The music publishing company was founded on 1 May 1893 by Max Brockhaus (1867–1957) in Leipzig. Max Brockhaus, the great-grandson of the book publisher Friedrich Arnold Brockhaus (1772–1823), was related to the Wagner dynasty through the wife of his great uncle Hermann (1806–1877), Ottilie Wilhelmine Brockhaus (1811–1883), the sister of Richard Wagner.
As his brother Rudolf had already decided to enter the book publishing profession, Max Brockhaus embarked on a career as a music publisher. He served his apprenticeship with the book and music seller Ludwig Staackmann and in the family firm of F. A. Brockhaus in Leipzig, then undertook practical training in Zurich, Berlin, Brussels and London.
At the beginning of 1893 Brockhaus acquired the catalogues of Hermann Haessel (Leipzig), Eduard Wedl (Vienna) and part of the catalogue of Joseph Roth (Stuttgart). From this foundation, comprising works by Jakob Ils, Ignaz Brüll, Jacob Dont, Robert Fuchs, Carl Reinecke, Rudolf Bibl and Franz Schubert amongst others, in May of that year he founded “Max Brockhaus Musikverlag“, initially housed in the premises of F. A. Brockhaus in Querstraße, Leipzig. To the present day the suffix “Musikverlag” is always used in order to avoid confusion with the “great” Brockhaus publisher. In the year the company was founded, Brockhaus met Engelbert Humperdinck at the first performance of Hänsel und Gretel in Weimar. In 1896 he was able to acquire the fairy tale opera Königskinder for his company’s publishing programme, and the work was premiered a year later in Munich. This represented an important step towards the company becoming a theatrical publisher, something which Brockhaus developed further in the following years by the targeted acquisition of music theatre works.
The collaboration with Humperdinck was to be one of the most intensive and fruitful in the publishing company’s history. Over the following years numerous of the composer’s works were published by Max Brockhaus (Königskinder, Dornröschen, Heirat wider Willen, Maurische Rhapsodie, incidental music to Shakespeare’s dramas, songs). In 1906 the Theater am Nollendorfplatz in Berlin opened with Humperdinck’s incidental music to Shakespeare’s Der Sturm [The Tempest]. Around the turn of the century, works by Eugen d’Albert (Die Abreise, Seejungfräulein), Ruggiero Leoncavallo (Serenade and other works) and Alfredo Piatti were acquired. Around this time the publisher’s logo, the God Pan in front of a lyre, was designed by Fritz Schumacher (1869–1947).
In 1898 a close collaboration with Hans Pfitzner began, through which the opera Der arme Heinrich, the Marschner arrangement Templer und Jüdin, some symphonic works and a large number of songs were added to the catalogue. In 1906 the company also acquired works which had originally been published by Feuchtinger (including Die Rose vom Liebesgarten and the incidental music to Ibsen’s drama Das Fest auf Solhaug).
At the same time contact was established with the distant relation Siegfried Wagner whom Brockhaus had met in 1898 on the occasion of a visit to his aunt in Bayreuth. In the following years he published several of the composer’s operas (including Der Bärenhäuter) and in 1930 also incorporated works originally published by Carl Giessel in his catalogue. In 1910, at the express wish of the Wagner family, Richard Wagner’s Symphony in C major was published by Max Brockhaus.
At the beginning of the century, operas by Karel Weis (Der polnische Jude), Richard Heuberger (Barfüßele), Anselm Götzl (Zierpuppen), Bodo Sigwart (Die Lieder des Euripides) and Hans Hermann Wetzler (Die baskische Venus) were acquired. In 1890 the catalogue featured thirty operas.
As well as his work as a publisher, Max Brockhaus was involved in musical life in an honorary capacity. In November 1906 he was appointed to the Gewandhaus committee, of which he was chairman from 1920 to 1932. In 1931 he played a decisive role in negotiating the Gewandhaus contract with Leipziger Rundfunk.
In 1940 his daughter Elisabeth “Lilli” Gruner, née Brockhaus, took over the publishing house, continuing the business with her husband Friedrich Gruner. In December 1943, a few months after the company’s 50th anniversary, the publishing house and private residence were completely destroyed in a bombing raid, like so many other Leipzig publishers. After the war, the company was not granted a licence to trade in Leipzig, so its reincarnation took place in Lörrach in the Baden region. Although contact was initially maintained with the company’s authorised representative in Leipzig, after his death in 1950 links to East Germany broke down.
In 1976 the business was taken over by the Bonn publisher Joachim von Roebel and the company moved to Bonn-Bad Godesberg. Since 2004 Sophie von Roebel has run the company, and its head office moved to Remagen-Rolandswerth in 2006. In 2006/07 a fundamental overhaul took place, as a result of which numerous out-of-print works were reissued, including Humperdinck’s opera Dornröschen [Sleeping Beauty]. After its 50-year-long sleep, it has been performed regularly again in opera houses since 2008.