Russian Music Publishing, founded in Moscow in 1992, is the continuer of the traditions of one of the best-known and admired music publishing houses in Russia at the beginning of the twentieth century.
Russian Music Publishing (also known as the Publishing House of S.A. and N.K. Koussevitzky) was registered on the 25th of March 1909. A special Council attached to the Publishing House was concerned with deciding questions of repertoire policy and selecting compositions for publication. The Council was made up at different times of outstanding musicians: S.V. Rachmaninoff, A.N. Skriabin, N.K. Medtner, A.F. Goedike, A.V. Ossovsky, L.L. Sabaneev and P.A. Lamm. The main role in the Council was undoubtedly fulfilled by Rachmaninoff. It was he who suggested the idea of founding such an establishment and who developed the fundamental artistic principles to which the publishing house invariably adhered throughout its existence. These principles were as follows:
The music of Russian Music Publishing was printed in Leipzig by the music printing house of (C. Röder), one of the best establishments of this kind in Europe. I.Ya. Bilibin took part in designing the covers of printed music.
From the very first days of its existence Russian Music Publishing actively promoted Russian music abroad. Branches of the publisher and shops were opened in Berlin, Paris, London, and later New York. In Russia the publishing house had its own shops in Moscow (on Kuznetsky most) and in St. Petersburg (on Mokhovaya Street). Meetings of the Council were held in the Koussevitzkys’ Moscow mansion (whose present address is 8 Lunacharsky Street).
It is essential to stress that there was not a single question in the activities of the publishing house but that was not carefully thought out: this applied to the system for selecting musical compositions, creative relations with composers, artistic design and music printing, distribution and sale of the editions once they were ready.
Strict and rigorous adherence to lofty principles laid down once and for all, and adherence to their own style of activity ensured the striking vitality of the publishing house: we must not forget that it was founded at a time when there were in Russia already highly authoritative publishing houses with long-standing traditions, such as the publishing houses of V. Bessel, P. Jurgenson, A. Gutheil and M. Belyaev.
Nevertheless, the substantially new artistic orientation of Russian Music Publishing attracted the attention of many Russian composers. It was this publishing house which issued for the first time compositions that were destined to become part of the treasure-house of world music: the symphony Prometheus by Skriabin, the ballets Petrouchka and The Rite of Spring by Stravinsky, All-Night Vigil by Rachmaninoff and The Scythian Suite by Prokofiev.
Favourable financial conditions allowed S. Koussevitzky to purchase the music publishing company of A. Gutheil in 1915, and that is why on some publications one can see, along with the trade-mark of Russian Music Publishing, the name of the founder of the recently acquired publishing house in addition.
Russian Music Publishing not only issued musical compositions but also took an interest in works on musical theory and scholarly methods. Thus, in 1913 they issued Rimsky-Korsakov’s ‘Fundamentals of Orchestration with examples in full score drawn from his own compositions’ (edited by M.O. Shteinberg). The plans of the publishing house included the publication of the collective scholarly work ‘Essays on the History of Russian Music’ and later the works on the theory of musical metrotectonism by G.E. Conus, an outstanding theoretician and musicologist who created his own original system for the analysis of musical compositions.
Because of the impossibility in principle of continuing its activity in Russia, the publishing house had to move abroad and in 1918 settled in Paris. While abroad, the publishing house continued to adhere to the basic ideas which had been developed in Russia: in the first place they continued to publish the most talented works of Russian composers.
Up to the mid-thirties Russian Music Publishing had the exclusive right to publish the compositions of Prokofiev — they published his second and third piano concertos, vocal scores of the operas The Gambler, The Love for Three Oranges, the ballets Le Pas d’acier, The Prodigal Son and On the Dniepr, scores of the first three symphonies and many other compositions.
The publishing house continued co-operating actively with Stravinsky and produced a number of his compositions: the opera-oratorio Oedipus Rex, the ballet with singing Pulcinella, the ballets Apollon Musagète and The Fairy’s Kiss, Capriccio for piano with orchestra in three movements, Symphony of Psalms and a whole series of others.
As result of historical events (the troubled years before World War II), the publishing house had to cease its activity. In 1938 it became the property of the British music publishing company Boosey & Hawkes.
In restoring the name of such an authoritative Russian institution, the present-day Russian Music Publishing is not restricting itself to the rehabilitation of the name of its predecessor. The same high principles which were worked out by the Artistic Council of Koussevitzky’s publishing house will undoubtedly be preserved in our time too.
The Publishing House intends to issue compositions in ‘high’ academic genres, with exclusive priority being reserved for Russian classical music.
Attached to Russian Music Publishing is a Council consisting of experts in the field of textual criticism and the preparation of musical compositions for scholarly publications.
The publications’ quality is ensured by modern printing and publishing technology; this matter is of exceptional importance to Russian Music Publishing.
Russian Music Publishing realize its activities worldwide in co-operation with leading western music publishing companies. The fundamental principles established by Koussevitzky’s publishing house thus be maintained at the present time.
But to implement the ideas of our predecessor at the present time exactly, without any changes, would be simply unrealistic: too much has changed since the activities of that publishing house. Besides, strict and rigorous adherence to the very ‘letter’ of Koussevitzky’s publishing house would be more like a mere restoration than a creative development of those ideas within the framework of modern Russian musical culture and the problems it faces now.
In the first place, the present-day Russian Music Publishing sets itself the task of filling those tremendous gaps which have opened up in the study of the Russian musical heritage in relation both to the great classical composers and in the sphere of entire strata of genres. At the same time, Russian Music Publishing is developing a scholarly approach to Critical Complete Editions of the works of Russian classical composers. It is a well-known fact that there was not even any attempt at such an approach to the artistic legacy of some of them. Even those scholarly publications which have been issued in recent decades cannot withstand criticism from the point of view of either the completeness of the material or the quality of their text-critical treatment. Too many factors — to do with ideology and general outlook of various kinds — were taken into consideration when compositions by Russian composers were being published. These were factors which had nothing to do with the strictly scholarly publication of the texts of musical compositions.
Russian Music Publishing intends also to produce a series of scholarly works devoted to the study of the Russian musical heritage.