Hans W. Heinsheimer Dies at 93; Top Publisher of Classical MusicBy BERNARD HOLLAND
Published in The New York Times, October 14, 1993
Hans W. Heinsheimer, one of the most influential classical-music publishers of the 20th century, died on Tuesday at his home in Manhattan. He was 93.
Although Mr. Heinsheimer's name lacked the recognition factor of his famous clients, he instigated, participated in or at least was present at many significant events in contemporary music. In his work as publisher and promoter, he served as midwife and artistic broker for such composers as Bartok, Stravinsky, Barber, Copland, Kodaly, Antheil, Bernstein, Berg, Janacek and Krenek.
As a young associate at Universal Edition in Vienna in 1928, Mr. Heinsheimer took part in the success of an unheralded piece called "The Threepenny Opera," written by an obscure member of the Universal stable named Kurt Weill. Its popular appeal poured riches into a previously austere classical-music publishing world. Four years later in Vienna, Mr. Heinsheimer helped produce Weill's "Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny," which had a stony reception by followers of the rising Nazi movement.
Mr. Heinsheimer also took part in the 1925 premiere of Alban
"Wozzeck" in Berlin, and it was he who introduced Berg to the American
violinist Louis Krasner, a meeting that resulted in the commissioning
of the Violin Concerto. And as head of Universal's opera department,
Mr. Heinsheimer was at the center of two of its greatest successes,
"Schwanda the Bagpiper," by Jaromir Weinberger, and the so-called jazz
opera "Jonny Spielt Auf," by Ernst Krenek. Now rarely heard, the two
works were hugely popular in the late 1920's.
Hans Walter Heinsheimer was born in Karlsruhe, Germany, in 1900. He came from a family of doctors and lawyers, and studied law himself in Heidelberg, Munich and Freiburg. After graduation in 1923, he abandoned the legal world for employment at Universal under its imaginative and aggressive director, Emil Hertzka.
Mr. Heinsheimer arrived in New
York in 1938. He became the head of the music publisher Boosey &
Hawkes's American operation, and one of his early efforts was to
promote the performance of "El Salon Mexico" by an underemployed
American composer named Aaron Copland. At Boosey & Hawkes, Mr.
Heinsheimer worked intimately with Copland, Bartok and Stravinsky, and
promoted the music of Benjamin Britten in America.
When Bartok found himself ill and destitute in New York during World War II, Mr. Heinsheimer was the agent for a benign and now famous conspiracy to channel funds, disguised as record royalties, to a proud and scrupulous composer who would otherwise not have accepted them.
A dry memoirist, Mr. Heinsheimer wrote the first of his three books in 1947. Indeed, "Menagerie in F Sharp" led to his dismissal by Ralph Hawkes, the head of the firm, who said that he wanted a worker, not a writer. Mr. Heinsheimer was immediately hired by G. Schirmer in New York. At Schirmer, Mr. Heinsheimer's concerns were composers like Leonard Bernstein, Gian Carlo Menotti and Samuel Barber. He also brought to fruition Albert Schweitzer's long planned and often frustrated edition of Bach's organ works.
Mr. Heinsheimer was the
author of two other books, "Fanfare for Two Pigeons" and -- the best
known of his writings -- "Best Regards to Aida." Until well into his
80's he wrote music criticism and commentary for the newspaper
Frankfurter Allgemeiner and for several German radio stations, moving
regularly from his East Side apartment to events in New York and around
the United States.
In addition to his wife, Elsbeth, he is survived by a son, Thomas, of Los Angeles, a daughter, Frances Wainright of Toronto, and four grandchildren.
This interview was recorded on the telephone on April 14,
Portions (along with recordings)
were used on WNIB in 1990, 1995, and in 2000. An unedited copy of
the audio tape was placed in the Archive
of Contemporary Music at Northwestern
made and posted on this
website in 2011.
To see a full list (with links) of interviews which have been transcribed and posted on this website, click here.
Award - winning broadcaster Bruce Duffie was with WNIB, Classical 97 in Chicago from 1975 until its final moment as a classical station in February of 2001. His interviews have also appeared in various magazines and journals since 1980, and he now continues his broadcast series on WNUR-FM, as well as on Contemporary Classical Internet Radio.You are invited to visit his website for more information about his work, including selected transcripts of other interviews, plus a full list of his guests. He would also like to call your attention to the photos and information about his grandfather, who was a pioneer in the automotive field more than a century ago. You may also send him E-Mail with comments, questions and suggestions.