Hofmeister, Friedrich

This is a translation of an article reproduced from Die Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart by kind permission of Bärenreiter-Verlag, Kassel. Click here for the German original.

b 24 Jan 1782, Strehla, near Riesa (on the River Elbe); d 30 Sept 1864 in Reudnitz, near Leipzig. Music publisher. Hofmeister was orphaned at an early age, attended school in Leipzig and joined the firm of Breitkopf & Härtel as a trainee in 1797. In January 1801 he became an assistant in F. A. Hoffmeister and A. Kühnel's newly-founded Bureau de musique. He moved to Riesa in 1802, where he worked as a grocer, returned to Leipzig in 1805 and in June 1806 rejoined the firm of Kühnel, this time working as a bookkeeper. By 19 March 1807 Hofmeister had founded a music publishing company with a hire department. With its distinctive image, this was able to hold its ground against local competition, and remains in family ownership today. Hofmeister pursued an interest in scientific matters in his leisure time (he also published works in this area), and his residence in Reudnitz with its botanical garden was a meeting place for a circle of friends with both scientific and artistic interests (including Gustav Freytag, Salomon Hirzel and Heinrich von Treitschke). He made considerable efforts to improve the basic organisation of the music publishing trade. Thus, in 1819, he took over the Handbuch der musikalischen Litteratur from Carl Friedrich Whistling as the first comprehensive music bibliography. He was also one of a group of people who were influential in bringing about the Konvention der deutschen Musikverleger gegen den Nachdruck (Convention of German Music Publishers against Copyright infringement) of 23 May 1829 (amended on 12 May 1830); Hofmeister was secretary of the association from 1829 to 1852. In the same year he handed over his publishing house to his sons Adolph (1802-1870) and Wilhelm (from his second marriage, 1824-1877, chair of Botany in Heidelberg from 1863, later in Tübingen), both of whom had already been involved in the running of the company for many years. He handed over his scientific publishing company to his son-in-law, Ambrosius Abel. The music publishing company was run from 1877 to 1905 by the former company secretary Albert Röthing, then by Carl Wilhelm Günther (1878-1956, a grandson of Wilhelm Hofmeister), who moved to Frankfurt am Main in 1952. In Leipzig the company existed as VEB Friedrich Hofmeister Musikverlag [Volkseigener Betrieb, a state-owned company] from 1952. In 1956 Günther's widow Eva became director of the Frankfurt company, later running it with her adoptive son Karlheinz Schwarze, who became sole proprietor on her death (1964) and moved the company to Hofheim in the Taunus. After the restitution of the Leipzig company to Schwarze (1992), the whole company returned to the place where it had been founded (1996); since 2002, the sole proprietor has been Stefanie Schwarze.

Hofmeister acquired publishing companies including Whistling in Leipzig (1829), Laue and Christiani in Berlin (1832 and 1840) and Brüggemann in Halberstadt (1832). In more recent times, Hofmeister has acquired the rights in many works published by Ernst Challier and Carl Merseburger.


I. Specific Catalogues

  • Thematisches Verzeichniss der Compositionen für Instrumentalmusik welche von den berühmtesten Tonsetzern unsersers [sic] Zeitalters erschienen sind. Seitenstück zu dem Handbuche der musikal. Literatur. 15 Heft Louis van Beethoven, Leipzig, 1819 (further vols. not published.)
  • Thematisches Verzeichniss von CLXXII vorzüglichen Sinfonien und Ouverturen für Orchester welche von berühmten Tonsetzern unseres Zeitalters gedruckt erschienen sind, Leipzig, 1831

II. Bibliography

  • Handbuch der musikalischen Litteratur [from 1821: Literatur] oder Allgemeines systematisch geordnetes Verzeichniss gedruckter Musikalien auch musikalischer Schriften, mit Anzeige der Verleger und Preise, 2nd to 8th supplement (Nachtrag), Leipzig, 1819-1825 (each with a foreword by Hofmeister; the 1st edition [1817] and supplements 1, 9 and 10 were published by C.F. Whistling, who was also editor under Hofmeister); repr. ed. by N. Ratliff, N.Y. 1975;
  • A. Hofmeister edited the work from the 2nd supplementary vol. (Ergänzungsband) up to the 2nd ed. (1834) in his father's publishing house, as well as editing the Musikalisch-literarischer Monatsbericht neuer Musikalien, musikalischer Schriften und Abbildungen, founded in 1829 by Whistling, from 1834.

