Alfred Schlee


With the post-mortem estate of the influential publisher Alfred Schlee (1901-1999), the first estate collection was handed over to the Archives of Contemporary Arts. In addition to life documents, the collection contains numerous correspondences of renowned composers and artists of the 20th century, as well as musical autographs, music prints and books with autograph dedications, and materials on modern dance from the early 20th century. Furthermore, the archives took over a desk from the previous possession of Ernst Krenek and a grand piano from the previous possession of the composer Anton von Webern.

Alfred Schlee Collection:

Time period: 1945-2001


  • Texts, speeches, essays


  •   Letters to and from Alfred (and Margarethe) Schlee
  •   Letters of condolence
  •   Correspondence on the occasion of the memorial concert for the 100th birthday

Life documents

  • Calendars (1945-1995)


  • Texts
  • Music manuscripts
  • Scores and music prints
  • Photographs
  • Programme booklets
  • Press documentation
  • Publishing materials
  • Secondary literature
  • Miscellaneous items


Alfred Schlee was born on 19 November 1901 in Dresden. After graduating from the Vitzthumschen Gymnasium in his native city, he attended the Bildungsanstalt für Musik und Rhythmus in Hellerau for half a year. During his youth, he took private lessons in piano, violoncello and music theory, after that he studied musicology, composition, philosophy and theatre studies in Munich and Leipzig. After his father fell seriously ill financial difficulties emerged due to the illness and Schlee could not graduate from the University of Vienna. Hence, he pick up touring as a pianist working with the dancers Mary Wigman and Yvonne Georgi, for whom he partly composed the music himself. In addition, he was also active as a critic in the field of dance. In autumn 1925, the Fürstlich Reußisches Theater in Gera assigned him as assistant director, and following his first engagement Schlee became in the next season dramaturg and répétiteur at the Stadttheater Münster.

From 1927, first contact with the Viennese publishing house Universal Edition, initially through editorial work, and since the early 1930s representative of Universal Edition in Berlin. After the National Socialists seized power in the German Reich, Schlee was often able to mediate between the publishing house’s interests and the demands of national-social cultural policy from 1933 onwards.

At first, from 1938 to 1945 Schlee worked together with Ernst Geutebrück, the then officially appointed provisional director, later under the new main shareholder Johannes Petschull in the aryanized headquarters of Universal Edition in Vienna. During this time, he was decisively responsible for rescuing the company's essential holdings.

After the end of the war, Schlee took over the management of the publishing house as public administrator until 1947. As a well-known personality in the world of Viennese musical life, he also belonged to the management of the Wiener Konzerthausgesellschaft from February 1946 on, a position in which he also strongly supported the promotion of contemporary creation. In the same year, he was appointed to the board of directors of the copyright society AKM and was granted Austrian citizenship. Together with Alfred Kalmus and Ernst Hartmann, he formed the publishing board of Universal Edition from 1951. Until his retirement in 1985, his was primarily responsible for the production program.

Through Schlee's initiative the following composers are associated with the publishing house: Gilbert Amy, Hans Erich Apostel, Theodor Berger, Luciano Berio, Harrison Birtwistle, Pierre Boulez, Francis Burt, Friedrich Cerha, Luigi Dallapiccola, Edison Denissow, Gottfried von Einem, Beat Furrer, Cristóbal Halffter, Roman Haubenstock-Ramati, Anton Heiller, Mauricio Kagel, Ernst Krenek, Ladislav Kupkovič, György Kurtág, Rolf Liebermann, György Ligeti, Frank Martin, Bohuslav Martinů, Olivier Messiaen, Arvo Pärt, Mario Peragallo, Henri Pousseur, Wolfgang Rihm, Karl Schiske, Alfred Schnittke, Rodion Schtschedrin, Kurt Schwertsik, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Jenő Takács, Alfred Uhl and Hans Zender.

Alfred Schlee initiated the scholarly complete editions of Arnold Schönberg and Alban Berg, the publication of the version of Alban Berg's "Lulu," completed by Friedrich Cerha, and endeavored to "rediscover" the composers Franz Schreker and Alexander von Zemlinsky.

The musicologist, theatre scholar and music publisher Alfred Schlee died in Vienna on 16 February 1999.