Publications of Breitkopf & Härtel

Founded in 1719 and still commercially active, Breitkopf & Härtel[1] produced an especially large number of Chopin first editions which pose greater challenges of description and chronological classification than those of any other firm. B&H’s Chopin output has three principal features: numerous new engravings, ongoing refinement of the music text (often over extended periods), and frequent revision or replacement of title pages. 

Tables 1 & 2 provide an overview of those compositions for which multiple editions were published, in addition to those whose music text changed over time. Further relevant information concerns the large number of editions pub­lished with different title pages – namely Op. 34 (five versions) and Opp. 18, 25, 29, 57 & 64 (three versions) – as well as those brought out with a single title page and engraved only once (Opp. 12, 16, 20, 35, 39, 46–49, 52, 54, 55, 56, 60, 61).[2] 

Like Kistner, Breitkopf & Härtel released various new editions with revised plate numbers. The first was the Funeral March from Op. 35, published in 1853 with plate number 8728. Four more editions of this type appeared in 1858 – Op. 18 (plate number 9618), Op. 31 (9671), Op. 34 No. 1 (9620) and Op. 64 No. 1 (9619) – while two further ones date from 1861: Op. 64 No. 2, with plate number ‘10097 (7716)’, and Op. 64 No. 3, with plate number ‘10098 (7717)’.[3] It is difficult to date two other re-engraved editions because their plate numbers are anomalous: Op. 25 (Book 1 – plate number 961; Book 2 – no plate number) and Op. 55 (362).[4] Oddly, their title pages were respectively based on either 25/1-6–1e-B&H or 25/1-6–1f-B&H and 55–1-B&H, on which the original plate numbers appear. 

Breitkopf & Härtel also brought out three collections of Chopin’s music organised by genre – mazurkas, nocturnes and polonaises – which were based on previous editions of individual opuses although each piece within the collections was separately published with the relevant STP (see Appendix I).[5] The Mazurkas appeared in August 1863 and the Noc­turnes three months later, while the Polonaises were published in February 1864. They remained on the market for about fifteen years, during which similar changes were made to their respective title pages (see the descriptions in Appendix I) as well as their pagination, which in several reprints was modified in favour of individual pagination for every work.[6] 

Select Chopin pieces featured in five other collections issued by Breitkopf & Härtel. From 1841 to the late 1870s, Op. 25 belonged to a series that also included separate editions of studies by Henselt and Thalberg (e.g. 25/1-6(sep)–1c-B&H) and, eventually, Liszt’s Etudes d’exécution transcendante (e.g. 25/1-6(sep)–2e-B&H). The collection of Perles Musicales[7] that was launched in early 1865 united smaller-scale works intended for performance in either the concert hall or more domestic settings; it contained five Preludes from Op. 28, namely Nos. 13 & 15 (released in October 1865; see 28/15–1n-B&H)[8] and Nos. 6, 8 & 11 (from February 1867).[9] A similar collection was published for cello and piano with the name Lyrische Stucke; among other pieces, it included the third movement of Chopin’s Sonata Op. 65 and a transcription of the Prelude Op. 28 No. 15 (see 65/3–1e-B&H). A version of the Sonata Op. 65 for violin and piano was also released in Breitkopf & Härtel’s Violin-Bibliothek (see 65–1f-B&H). The fifth such collection containing reprints of Chopin first editions was the series released between 1866 and 1869 under the title Classische und moderne Pianoforte-Musik, which comprised six volumes of various composers’ music.[10] 

In contrast to the other collections described here, the original plate numbers were not retained in this series: in order to underscore the integrity of the respective volumes, the publisher assigned a new plate number to each one, corresponding to the date of publication. 

