote their music catalogue or the next hits. We have tried to bring together the different approaches to these catalogue advertisements. Our selection has become a long list, take your time and browse at your ease. But don’t hesitate to click here and there: some advertisements are precious gems in all their details… Feast your eyes!

Catalog publicity for publisher Mascheroni. Illustrated by Gilbàs
Example of a back cover with publicity for the music catalogue. Here illustrator Gilbàs uses modernistic typography to create a dynamic and attractive layout for the Mascheroni music catalogue (Milano, ca. 1925).
Illustration of back cover by Barabandy and H. Viollet.
Two back covers in Art Nouveau style showing the readers the first bars of the songs. Illustrated by Ricardo Barabandy (left) and H. Viollet (right) ca. 1900. Click images to enlarge.
Illustration by Eugene Grasset and Adolphe Giraldon (sheet music; partitions musicales)
Two illustrated catalogues for publisher Lemoine in Paris. The symbolist ornaments and foliage pattern on the left is from Eugène Grasset, the one on the right with thistles and lyre is from Adolphe Giraldon (ca. 1900). Have a look at the title of the first work of Emile Pessard in the right catalogue. Circassian beauties really must have fascinated more than one composer!
Late 19th-century illustrated catalogs from Musikalische Volksbibliothek (Berlin) and from Emile Benoit (Paris)
Late 19th-century illustrated catalogues. These are from the back covers of sheet music published by Alfred Michow (Berlin, on the left) and Au Métronome (Paris, on the right).
Left: the German illustrator worked out a very narrative view of the catalog.
Left: the German illustrator detailed a very narrative view of the catalogue of his client. On the right, the music catalogue (Costallat) is inventively shown as sheet music richly decorating the walls of a bourgeois interior. Two ladies of the house prepare themselves at the piano, setting the tone for a cosy atmosphere. Both illustrator and printer achieved an amazing level of detail!
Back covers of sheet music illustrated by P. Schumann and J. Vals
On both back covers,musicians are supposed to enliven the advertised catalogue. On the left, a ballroom illustration for Bosworth & Co by P. Schumann (s.d.). Right, a fine Barcelonese jester drawn by J. Vals (1925).
Two decorative back covers for publishers Maillochon in Paris (illustrated in Art Deco style by Choppy) and
Decorated back covers for publishers Maillochon in Paris (illustrated in Art Deco style by Choppy, on the left) and Stöppler in Wiesbaden (on the right, with a butterfly fairy drawn by the Australian children book illustrator Ida Rentoul Outhwaite).
Also the Italian publisher Carisch & C. and the French Max Eschig used to promote their offer of sheet music on the back cover. On the left a lively jazzband drawn by Ruolinari (s.d.), on the right another jazzband with stereotyped black musicians (illustrator and date unknown).
Also the Italian publisher Carisch and the French Max Eschig used to promote new songs on their back covers. On the left, a lively jazzband drawn by Ruolinari (s.d.), on the right another jazzband with stereotyped black musicians (illustrator and date unknown).
Sheet Music from Roehr (illustrator unknown) and Charles Brüll (illustrated by Michaelis)
More back covers with a musical theme to ornate the music catalogue. Left, sheet music from Roehr Edition (unknown illustrator) and, right, publicity for Charles Brüll (illustrated by H. Michaelis, s.d.).
Two very similar back covers using a stage announcer (or singer?). Figaro Verlag on the left, and Wiener Excelsior Verlag on the right (both unsigned, s.d.)
Plagiarism? Two very similar Austrian back covers, both using the caricature of a master of ceremony. Figaro Verlag on the left, and Wiener Excelsior Verlag on the right (unsigned, s.d.).
Two back covers illustrated by cartoonist Pol Rab, for publishers Pêle-Mêle (left) and Maillochon (right).
Two cheerful back covers illustrated by cartoonist Pol Rab, for publishers Pêle-Mêle (left) and Maillochon (right).
On both these back covers women in festive dress are charming us in viewing the music catalogs of publishers Jack Mills (left, illustrated by the Starmer brothers) and Les Editions du Music-Hall (right, illustrated by Pol Rab)
On both these back covers women in festive dress are charming us into buying the music catalogues of publishers Jack Mills (left, illustrated by the Starmer brothers) and Les Editions du Music-Hall (right, illustrated by Pol Rab).
Two similar announcements on the back covers of Edizioni Curci (on the left, unknown illustrator) and UFATON Verlag (right, illustrated by Herzig, s.d.).
Two similar announcements of the latest hits on the back covers of Edizioni Curci (on the left, unknown illustrator) and UFATON Verlag (right, illustrated by Herzig, s.d.).
Both these accordeon music publishers keep their advertisement rather simple with a typed list of titles.
Both these accordeon music publishers in the North of France (Candson and Marceau) keep their advertisement rather simple with a typed list of titles.
These back covers show a litteral swinging and dynamic music catalog.
For these back covers the illustrators Bonfanti on the left, and Cerutti on the right, chose for a swinging layout and a dynamic photo montage to advertise the musical successes of Carisch and Salabert respectively.
Arturo Bonfanti is too much of an artist not to find creative solutions for promoting the music catalogue of his client (Carish, 1928 and 1930).
We close this post about ‘the other side of sheet music’ with two more of Bonfanti’s merry and inventive illustrations for the back covers of Carisch & Jänischen (1929).

