Publisher Profile: G. Henle Verlag

July 13, 2011

We carry music from over 900 publishers at The Leading Note.  Each publisher has a particular specialty and unique products.  Our ongoing Publisher Profiles Series will highlight some of the special artistry unique to our publishers’ product lines.

G. Henle Verlag is one of the most renowned publishers in the world.  Based in Munich Germany and founded in 1948, Henle’s mission is to create editions faithful to the original composer’s intentions as determined by the latest musicological scholarship and research, combined with engraving of the highest quality and bindings built to last.  The publisher has repeatedly been awarded the German  Music Edition Prize.  Henle describes itself with the following words:

The diplomat, politician and industrial magnate Günter Henle (1899-1979) lit upon the right idea at the right time.  On 20 October 1948 he founded his “publishing house for Urtext editions”.  An accomplished pianist himself, he realized that there were scarcely any editions that accurately reproduced the composer’s musical text.  Most editions were marred by unnecessary and often incorrect additions from later editors and arrangers.  Moreover, the outward appearance of the edition often left a lot to be desired.  Soon after founding the publishing house, the great artists of the time began to shower him with enthusiastic praise and recognition.

Urtext and Henle are synonymous.  Each Henle edition has to fulfil extremely high standards:

  • authoritative musical text
  • markings for practical use
  • superb engraving
  • preface in three languages (German, English, French)
  • critical commentary
  • durability (paper, binding)

We are happy to carry many of Henle’s publications.  Their editions are especially popular with pianists and string players for whom Henle has many excellent scores.

The quality of Henle’s engravings has always been one of the criteria that sets the publisher apart.  It was also one of the last publishing houses still using traditional hand-engraving methods.  The following material from Henle’s website describes this process:

Henle’s Urtext Editions are not only noted for the scholarly accuracy of their text but also for the clear, razor-sharp appearance of the musical text as well as the excellent printing. Up until 2000 G. Henle Publishers’ editions were engraved by hand. Nowadays the musical text is set using a computer.  Following the complete digitization of its entire library, Henle began selling individually the original hand-engraved plates from their catalogue in 2011 as collectors’ items.

The most important steps in the engraving process are as follows:

1. The engraver generally starts with a manuscript put together by the editor, which must first of all be marked up with page and line breaks. It is at this point that the most practical page turns have to be determined.
2. The second stage involves defining the distance between the staves and etching the staff lines into the metal plate using a five-pronged stylus. The space between the staves varies in accordance with the pitch ambitus of the music. A good engraver will find just the right visual balance. Once this has been done, the notes are spaced out horizontally according to their length. In so doing, the engraver sketches out the position and intervals between the notes on the plate using a steel pen. A practicable page layout greatly aids legibility.
3. Using small steel punches the signs are hammered into the plate one at a time. This is done in mirror image so that the page will read from left to right once it has been printed. Bar-lines, note heads and stems, ledger lines, beams, slurs, as well as any other special signs and text signs are hammered in or engraved by hand without any help.

In 2000, Henle began digitizing their entire catalogue of scores and has since been making new editions using computer software.  Henle has been careful to match the new computer-produced style to their old hand-engraved style, keeping the same clef designs, spacing procedures, careful attention to convenient page turns, and the like.

Henle has now completed digitizing its entire back catalogue and has started selling its old hand-engraved plates as collectors’ items.  Each plate is unique and one-of-a-kind.

We have one of these plates at The Leading Note: page 50 of HN264, Chopin’s complete Mazurkas.  The plate is available for sale in a gift package including the Henle edition of Chopin’s Mazurkas.  If you are interested in taking a look at the plate, come by our store.  The gift package sells for $85.

UPDATE: We have now sold the engraving plate but will bring in another soon! Click here to special order this unique gift item. Note that these are provided to us on a random basis by the publisher – so, sorry, you can not make a request for a particular work.

Share page... EmailFacebookTwitterLinkedInPinterestGoogle+
Back to Main Blog

Leave a Reply

« « New Summer Hours and Vacation | The solution for that nameless tune you’ve been humming » »