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Boosey and Hawkes: The Publishing Story
Helen Wallace is consultant editor of the BBC Music Magazine, having been the editor of that publication from 1999-2004. In Boosey and Hawkes, the Publishing Story, Wallace has written a readable account. Though I found the small print to be a strain at times (I read the book during a very long air journey), the narrative offers much important and fascinating background to the history of the publication and promotion of serious music in Britain during the last 80 years.
Lesley Boosey and Ralph Hawkes merged their rival businesses in 1930. They then signed Bartok, Strauss, Britten and Copland, and acquired Serge Koussevitzky's Russian catalogue with its masterpieces by Stravinsky, Rachmaninoff and Prokofieff. Rapidly, the company had offices all over the world. To this day, B&H remains an important force in serious music.
Wallace concentrates on the serious music side of the business as it was run from London. The history of Boosey and Hawkes as an instrument manufacturer - a story of interest to all clarinettists - is dealt with in this volume only when it directly affected the publishing business. Nevertheless, the fortunes of contemporary composers and publishers have great bearing on the professional lives of single-reed players. Much of interest and relevance is revealed, including a particularly valuable account of the period from 1945 onwards. The characters involved including Bartók, Britten (whose annual royalties had reached £41,000 by 1963), Copland, Strauss and Stravinsky. Their various relationships were always lively, and sometimes frosty.
Of course, the tale doesn't end there. The account continues to 2005 and the 70th birthday celebrations for Steve Reich. Included here are John Adams, Harrison Birtwistle, Elliott Carter, Karl Jenkins, James MacMillan and Mark-Anthony Turnage, together with the Australian composer Don Banks - whom Wallace wrongly describes as American!
Wallace is to be congratulated on creating a useful addition to the reference library of twentieth-century music.
John Robert Brown
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