The original wrappers of an unusually large number of Breitkopf & Härtel Chopin editions have survived, and their content facilitates the dating of the relevant scores while also revealing an evolution in the wrappers themselves. Three principal stages can be discerned. From 1833 to the mid-1850s, the wrappers reproduced either the TP or the half-title.[11] During the ten years from c. 1855 to the middle of 1865, the wrappers of the ballades, impromptus, mazurkas, nocturnes, polonaises and waltzes featured a STP or CTP listing the Breitkopf & Härtel editions of these genres. Finally, between 1865 and 1879, a different STP with the heading OEUVRES DE PIANO|DE| FRÉD. CHOPIN was regularly used; seven variants exist,[12] each listing the publisher’s entire Chopin catalogue. The presence or absence of Breitkopf & Härtel’s oval logo needs to be considered when identifying individual Chopin scores. For example, numerous copies detailed in this catalogue feature a printed B&H ‘stamp’ centred at the bottom of the TP; in this respect such stamps differ from ordinary ones applied by hand, which rarely are centred even though most are similarly located at the bottom of the TP.[13] The fact that the printed logo appears only on the TP of impressions released from c. 1865 makes it possible to date given scores more or less precisely on the basis of this symbol alone.[14] 

The relative quality of Breitkopf & Härtel’s Chopin output can be attributed in large part to the firm’s house editors and professional correctors, most of whom have never been identified. Nevertheless, despite their musical knowledge and vigilance, numerous engraving errors can be found in the earliest impressions and many subsequent ones as well; moreover, it is astonishing to discover a few passages where the correct music text was unnecessarily and wrongly modified (e.g. 25/1-6–1g-B&H, 53–1a-B&H, 53–1b-B&H).[15] 

Detailed information about the preparation of certain B&H editions can be gleaned from sources such as Clara Schumann’s correspondence, which describes the preparation and in particular her participation in the correction of Opp. 60, 61 & 63–65 (probably also Op. 62).[16] Her letters[17] also reveal the important fact that between 1866 and 1867, at the request of Hermann Härtel, she undertook a large-scale review of all of the firm’s Chopin output, using contemporary B&H first-edition reprints as the basis of the exercise. The extent of her editorial emendations was such that the publisher incorporated them not only in the new series for which Clara’s assistance had been commissioned in the first place,[18] but also in later impressions of the editions that she had used in the course of her work. This can be seen in the case of numerous editions brought out in the late 1860s.[19] 

Attention also needs to be drawn to two other late reprints of Breitkopf & Härtel’s Chopin editions. Between 1873 and 1875, the latter were regrouped into eight volumes, each of which contained a plate number corresponding to its publication date.[20] In addition there are corrected reprints of the Sonata Op. 65 (original scoring and version for piano and violin) with plate numbers from the late nineteenth-century Volksausgabe series;[21] these constitute the only B&H first edition still marketed after 1879. 

None of the Breitkopf & Härtel Chopin editions listed in this catalogue features a title page in colour. Two albums pub­lished by the firm include works by Chopin (see 23–2-B&H, 33/1&2–1a-B&H). Lithographic transfer was used for the vast majority of the B&H Chopin scores released after 1860, although printing from engraved plates was not completely aban­doned: a few late reprints were prepared in this way, among them 22–2b-B&H, 25/7-12(sep)–2g-B&H and 28–1l-B&H.

[1] Lenneberg 1990 contains invaluable information not only about the negotiations between Chopin and Breitkopf & Härtel but also concerning the transmission of manuscripts and French proofsheets to Leipzig.

[2] The point applies to Op. 35 as a whole but not to the separate editions of the Funeral March.

[3] Successive corrections were also made to these editions, one of which – the Funeral March – was re-engraved twice. Copies are relatively abundant and can be found in numerous libraries.

[4] Copies can be found at GB-Lbl (Op. 25 – h. 473.b.(5.); Op. 55 – h.471.r.(7.)). These editions probably came out in the late 1850s.

[5] Chopin’s name and the opus number were added above the first system of the music text so that each piece could be sold separately. The fact that these caption titles also appear in reprinted editions of complete opuses outside the series provides a useful tool in dating the later impressions thereof, in that any score with these two elements necessarily appeared after 1863. However, in the later reprints of Opp. 41, 48 & 63 – likewise in 26–3h-B&H, 37–1h-B&H and 55–1e-B&H – caption titles of this type can be found only in the first piece within each opus and not in the subsequent works. This suggests that such elements were introduced during an advanced stage of lithographic transfer, and specifically for the series of separate editions described above.

