Thursday, December 2, 2021

 

 

German born Arthur Schmidt (1846-1921) was a trailblazer for American composers and in particular American women composers.  In my mind and opinion he broke down barriers, sought out potential that could be developed into the brightest and best.  He proved that the word composer had no gender bias to it….a composer is a composer whether man or woman!”  This quote is from my January 2011 blog posting.

 

The “Elusive Mr. Schmidt” blog posting in April 2013 explained that in all of his business papers at the Library of Congress there was not one picture of him.  Schmidt’s great granddaughter contacted me and sent me her great grandfather’s picture.  He was no longer elusive. 

 

This will be my third blog I have written about Mr. Schmidt.  He was a publisher extraordinaire who in the late 19th and early 20th centuries promoted and published American composers.   That era was about publishing German and Italian romantic music.  

 

Was his company profitable?  By publishing the newest and talented American composers, was he a renegade in the music business?  Was he a good PR person?  How did he treat his composers and business associates?  Some of those questions will go unanswered for now. 

 

There were frequent letters between Gena Branscombe and her publisher.  Sometimes there were two letters a day.  They covered such topics as what songs Gena was sending him, books they were reading, royalty checks, who was performing her songs, vacations, music publications, other composers and family news.  Theirs was more than a business contract, they were friends as well. 

 


Recently I transcribed a March 9, 1918 letter from Gena Branscombe to Arthur Schmidt.  In the final paragraph of the letter, Miss Branscombe expresses her candid beliefs and admiration for her publisher.  Read on……..

 

“There has been something on my mind for some time – and I hope you won’t think me a very – meddlesome – sort of person – to be thinking about it even.  But it’s this – you published American compositions long before other people.  You’ve published more big things – with no hope of financial return – you’ve published more American women’s things than anyone else - and all this in the days when it wasn’t fashionable and patriotic – and all that to boost American music!  I feel that that thing should be recognized and known and advertised in a strong way.  You’ll probably just think I’m – very fresh – but I know I’m right.  I think it would be most interesting to know – to have a complete record – of all the American compositions of your catalogue published long before the tide began to turn in favor of giving the American composer a chance.  Forgive me if I rush in.”

 

For over 20 years of working on the life and music of Gena Branscombe, I have read a great deal about Mr. Schmidt and came to my own conclusion that he was indeed a renegade, a business man with a passionate mission for our American composers and their music.  Then, reading Gena’s letter, she clearly expressed the high esteem in which she held her publisher.

 








  

Here is an incomplete list of American composers the Arthur P. Schmidt Company of Boston published:

 

Florence Newell Barbour (1866-1946), Marion Bauer (1887-1955),
Mabel Daniels (1878-1971), Helen Hopekirk (1856-1945), Lucinda Jewell (1874-?), Margaret Ruthven Lang (1867-1972), Frances McCollin (1892-1960), Edna Rosalind Park, Olga von Radecki (fl. 1882), Anna Priscilla Risher (1875-1946), Clara Kathleen Rogers (1844-1931), Mildred Weston, Floy Little Bartlett, Mrs. C. F. Chickering, Mary Bradford Crowninshield, and Mary Turner Salter.

 

Mr. Schmidt sought out and published the music of Edward MacDowell, John Knowles Paine, Arthur Foote, James Rogers, Carl Bohm and Horatio Parker along with others.

 

He was a true publisher, patron, business man and promoter of American music. Thank you Mr. Schmidt.

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