A music publisher body and soul

The head of Bärenreiter, Barbara Scheuch-Vötterle, turns 70

“The nicest thing about my calling is that there’s no boundary between professional and private.” Thus Barbara Scheuch-Vötterle, who will celebrate her 70th birthday on 27 November, once whole-heartedly proclaimed. And she might have said the same 45 years ago, when she broke off her law studies in 1972 to join the House of Bärenreiter and assist its ailing founder, her father Karl Vötterle. When her father died three years later she assumed full responsibility for a music publishing house that had grown from modest beginnings to worldwide stature in the field of music. But his daughter, the youngest of five children, was concerned with more than simply running the company she had inherited. Together with her husband, the Zurich-born theatre authority Leonhard Scheuch, who joined the firm in 1976 and quickly recognised the outdated organisational structures resulting from 50 years of patriarchal leadership, she soon made the right decisions in order to sharpen the company's profile. She discarded all publications and areas unrelated to music, shut down its unprofitable technical operations and consistently expanded its catalogue to incorporate areas new to the House of Bärenreiter. Among the latter were the publication of the symphonies of Ludwig van Beethoven (beginning in 1997), the inclusion of English, Russian, Italian and especially French music, and a consistent orientation on the “Bärenreiter Urtext” as the bedrock of all the company’s efforts. The ultimate goal – to offer Urtext editions of the masterpieces of music history to musicians all over the world – gets closer every year.

One constant she has retained is contemporary music, which holds a firm place in the company’s operations even today, just as it did in its earliest years. Living composers are looked after, not with an eye to profit, but to advance an art form that has a difficult time in our event-oriented music industry. “We are patrons of the arts”, says Barbara Scheuch-Vötterle. The proof can be seen in such internationally successful composers as Manfred Trojahn, Beat Furrer, Charlotte Seither, Matthias Pintscher and Miroslav Srnka.

Today some 140 employees work for Bärenreiter and its subsidiaries in Kassel, London and Prague, making it the second-largest music publishing house in Germany. The acquisition of professional expertise has always been one of the company’s major concerns. The rightness of the approach is proved by the high quality of its sheet music publications, half of which are sold abroad.

Does she have any hobbies? No one whose life is filled to overflowing with one’s own firm, with trips to attend performances, and with the cultivation of existing contacts and the formation of new ones across international boundaries, needs to have hobbies. Which is not to say that Barbara Scheuch-Vötterle, the winner of several high distinctions (including an honorary professorship from the State of Hessen and honorary memberships in the Gesellschaft für Musikforschung and the German Music Council), is not committed to other goals as well. Since 1998 she has been a member of the board of directors of the Kassel Music Festival, and she has a special commitment to music education. Only recently she campaigned on behalf of a music project with refugee children in Kassel.

And when it comes to solving difficult problems that require joint clarification, she is fond of saying, “Being a housewife and a mother, I feel that ...”. And usually she's right. A mother of two sons and a grandmother of three grandchildren, she is a superb cook and a gifted hostess whose home is always open to composers, writers, artists and friends.

Other people enter retirement at the age of 70. It’s a period that doesn't interest her in the slightest. Barbara Scheuch-Vötterle and Leonhard Scheuch have jointly headed the 'House beneath the Star' for more than 40 years. Recently they have judiciously delegated tasks to their son Clemens Scheuch, a member of the company’s board of management since 2011. In short, a smooth transition to the third generation of this family enterprise, which will celebrate its centennial in 2023, is already ensured.