[6] See 15–2g-B&H, 15–2i-B&H, 17–2g-B&H, 27–1h-B&H, 27–1j-B&H, 33–2b-B&H, 33–2e-B&H and 55–1d-B&H.

[7] The STP of this collection existed in at least four versions: the first – as yet unlocated – appeared within the 1865 edition and probably comprised some thirty-five items; the second, from 1867, is described in note 114; for the third, from 1874, see 28/15–1n-B&H; and the fourth, which featured ninety-five items, is reproduced as plate 46 in Chomiński and Turło 1990. The catalogue extract Verlag von Breitkopf & Härtel in Leipzig.|PERLES MUSICALES indicates that this collection was also available as a volume containing the first fifty pieces.

[8] See the advertisement in AmZ No. 40 (4 October 1865). To date no copies of the first impressions of these two preludes have been located. The impression classed under 28/15–1n-B&H dates from c. 1874 and was produced using the original plates, likewise the print of Op. 28 No. 13.

[9] See MlM, February 1867, p. 22. A copy of the Preludes Op. 28 Nos. 6 & 11 with the same STP (on which sixty-one pieces are listed) and with common plate number 11275 is held by GB-Eu (shelfmark D 6114). No. 6 was printed from the original plate, whereas a new engraving was prepared in the case of No. 11. As for Op. 28 No. 8, which was published at the same time, this too had to be newly engraved because the original page layout was unsuitable for separate publication; its plate number would have followed consecutively from the one for Nos. 6 & 11.

[10] The Chopin works included Op. 16 (vol. 1), Op. 25 No. 1 (vol. 2), Op. 33 No. 2 and Op. 17 No. 1 (vol. 5), and Op. 63 No. 1 and Op. 57 (vol. 6). Their publication was announced as follows: vol. 1 – AmZ No. 7 (21 February 1866); vols. 2 & 3 – AmZ No. 41 (12 October 1866); and vol. 5 – AmZ No. 26 (26 June 1867). Judging from its plate number – 11579 – the sixth volume, containing a partial reprint of 63–2c-B&H and 57–2f-B&H, dated from 1869.

[11] See Wrappers and covers, note 6.

[12] The variants are described in Appendix I.

[13] At least thirteen different B&H stamps have been identified; for details see Platzman 2003: 303–304. The stamp that corresponds to the logo is referred to by Platzman as ‘BH/I’. Note that in the first edition of his catalogue, Platzman (1997) distinguished between the logo and other stamps. The logo is also present on the front pages of certain wrappers, and notably on the following STPs: versions 3 & 4 of MAZURKAS|FÜR DAS PIANOFORTE|VON|FR. CHOPIN, NOTTURNOS|FÜR DAS PIANOFORTE|VON|FR. CHOPIN and POLONAISEN|FÜR DAS PIANOFORTE|VON |FR. CHOPIN; version 2 of CHOPIN, HENSELT, LISZT, THALBERG.|ETUDEN |FÜR|DAS PIANOFORTE; and versions 24, 6 & 7 of OEUVRES DE PIANO|DE |FRÉD. CHOPIN.

[14] The logo was not added systematically: it appears on none of the copies of Opp. 12, 16, 23, 30, 38, 39, 41, 42, 49, 52, 54, 56 & 58 catalogued in this volume, nor on the ITPs of Opp. 17, 22 & 33. In the case of Op. 25, it can be found on only three reprints: 25/7-12–2a-B&H, 25/1-6(sep)–2h-B&H and 25/7-12(sep)–2g-B&H.

[15] Engraving errors that remained at later publication stages include those in the first edition of the Funeral March from Op. 35 (see 35/3–1a-B&H), which reappear in the second edition (see 35/3–1b-B&H) as well as the third (with plate number 8728). Only in the fourth edition (the plate number of which is identical to the third edition’s) were the errors in question eliminated. Similarly, several errors within the original print of the Waltz Op. 34 No. 1 (34/1–1-B&H) were reproduced in both the second edition (34/1–2-B&H) and the third edition (plate number 9620). It was not until the late 1860s that these were corrected.

