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It all started when a group of Viennese music publishers and music lovers in the Austro-Hungarian Empire wanted to become independent of imports of sheet music which came mainly from Leipzig. With the support of bankers „Universal Edition Actiengesellschaft“ was founded in Vienna in 1901.
A comprehensive catalogue of works by both classical and romantic composers came into being and these works continue to be a major mainstay of Universal Edition together with educational literature. The publication of academic works (Urtext editions, book series, Complete Editions) complements this programme.
Through the acquisition of shares of different publishers, works by Anton Bruckner, Richard Strauss, Max Reger and Franz von Suppé could be integrated into the catalogue.
Only a few years later new music increasingly dominated the publishing policy. Hence, an exemplary catalogue of works with contemporary music could systematically be built up. All names which later went down in the history of music as great composers were taken under contract by UE, by which abbreviation we are recognised everywhere.
Until 1938, the composers Gustav Mahler, Arnold Schönberg, Alban Berg, Anton Webern, Alexander Zemlinsky, Franz Schreker, Joseph Matthias Hauer, Alfredo Casella, Leos Janácek, Karol Szymanowski, Béla Bartók, Zoltán Kodály, Kurt Weill, Dmtri Schostakowitsch, Hanns Eisler, Ernst Krenek, Darius Milhaud, Bohislav Martinu, Gian Francesco Malipiero, Franz Schmidt followed.
The period after the Second World War and the reconstruction of the publishing house is characterised by the variety of musical styles of Pierre Boulez, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Olivier Messiaen, György Ligeti, Luciano Berio, Mauricio Kagel, Roman Haubenstock-Ramati, György Kurtág, Gottfried von Einem, Frank Martin, Rolf Liebermann, Luigi Dallapiccola, Arvo Pärt, Alfred Schnittke, Wolfgang Rihm, Morton Feldman, Harrison Birtwistle, Cristóbal Halffter, Friedrich Cerha, Beat Furrer, Hans Zender. In recent years, works by Georg Friedrich Haas, David Sawer, Ian Wilson, Mauricio Sotelo, Vykintas Baltakas, Johannes Maria Staud have complemented the publishing programme.
The publishing history of UE is to a large extent identical with the musical history of the 20th century. UE’s catalogue of works comprises around 32.000 editions.
UE represents in Austria the publishing houses Schott Music, Universal Music Publishing Ricordi, Editions Durand-Salabert-Eschig, European American Music Corporation, Editio Musica Budapest, PWM Edition, Oxford University Press, Edizioni Suvini Zerboni and Rai Trade. In addition to its own branch offices, UE is represented by renowned publishers in 25 major music centres abroad.