Dr. Wolf-Dieter Seiffert, Henle
“To the generous savior of the most beautiful music of all times!“ (Rubinstein). About the Henle guestbooks.
Perhaps I am a bit old-fashioned: I like guestbooks. I especially like to browse through the big fat guestbook of my parents or of my own family (where photographs are pasted, too), and it is a pleasure to recall the happy time we spent with our guests. Yes, indeed, in times of Facebook and Twitter, it may seem antiquated. But tweets and posts vanish quickly – the guestbook remains. And an interesting guestbook can be a valuable support for the marketing endeavors of many kinds of enterprises, more explicitly for branding and image cultivation. That is what this contribution is mainly about.
Almost every time a musician visits the Henle offices in Munich/Germany I hand him or her the current volume of our elegant, leather-bound Henle guestbook with the polite request for a commemorative entry. It’s absolutely unbelievable to look back and re-discover who visited Henle over the course of decades. Of course, the handwriting is always different and characteristic, and the contents are varied: some are humorous, some contain only a date and a signature, or the writer praises our Urtext editions. (These are the ones I most like reading).
Here the book opens to a page written by the wonderful Japanese-British pianist Mitsuko Uchida:
„Eine solche Freude, beim | Henle Verlag Musik zu forschen | und zu diskutieren. | Mit den besten Grüßen | Mitsuko Uchida | 1. Dez.[ember] 2002.“ (Such a joy to research and discuss music at Henle Verlag. Mitsuko Uchida. 1. Dec. 2002).
Or the grandiose Norwegian pianist Leif Ove Andsnes who visited us to study the copies of music sources archived in our building. He also provided fingerings for one of the Schumann editions (op. 32):
„Dear Mr. Seiffert! Thanks so much for all | your help, for beautiful | scores, and for letting me | investigate into facsimiles etc. | I am proud to be identified | with the Henle Verlag! | All the very best, | Leif Ove Andsnes“ [2004, March 5].
These are only two examples out of hundreds of entries that can be found in our guestbooks.
We even ask some of the artists among our guests to pose for a photograph with a blue Henle music book. No one so far has declined the request, not even the most famous among them; they all admire our Urtext editions and all feel deeply related to the musicological work we invest in creating the best editions possible. That is a great privilege. But it is also an opportunity for branding purposes and prestige advertising. You can imagine these portraits are not hidden from sight in a box on a shelf. No, they are worthily framed and hung in the large conference room at Henle. Every time I bring a new visitor to the room, the photo gallery is immediately acknowledged and marveled at. And, in extension, that applies to Henle as the publisher. You as well, dear reader, can view some of these photo portraits. They are on our website:
The extraordinary importance Henle attributes to holding close relations with artists, initially, has nothing to do with photographs and guestbooks. It actually all revolves around the music. It’s most simply because, we, in exchanging thoughts and ideas with musicians, mutually inspire each other. We as publishers have studied the sources (manuscripts, early prints and autographs) of the music and are experts at editing; the artists, though, are “power-users” of these classical works and editions. Many of them are familiar with problematic or difficult passages in a specific piece, they have read and compared differing publications, and contact us with questions or suggestions. And so, wonderfully, the circle is completed.
Early on even Günter Henle was aware of this, for the founder of our company was actively in contact with many classical music stars of his time, and some of them he had befriended. I almost fell out of my chair when I was first given the privilege of leafing through Anne-Liese and Günter Henle’s guestbook dated 1942 – 1979. Incredible, the names inscribed, so to speak, in pen and ink in this book. I will list only 10 randomly chosen names from over 100 written pages: Martha Argerich, Claudio Arrau, Wilhelm Backhaus, Daniel Barenboim, Edwin Fischer, Walter Gieseking, Yehudi Menuhin, David Oistrach, Rudolf Serkin, Pinchas Zukerman. Nearly all great musicians of that time frequented the Henle’s home and often left very personal notes in the guestbook.
Several of these immortal artists performed in the Henle family’s private music salon in Duisburg. Among them Arthur Rubinstein. Although Rubinstein had publicly sworn never again to perform in Germany after WW II, he made an exception for our founder and gave a private recital in his home. His entries in the guestbook, five in total, are filled with exuberance and gratitude:
„Dem großmütigen Retter der schönsten | Musik aller Zeiten, Herrn Dr. Henle – | vom Herzen dankbar __ | Arthur Rubinstein | Duisburg, 19.4.1967“. (To the generous savior of the most beautiful music of all times, Dr. Henle – with heartfelt gratitude _ Arthur Rubinstein Duisburg 19.4.1967).
Two years ago we received permission to scan the complete guestbook of Anne-Liese and Günter Henle – this valuable historic document – and publish it on our website. We commissioned an expert to decipher and transcribe each entry (not so easy a thing to do!). A comment or explanation accompanies each entry. And we added much more: an index that includes the names of the guests, short biographies, a chronology, a list of all the music works mentioned in the guestbook, and last but not least, a very personal introduction written by Sylvia Haas, Anne-Liese and Günter’s daughter and now the owner of the guestbook. (Regrettably, the web publication of the guestbook is not – yet – available in English. But whosoever is familiar with classical music should have no problem finding his or her way through the electronic book.)
And so, I wish you all a “Happy New Year 2017” and cordially invite you to browse through our most valuable guestbook: