Arguably the longest established name in the history of American music, G. Schirmer Music Publishers, Importers and Dealers grew out of the New York-based Kerksieg and Bruesing Company, founded in 1848. The German immigrant Gustav Schirmer had managed Kerksieg and Bruesing since 1854, taking it over in 1861 with Bernard Beer whose interest he eventually bought out in 1866 to establish G. Schirmer Music Publishers, Importers and Dealers. As the 20th century dawned, G. Schirmer, Inc. had already become internationally esteemed, not only as a publisher of 18th and 19th century music, but as a champion and publisher of contemporary works. Schirmer’s catalogue expanded in 1964 to include Associated Music Publishers, and in 1986 both companies joined the Music Sales Group.
Today the Schirmer and AMP catalogues include America’s finest living composers from the elder statesmen (Carter, Husa, Previn, and Schuller) through today’s leaders (Adams, Corigliano, Harbison, Kernis, Riley, Sheng, Tan Dun, Thomas and Tower) to the youngest generation. The catalogue also includes many of the most often performed American operas of the 20th and 21st centuries (by Adamo, Catán and Menotti, among others). More than a third of the Pulitzer Prize awards for music have been won by Schirmer or AMP composers.
G. Schirmer and AMP also publish the music of Barber, Cowell, Ellington, Gould, Ives, Kirchner, Lieberson, Piston, Schoenberg, Schuman and Thomson. Additionally, Schirmer is the American publisher of the works of Gubaidulina, Kancheli, Kabalevsky, Khachaturian, Prokofiev, Schnittke, and Shostakovich and agents for Red Poppy Music, the catalogue of Michael Gordon, David Lang and Julia Wolfe.
The Hal Leonard Corporation is the exclusive print distributor to music dealers for works published by G. Schirmer/AMP.
Laborum Dulce Lenimen
"Sweet solace of my labors," a quotation
from Horace's ode to his lyre
It would be impossible to chronicle the history of music in the United States without including the role of G. Schirmer, Inc. — the oldest continuously active North American music publisher. Since its founding, G. Schirmer has been an influential force in music. Established at a time when American music was limited largely to hymns, anthems and folk tunes, G. Schirmer introduced the great compositions of 18th and 19th century Europe to the United States, publishing this country's first quality editions. G. Schirmer's growth has paralleled the history of contemporary music, becoming the United States' foremost music printer and one of the most respected music publishers in the world — nearly half of the Pulitzer Prizes in Music Composition have been given to composers published by G. Schirmer/AMP.
A leader in advancing contemporary concert music, G. Schirmer has continually sought out, sponsored and published important new talents and new sounds. It has had the foresight to perceive significant trends and the courage to exert its influence for new musical causes. It continues to support excellence in today's eclectic music landscape.
Above all, G. Schirmer has been a driving force in the dissimination of serious music composition in North America — creating a vehicle for gifted composers to communicate their art, and enabling American music to be heard across the globe.
At its beginning, the company was an outgrowth of the Kerksieg & Bruesing Company (founded 1848). In 1854, a young German immigrant named Gustav Schirmer became the company's manager. Schirmer had emigrated from Germany in 1837 — Schirmer's father and grandfather had been instrument makers and piano tuners.
In 1861, Gustav Schirmer (along with his colleague, Bernard Beer) took over the business, and in 1866 Schirmer bought out Beer's stake and established G. Schirmer Music Publishers, Importers and Dealers.
In the late 19th century, music publishing was almost totally dependant upon European composers and artists. Early on G. Schirmer established a reputation for recognition of new American composers and musical trends. As the 20th century dawned, G. Schirmer, Inc. had already become internationally esteemed, not only as a publisher of 18th and 19th century music, but as a champion and publisher of contemporary works. Tchaikovsky, in his journal of his 1891 trip to the United States recounted as a highlight his visit to Schirmer. In that same year, G. Schirmer established its own engraving and printing plant (one of the few maintained by an American music publishing house). In 1892 it inaugurated Schirmer's Library of Musical Classics, classic-works collections respected for careful editing and typographical excellence, and recognized the world-over by their distinctive, ornate green border and bright yellow cover.
Gustav Schirmer died in 1893. His sons, Rudolph Edward and Gustave took over management in 1892. By the 1900s, G. Schirmer was in the forefront of musical culture introducing compositions of the French school, including Gabriel Faure, to American audiences.
As well, G. Schirmer published such notable turn-of-the-century American composers as Edward MacDowell, Arthur Farwell and Horatio Parker.
Music education was a major concern of Rudolph Schirmer. Heavily involved in attempts to expand musical training facilities, he participated in the planning and negotiations for the establishment in 1904 of the Institute of Musical Art, now part of The Juilliard School of Music.
In 1915, G. Schirmer began to publish The Musical Quarterly, one of the most widely respected and scholarly musicological journals in the world. Its original editor, Oscar Sonneck, was then the first chief of the Music Division of the Library of Congress, a post he left in 1917 to become director of the Publication Department of G. Schirmer.
Carl Engel, Paris-born composer and musicologist, headed G. Schirmer from 1929 until his death in 1944. Founder of the Library of Congress Archives of American Folksong, Engel also founded Schirmer’s extensive catalog of folk music materials, to which he brought such collectors and composers as John Jacob Niles.
In the late 1940s, the company again broke new musical ground when Hans Heinsheimer (author of several anecdotal books on musical life in the early 20th century), then director of symphonic and operatic repertory at Schirmer, persuaded prominent composers and writers to create operatic works especially for school and community performance — works within the technical and musical reach of trained amateurs.
In 1964, Schirmer acquired Associated Music Publishers (BMI) which had built up an important catalog of American composers including Elliott Carter, Henry Cowell, Roy Harris, Charles Ives, Walter Piston, and William Schuman. This acquisition added to Schirmer's ASCAP roster which included Samuel Barber, Leonard Bernstein, Morton Gould, Gian Carlo Menotti, and Virgil Thomson, as well as composers from the earlier part of the century such as Charles Tomlinson Griffes, Charles Martin Loeffler, John Alden Carpenter, and Percy Grainger.
The company was owned by the Schirmer family for over 100 years until MacMillan, a major book publisher, purchased it in 1968. MacMillan sold G. Schirmer to its current owner, The Music Sales Corporation, in 1986. In that same year, the Hal Leonard Corporation became the exclusive print distributor for works published by G. Schirmer.
The G. Schirmer/AMP catalog includes one of the largest rosters of living American composers including Marc Adamo, Daniel Catan, John Corigliano, Richard Danielpour, Avner Dorman, Gabriela Lena Frank, Jay Greenberg, John Harbison, Rob Kapilow, Aaron Jay Kernis, Leon Kirchner, Peter Lieberson, Andre Previn, Gunther Schuller, Bright Sheng, Nathaniel Stookey, Tan Dun, Augusta Read Thomas, Joan Tower, and Yehudi Wyner, among many others.
In addition to the composers published by G. Schirmer/AMP, the company also distributes the music of several important American composers who maintain their own publishing companies, including Philip Glass (Dunvagen Music), Michael Tilson Thomas (Kongcha Music), and the three founders of Bang On A Can: Michael Gordon, David Lang, and Julia Wolfe (Red Poppy).
In 1999 G. Schirmer/AMP acquired the compositions and related rights to works published by the Margun Music (BMI) and GunMar (ASCAP) catalogues, which contains works by Gunther Schuller, William Russo, and others.
Through the Musical Sales Corporation, G. Schirmer/AMP's affiliated publishing companies are: Chester Music Ltd, Novello & Co Ltd, Edition Wilhelm Hansen, G. Schirmer (Australia) Pty Limited, and Union Musical Ediciones. Together, this group of publishing companies currently publishes or administrates the music of over 1,400 composers worldwide, including Simon Bainbridge, Peter Maxwell Davies, Hans Werner Henze, Magnus Lindberg, Nico Muhly, Thea Musgrave, Per Nørgård, Michael Nyman, Tarik O'Regan, Poul Ruders, Kaija Saariaho, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Bent Sørensen, Joby Talbot, John Tavener, Rolf Wallin, Judith Weir, and Eric Whitacre.