What do Offenbach’s Orphée aux enfers, Delibes’ Lakmé, Massenet’s Werther and Verdi’s Un Ballo in Maschera have in common? All these masterpieces are in the catalogue of one of the houses that marked the history of French music publishing in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries: Heugel.
Jacques-Léopold Heugel (1815-1883) had doubtless not foreseen that the modest music and instrument firm he founded in 1839 with Antoine Meissonnier, like him a music teacher, would, with time, become one of the most prestigious publishers in Paris. In 1842 it took up quarters in the rue Vivienne at the address of the periodical Le Ménestrel that Heugel and Meissonnier had bought. Yet although passionately interested in journalism, Heugel did not neglect his business as a music publisher: the friend of Rossini and Ambroise Thomas, he published collections for budding pianists as well as many albums of romances and dances illustrated by, among others, Daumier and Doré.
It was, however, to be his son Henri Heugel (1844-1916) who expanded the business. He especially bought up collections that enriched his own catalogue and brought him marketable titles: thanks to his purchasing of the Gérard collection (Offenbach’s Orphée aux enfers), that of the Escudier bothers (Rossini’s Barber of Seville and Verdi’s Un Ballo in Maschera), the publisher Tellier (Charpentier’s Louise) and the Louis Gregh company (Delibes’ Coppelia), Heugel became a giant of opera publishing. This was not all: in buying up Hartmann, Henri Heugel also got his hands on the works of Gabriel Fauré, Jules Massenet, Édouard Lalo…
Like the publisher Alphonse Leduc, Heugel was to remain a family business. Paul-Émile Chevalier (1861-1931), Henri’s nephew, ran the company for several years before Jacques Heugel (1890-1979) took over. At Heugel he provided a breath of fresh modernity and Georges Auric, Reynaldo Hahn, Francis Poulenc, Franz Schmitt, Jacques Ibert, Darius Milhaud and André Jolivet arrived to enrich the catalogue. From 1948 Jacques Heugel’s sons, François (commercial director) and Philippe Heugel (artistic director) formed a duumvirate at the head of the firm, continuing publications of the works of Georges Auric and Germaine Tailleferre, to whom were later added Pierre Boulez, Betsy Jolas, Henri Dutilleux and Gilbert Amy.
This wager on the future did not preclude the setting up in 1967 of a collection of early music, Le Pupitre, directed by François Lesure, which has become an authority in this domain, notably with the edition in twelve volumes by the harpsichordist Kenneth Gilbert of the 555 sonatas for keyboard of Domenico Scarlatti.
Today, this history lives on: the result of a long collaboration between the two houses, Éditions Alphonse Leduc bought Heugel in 1980 and thanks to patient and ongoing work of republishing and exploitation of a unique heritage, many operas that were the glory of Heugel can today once more take their turn in the limelight.