The erroneous modifications within Op. 53 appear to have resulted from the re-engraving of two minuscule bits of text located at the edge of the plates, i.e. where distortion or fissures are more likely to occur. In 53–1a-B&H, having repaired the damaged plate as required, the engraver re-engraved the last RH note in b. 96, accidentally transposing it by a third. (The slur at the end of this bar was largely effaced at the same time.) Similarly, in 53–1b-B&H, a superfluous note was added in the last two LH chords in b. 61. As for Op. 25 No. 6, it is impossible to determine what motivated the intervention in question.

[16] See the letters of 9 October 1846, 27 October 1846, 31 October 1846, 14 September 1847, 22 September 1847, 9 October 1847 and 28 November 1847 in Steegmann 1997. According to the letter of 14 September 1847, Robert Schumann helped to revise the Op. 63 proofs.

[17] See the letters of 4 October 1866, 8 January 1867 and 28 August 1867 in Steegmann 1997. In the second of these, Clara asked for her name not to appear on the TPs of this edition.

[18] This series consisted of eight volumes in octavo format: Waltzes (plate number 11349); Polonaises (11460); Nocturnes (11477); Mazurkas (11485); Ballades, Berceuse, Barcarolle (11625); Preludes, Scherzos, Impromptus (11638); Sonatas, Opp. 12, 16, 46, 49 (11652); Etudes Op. 25 (12281). These were respectively published in 8/1867, 1/1868, 5/1868, 7/1868, 11/1868, 12/1868, 1/1869 and 12/1870 (MlM).

[19] On the whole Clara Schumann’s work resulted in major improvements to Breitkopf & Härtel’s Chopin editions. To her may also be attributed the introduction of an authentic variant in Op. 34 No. 2 (see 34/2–3c-B&H) as well as the restoration of the original text in Op. 64 No. 3 (see 64–2b-B&H). But it is also likely that she was responsible for the (incorrect) standardisation of the rhythm in Op. 28 No. 1 and for erroneous changes to both Op. 28 No. 23 (see 28–1h-B&H) and Op. 15 No. 3 (see 15–2d-B&H). The mistake in Op. 28 No. 23 was quickly rectified, however (see 28–1i-B&H).

[20] Waltzes (plate number 13177, published 4/1873); Polonaises (13358, published 10/1873); Nocturnes (13359, published 11/1873); Mazurkas (13360, published 12/1873); Preludes, Scherzos, Impromptus (13740, published 11/1874); Ballades, Berceuse, Barcarolle, Bolero (13757, published 11/1874); Sonatas, Opp. 12, 16, 46, 49 (13741, published 2/1875); Etudes Op. 25 (published 9/1875 with unknown plate number – i.e. no copy has been located). These volumes contain reprints of altogether new editions of Op. 18, Op. 31 and Op. 34 No. 1. A comment printed on the bottom of the first page of Op. 19 confirms that Breitkopf & Härtel had obtained per­mis­sion from Peters to publish it. Note that Op. 33 No. 4, Op. 38, Op. 40 No. 1, Op. 48 No. 1, Op. 52, Op. 54 and Op. 56 No. 3 were partially re-engraved in order to improve the layout. For example, the rather dense music text on the first page of 38–2a-B&H was spread over two pages in the new volume, whereas the first three pages of 54–1c-B&H were confined to only two pages in the latter.

[21] The plate number of the reprint of 65–1f-B&H (for piano and violin) is V.A. 1200 (copies available at D-Bds: DMS 19447 (1, 2), GB-En: Mus.Box. 423.11. and GB-Lbl: g.553.aa.(7.)), as against V.A. 1201 for the piano/cello version (copies available at D-Bds: DMS 14446 (1, 2) and F-Prt: TV. 864). The Lyrische Stücke series was also reprinted in a volume with plate number V.A. 378 (copy available at D-Dl: Mus 2o 7421).