60 Years of Editio Musica Budapest
Music publishing has a great tradition in Hungary. The oldest firm with a well-established name, Rózsavölgyi & Co., started its activities 160 years ago and was the most eminent domestic music publisher for a century, building up a rich and many-sided catalogue during these decades. It was the first publisher of Bartók and Kodály at the beginning of the century and although the two great composers, after the 1910s, changed to foreign companies in the hope of better international distribution, between the two World Wars Rózsavölgyi remained the publisher and promoter of several excellent Hungarian composers including Ernst von Dohnányi, Leo Weiner and László Lajtha.
At the end of the 19th century new publishing companies were established, e.g. Rozsnyai Music Publishers in 1889 and the Bárd Music Publishers in 1893. Rozsnyai were active mostly in the field of music pedagogy and music book printing (Bartók's world-famous series For Children was published by them), while Bárd worked both in both classical and popular areas. The Magyar Kórus ("Hungarian Chorus") Book and Music Publishers, founded between the two World Wars, specialised in choir music, particularly church music. They were the publishers of Bartók's female choruses and most of the choir pieces by Lajos Bárdos. Besides the firms mentioned, prosperous enterprises in the popular music field (Nádor, Csárdás, etc.) came into being, also between the two World Wars.
The so-called communist take-over of Hungary happened in 1948-1949, pregnant with consequences both in society and in the economy. One of the first and most obvious aspects of the change was the liquidation of the private sector, with private enterprises being turned into state firms by central decree. The above-mentioned music publishers were nationalised during this time. While their independent activities were stopped, their property, including all their contracts and obligations, was incorporated into a single state firm, the State Music Publisher, founded in 1950. This concentration of resources played a fairly positive role in the development of the new Hungarian music publisher, and continued to affect the times following the changes of 1989-1990. The state firm was able to start its activities in the 50s with a large repertoire and by enlarging its catalogue throughout the decades it remained competitive even despite the challenges of the 90s.
The only task of the state company during the first 15 years was to supply the domestic market. It published materials for the rapidly-developing national music education system and books on music for musicians and those interested in music, and issued a vast number of contemporary Hungarian compositions. Business activities in those days were kept strictly within bounds: the publishing program was set and financed by the government. However, the results of these 15 years were not disadvantageous: a music catalogue was created that provided access to the works of Hungarian music pedagogues, who were of international calibre, and these later proved definitely suitable for export. At the same time creative work of a uniquely high standard was achieved in music book publishing, in the absence of problems of profitability or financing. High-quality music dictionaries and academic and popular publications could be printed. The activities of the music publisher of those days contributed greatly to the strengthening of Hungarian musicology. This flourishing period of music book publishing continued during the 70s.
In the meantime, at the end of the 60s, new approaches and methods of economic management were introduced in Hungary. Briefly, the essence of this change was that state-owned firms were forced to become independent economically. In the case of the state music publisher it became clear that the domestic market alone would not be able to support the company. Export became very important. Now the merging of catalogues of the small publishers of the pre-war period proved to be very useful. The new music teaching publications issued from 1950 onwards proved to be marketable internationally, thanks to the work of our expert music pedagogues, high quality design and, last but not least, Hungarian music teachers living and active abroad. It was then that the state publisher,in order to manage its international contacts more easily, changed its name to Editio Musica Budapest (EMB).
During the 70s and 80s Editio Musica Budapest gained a leading position in the so-called socialist market, despite the fact that it had to compete with firms with century-long traditions such as Edition Peters of Leipzig which, by the way, was also under state control. At the same time EMB also became important in the Western market and established strong international contacts. The publishing of books on music continued at a high standard and with almost unchanged intensity, although the publishing of sheet music became more important. It was due mostly to these approximately 20 years that the great social, political and economic changes of 1989-1990 did not find the company unprepared and that it was able to accommodate itself to the conditions of the liberal market fairly smoothly. The economic stability of the firm was not upset by the drastic changes and crises of the early 90s, such as the collapse and loss of the socialist market, accelerating inflation, the over-indebtedness of domestic companies, the general loss of financial sources, etc. While there was a great need for government intervention in the field of publishing material for general education, the supplying of sheet music for music education remained undisturbed even without external intervention and prices settled at an acceptable level. The Western contacts already established guaranteed the continuity and even increase of export. On the other hand, paying dearly for stability, book publishing and the editing of contemporary Hungarian music was drastically reduced.
In 2006 Bertelsmann sold its music publishing division to the Universal Music Group, consequently EMB has became a member of the Universal Music Publishing Group, the world's largest and most diverse music publisher.
A few facts from the history of Editio Musica Budapest: Directors of the firm were László Korvin (1950-1955), Béla Tardos (1955-1966), László Eosze (1966-1967), László Sarlós (1967-1986), István Homolya (1986-2004) and Antal Boronkay (since 2005). The EMB catalogue contains approximately 5000 active entries and over 10000 compositions protected by authors' rights. The main profile of EMB is as follows: music pedagogical publications; the great classical and 20th-century Hungarian composers (Liszt, Bartók, Kodály, Dohnányi, Weiner, Farkas); the most important living representatives of contemporary Hungarian music, and the gems of choral literature, especially 20th-century Hungarian choral works.