Part of a catalog from publisher Aromando
Detail on the back cover catalogue for publisher Aromando (Milano). Illustrated by Sandro Properzi (s.d.).

Leopoldo Metlicovitz (1868 – 1944)

Enivrement!…‘, by unknown composer and publisher (s.d.); cover illustrated by Leopoldo Metlicovitz.

Love, love, love. We celebrate this romantic day with a tender drawing by Leopoldo Metlicovitz. For years he was the in-house artist for the publisher and printer Ricordi, for whom he created posters and covers for sheet music. Together with fellow artists Hohenstein and Dudovitch, Leopoldo Metlicovitz was representative for the stile Liberty, the Art Nouveau style in Italy around 1900.

Publicity posters by Leopoldo Metlicovitz, 1898 (left) and 1915 (right).
Publicity posters by Leopoldo Metlicovitz, 1898 (left) and 1915 (right).

Metlicovitz’ family was from Dalmatia. He learned drawing and lithographic techniques as a printer’s apprentice in Udinese. Later he moved to the prestigious Casa Ricordi in Milan where he became technical director. Just like other illustrators of sheet music (see the posts on Einar Nerman and Orla Muff) Metlicovitz also set his talents to work for the theatre. He became stage and costume designer for the Scala.

Left: scene from La Bohème as staged in 1896 (source: Ricordi’s archives). Right: Puccini’s sheet music for ‘La Bohème‘, illustrated by L. Metlicovitz , published by Ricordi (Milano, 1917)

The costumes he created for opera’s (a.o. from Puccini and Verdi) were so decorative and colourful that they also cleverly embellished Ricordi’s published music.

A collage of some of the costumes designed by Metlicovitz, and lithographed on the covers of many opera and operette sheet music.

We found the following photograph of the Ricordi family with Giuseppe Verdi, suggesting that Leopoldo Metlicovitz belonged to the circle of family intimates.

Garden of the villa in Sant'Agata, (from left, seated) Maria Carrara Verdi, Barberina Strepponi, Giuseppe Verdi, Giuditta Ricordi,
Garden of the villa in Sant’Agata, (from left, seated) Maria Carrara Verdi, Barberina Strepponi, Giuseppe Verdi, Giuditta Ricordi, (from left, standing) Teresa Stolz, Umberto Campanari, Giulio Ricordi, Leopoldo Metlicovitz, late 19th century. (source:

We close this post with a charming masked lady with a beauty mark (in fact the cover illustration for the sheet music of La Cumparsita) by Leopoldo Metlicovitz. Happy Valentine’s day!