Breaking: Famous music publisher stops the presses

Breaking: Famous music publisher stops the presses


norman lebrecht

October 18, 2019

It appears that Edwin F. Kalmus, one of the major colophons in music publishing since 1926, has ceased operations and is looking for a buyer. Kalmus describes itself as the greatest collection of orchestral and operatic music ever available from a single source.

Here’s the statement:


Dear Edwin F. Kalmus and LudwigMasters Customers,
We wanted to give you an update on the state of our business. As of 10-23-19 we will stop all printing operations. We are working with potential buyers who will resume filling orders after a sale has occurred. We deeply regret any and all inconveniences this causes you and your customers.
If you are in desperate need of one of our publications, here is a solution. JW Pepper has been kind enough to post an abundance of our publications on their website, available for download through eprint. Most of the Latham Music Catalog is there as well as the last few years of
LudwigMasters new issues for concert band, string orchestra and chamber music. This does NOT include any Kalmus works.
Again we are deeply sorry and hope to have our products available to everyone after a sale has occurred.
Thank you,
Joseph Galison


  • Woodeye says:

    Reprint publisher, to be precise.

  • Bill says:

    Getting free stuff from IMSLP has its consequences

    • Guest says:

      But if you have a conscience, its not free because you donate. Then the added bonus, you get the music 12 seconds faster.

  • Dragonetti says:

    Thank God for that! Finally someone, somewhere will need to reprint their dreadful orchestral parts. They are truly dreadful, both to read and for the number of mistakes and general ambiguities. Plenty of orchestral players won’t miss them. Probably what will happen though is that they will be bought lock stock and barrel and will be newly reincarnated every bit as bad as before.
    Oh well, I lived in hope.

    • Old Man in the Midwest says:

      Full of errors to be sure, but they were cheap editions and recent efforts include reworking with careful edits by Clinton Nieweg.

      For many small professional and community orchestras, Kalmus was a lifeline for getting orchestral parts at a reasonable price rather than paying more for rentals.

      I hope someone purchases the firm but, alas, as someone said, IMSLP has made it hard to justify having Kalmus around in most cases where the parts are no longer under copyright.

      • Bill says:

        I can’t tell how many professional, gigs I do now where they tell me “you can get the music off of IMSLP” rather than send it to me.

      • David K. Nelson says:

        I fail to see how this can be regarded as good news for classical music under any circumstances. The many failings of Kalmus parts and scores are old news with some fairly notorious examples, but if anybody feels they can do better than Kalmus, by all means do so, and don’t buy from them, but how then does the total absence of Kalmus come to be regarded as a positive development? {parenthetical remark – older Milwaukee Symphony musicians still like to parody Zdenek Macal’s pronunciation of “Cow Moose.”}

        Masters Music Publications, which I think is part of Kalmus under their Ludwig Masters label, has more than band music, including quite a bit of solo string music that is not easily found, even including IMSLP. This includes some violin (and viola) and piano literature that I have relied on quite a bit, not all of which is there waiting for me on IMSLP by the way.

        Speaking of which, if Kalmus is to be slammed for poor quality reprints, is IMSLP to be held up as the example that does it better? Sometimes yes, but often no, and mistakes in the original are going to be mistakes in the reprint regardless of who pushes the “scan” button – not to mention the scans of used originals where someone else’s notions of bowing and fingering (and even some cuts) are “hard wired” into the scan and quite a chore to remove. And older sheet music often came on enormous sizes of paper, making for very cramped reading on a printout from IMSLP. Or the very old editions on dark yellowed paper that scan to a more or less solid gray with vague spots representing what were surely musical notes circa 1800. We won’t even mention the super old originals that require you to learn, or bone up again on, 18th century notation practices. Don’t get me wrong – I am intensely happy IMSLP exists and have found many treasures there.

        Want a sobering exercise? Dig out a copy of Margaret Farish’s “String Music in Print” and go to the List of Publishers in the back. Page after page of names. Google the names. It is to weep, so many are gone. And you can sit down with the book’s music entries and spend an afternoon on IMSLP and find plenty that was available in print in the 1960s that is NOT to be found, anywhere, except at used book shops if you are lucky. The loss of an actual print publisher of classical music is not, and never will be, happy news.

        • James says:

          Kalmus is to be slammed for not ever once making an effort to reformat its worst parts. The expectation that we musicians would continue to accept the same mistake-ridden and unreadable ledger lined parts forever is part of what makes the entire music publishing world worthy of harsh criticism. What other business could continue to foist the same never-improved product on the public and haughtily expect them to like it or lump it? If the Kalmus catalogue disappears only then might some improved orchestral parts and scores emerge out of necessity.

    • Doug says:

      Maybe you can afford the overinflated price of publisher scores on your bloated salary, but struggling musicians–whom you would otherwise praise here on these pages–relied on Kalmus for decades despite their failings. Get a grip.

    • Mick the Knife says:

      Wasn’t it nicknamed “Clam-us” because of all the mistakes?

  • Ruben Greenberg says:

    Kalmus also published chamber music rarities, many of which are not on IMSLP as they are not yet in the public domain. Thus, I regret the demise of this company.

    • Bill says:

      Ruben, can you give some specific examples? I did some poking around in the online catalog and didn’t really find anything. Maybe I’m looking in the wrong spot.

  • Cubs Fan says:

    Well hopefully there is a buyer and they can keep Kalmus going. Kalmus makes a lot of music available that you can’t get anywhere else, and IMSLP may have a lot of scores, but they don’t always have parts. For better or worse, Kalmus has been a godsend to amateur, community and college orchestras and I hope for the best. I wish Luck’s would take it over.

  • Jack says:

    A very sad day

  • Boris says:

    Please keep in mind that many of the works available from Kalmus are still being offered in the same editions by the original publishers as loan materials – for much more money and rather disgusting paper editions. Kalmus was in many works equivalent in content, but much cheaper. And Kalmus is a musical memory for orchestral music. Many works from her catalog are no longer available anywhere else.

  • MF1 says:

    “The Nieweg et al. and McAlister/Wolf CORRECTED editions will continue to be
    available from Serenissima. Approximately 2/3 of the editions that have been
    prepared over the years are presently available in print from Serenissima.
    Scores, Study Scores and Parts will be printed to order.”

    Serenissima Music, Inc.
    205 S. Charles St.
    Edwardsville, Illinois 62025 USA
    E-mail address:

    All Nieweg et al. editions will also be available from EMS:

  • jim says:

    If you need a separate opera part, I’m Asleep isn’t very useful. A Kalmus part was almost always more economical than printing one out from online if you had to do it at a copy shop. And then you still had to bind the thing.