Hofmeister's name is identified with the consistent, systematic and complete bibliography of musical works (even those works with prices "set as low as just 4 Groschen or less"; preface to the 2nd supplement, 1819, p. [III]). The foundations which he established continue to be of importance to the present day, in that they established an awareness of the need for music-bibliographical work. Even in the years in which he did not function as editor and publisher of the Handbuch, Hofmeister, later with his son Adolph, emphatically supported the work (in the preface to the 2nd edition, p. 7, Whistling writes of the "continual assistance of the Herren Hofmeister"). Adolph Hofmeister assumed responsibility in 1834 and continued it in the spirit of his father and Whistling (see Tradition und Gegenwart, 1957, pp. 37-39 for information on its further development).

Friedrich Hofmeisters contribution to bringing about the agreements between German music publishers in the years 1829 and 1830 was without doubt considerable. As early as 1823, in the face of the ever-increasing number of unauthorised reprints of other publishers' works, he had suggested a "voluntary, tacit agreement of all parties" (Handbuch, 6th supplement of 1823, preface, pp. IV-V), however, it was A. M. Schlesinger above all, who invited the Leipzig publishers, including in particular C. F. Peters, to Berlin to participate in discussions (see A. Beer 2000, pp. 67f.); as secretary of the Verein der Musikverleger for many years, Hofmeister made a great contribution to the cause of music publishing.

From the very beginning, the publishing house specialised in piano and guitar music, together with Lieder and teaching material. Alongside works by the leading composers of his generation, Hofmeister also published younger, less well-known composers. The company published the first editions by composers including Marschner (almost his entire output), Schumann (op. 3-5, 7, 10, 105), Clara Wieck (op. 1-7), Mendelssohn (op. 12), Weber (op. 10), as well as works by Czerny, Fürstenau, Henselt, Kirchner, Liszt, Löwe, Methfessel, Romberg and J.C.F. Schneider. The most important publications of the later period include Mahler's 2nd Symphony (1897) and Hans Breuer's Zupfgeigenhansl (1909). At present (2002) an extensive publication programme includes critical first and new editions, teaching materials, flexible ensemble music, choral works, an increasing number of works by contemporary composers and series of books. Hans Rheinfurth is preparing a complete publisher's catalogue for the 19th century.


D-L Esta (Saechsisches Staatsarchiv, Leipzig) material from Friedrich Hofmeister Musikverlag (archival material from 1800 to 1923, mainly from the period 1830-1850; see also Beer 2000, p. 486)

Literature (Selection)

  • Tradition und Gegenwart, Fs. zum 150jährigen Bestehen des Musikverlages Friedrich Hofmeister, Leipzig 1957.
  • H.-M. PLESSKE, Bibliographie des Schrifttums zur Gesch. deutscher und österreichischer Musikverlage, in: Beiträge zur Gesch. des Buchwesens 3, 1968, 135-232 (178f.).
  • R. ELVERS/C. HOPKINSON, A Survey of the Music Catalogues of Whistling and Hofmeister, in: Fontes Artis Musicae 19, 1972, 1-7.
  • N. RATLIFF, Handbuch der musikalischen Litteratur: a Reprint of the 1817 Edition and the Ten Supplements, 1817-1827, N.Y. 1975.
  • D. W. KRUMMEL, The Beginnings of Current National Bibliography for German Music, in: Fs. R. S. Hill, ed. C. S. Bradley, Detroit 1987, 307-329.
  • L. WEINHOLD/A. WEINMANN, Kataloge von Musikverlegern und Musikalienhändlern im deutschsprachigen Raum 1700-1850, Kassel 1995, 51f.
  • T. WIDMAIER, Der dt. Musikalienleihhandel. Funktion, Bedeutung und Topographie einer Form gewerblicher Musikdistribution vom späten 18. bis zum frühen 20. Jh., Saabrücken 1998.
  • A. BEER, Musik zwischen Komponist, Verlag und Publikum, Tutzing 2000.
  • FR. KAWOHL, Urheberrecht der Musik in Preußen (1820-1840), Tutzing 2002.

AXEL BEER (translated by Elizabeth Robinson)