Publisher Spotlight: Boosey & Hawkes

Boosey & Hawkes is the largest specialist classical music publishing company in the world, with offices in New York, London and Berlin. Their impressive catalog contains some of the most popular composers of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Learn what else makes Boosey & Hawkes unique from other publishers in our interview below.

Q: When was Boosey & Hawkes founded?

Boosey & Hawkes was formed in 1930 when two long established London companies joined forces rather than continuing to compete. Boosey & Company had been founded in the 1760s when John Boosey opened a music lending library, expanding with pioneering inexpensive editions of the classics and acquiring the rights to works by Rossini, Bellini, Donizetti and Verdi. Its rival, Hawkes & Son, was set up by William Henry Hawkes in 1865, concentrating on band and orchestral music publishing and the manufacture of instruments. The company directors at the time of the merger, Leslie Boosey and Ralph Hawkes, soon established Boosey & Hawkes on the international publishing scene, signing composers including Bartók, Britten, Stravinsky, Copland and Richard Strauss.

Q: Who are the people at Boosey & Hawkes? What are your backgrounds?

Most people who work at Boosey & Hawkes have a lively interest in music, and the majority have been classically trained, either through university studies or through playing an instrument or singing. As well as being engaged with the music we publish and supporting our roster of leading composers, staff members often spend their leisure time pursuing amateur music making in London and surrounding areas. The same goes for our offices in New York and Berlin.

Q: Once Boosey & Hawkes decides to publish a piece, how long does it take to be printed and available for sale?

That depends on what the piece is. Music can be turned around very quickly if a theme becomes a hit on film or TV – it can be on digital sale within days. On the other hand, highly complex music by some of our composers needs painstaking editing and revision before the final score can be prepared and available for sale. An unusual case was an early piece by Stravinsky, Funeral Song, which was assumed lost after its premiere in 1909. It was rediscovered in St Petersburg in 2015 and performed again last year – the score is being published for sale next month, after a wait of 108 years.

Q: What makes Boosey & Hawkes stand out from other publishers?

Perhaps it has been the combination of historic skills in music publishing with a modern entrepreneurial attitude toward the nurturing of composing talent, particularly in the 20th century and through to today. The world’s leading classical composers aspire to be in the same Boosey & Hawkes covers as Stravinsky and they know they will enjoy high quality editions alongside personal promotion with the latest e-marketing and social media.

Q: What are your best-sellers?

Best-selling piano music extends from Rachmaninoff and Prokofieff through to Bartók, whose Mikrokosmos remains an educational classic. On the choral side the music of Karl Jenkins has traveled the world, with The Armed Man: A Mass for Peace attracting over 2000 performances since its premiere in 1999 – that’s a lot of vocal scores. Leonard Bernstein’s much-loved music sells widely and will feature extensively around the globe in his centennial year of 2018, including Chichester Psalms and arrangements of songs from his musicals.

Mikrokosmos, Volume 1 (Pink)

Vocal Score for The Armed Man: A Mass for Peace

Vocal Score for Chichester Psalms

Q: What might someone be surprised to learn about Boosey & Hawkes? The history of music publishing is an entertaining journey, full of dramatic twists and turns! This came home when Helen Wallace wrote her book about Boosey & Hawkes, released in 2007. The Financial Times reviewer described the “Rivalry, romance, jealousy and generational change: the Boosey story is a ripping yarn worthy of a novel, if not a grand opera”, while BBC Music Magazine thought the book “a surprisingly gripping narrative. For those who wonder what really goes on in music publishing, it offers a fascinating read.”


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