The roots of Chester Music stretch back to the 1860s when John and William Chester became the first owners of the then Brighton-based company. In the early days the company specialised in the distribution of imported overseas editions of classical music. It was Chester’s reputation in Europe early in the twentieth century that attracted it to its new owner, Otto Kling, and to the many continental composers whom Chester was amongst the first to publish, including Stravinsky, Poulenc and Falla.
As the century progressed, Chester moved its offices to London and its reputation grew as a vibrant company interested in both contemporary music and educational publishing. In the second half of the century, firstly under the ownership of Edition Wilhelm Hansen and, since 1988 as part of the Music Sales Group, the company has consolidated its international reputation in two specific areas – as a publisher of the finest of contemporary classical composers (Lutoslawski, Tavener, Weir, Saariaho, Salonen and Henze amongst many others) as well as of the leading composers writing for not only the concert hall but also for film and other media (including Nyman, Glass, Pook, Talbot, Einaudi and Yared).
Although Vincent Novello began publishing editions of church music under his own name in 1811, the company did not operate until 1829, administered from offices in London by his son Joseph Alfred. From there it grew rapidly, establishing a virtual monopoly in low-cost mass sales of choral music, bringing to the English speaking world performing editions of Bach, Handel, Haydn and Mendelssohn and a multitude of contemporaries, later publishing individual choral works by Dvorák, Gounod and Saint-Saëns.
The Novellos had scholarly aspirations, instituting the Purcell Edition in 1832 and buying The Musical Times in 1844, the first of a number of influential periodicals they were eventually to publish.
Educational publishing remained an important part of the catalogue throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Elgar was the first internationally acknowledged composer signed to Novello, followed by Bliss, Dyson, Holst, Howells and Moeran. From the 1970s, the list increased, with important signings like R.R. Bennett, Bush, Frankel, Horovitz, Joubert, Leighton, McCabe and Musgrave. Novello bought Elkin & Co in 1961 bringing Scott and Quilter works to the catalogue, and the purchase of Paterson’s Publications in 1989 contributed many works by Malcolm Arnold. Novello joined the Music Sales Group in 1993 and maintains its historic role as both major choral publisher and purveyor of new music.