Saving Belgium’s musical heritage

26th of October 2021

Thanks to support from the Léon Courtin-Marcelle Bouché Fund, the King Baudouin Foundation has been able to acquire a lot of 17 music manuscripts by the internationally-renowned Belgian composer Philippe Boesmans (b. 1936), who was about to sell the manuscripts individually. Friends of Philippe Boesmans joined forces and asked for the Foundation’s help. The Foundation managed to avoid this valuable part of our musical heritage from being dispersed and return the manuscripts to Belgium. 

Preserved as a collection

The King Baudouin Foundation’s music archives have once more been enriched. Thanks to the Léon Courtin-Marcelle Bouché Fund, the Foundation has been able to acquire 17 manuscripts during the ‘Lettres & Manuscrits autographes – Musique’ d’Ader’ auction in Paris, on 12 October. This was not the first time that the Léon Courtin-Marcelle Bouché Fund had acquired works of significant value to our musical heritage, with the aim of preserving them for future generations.

The Foundation will now entrust the manuscripts to the music department of the Royal Library of Belgium, where they will be kept in optimal conditions and be accessible for research.

Protecting and preserving our heritage is the mission of the King Baudouin Foundation’s ‘Heritage & Culture’ programme and this is an instance where we were really able to make the difference. By purchasing the entire 17 lots, we prevented the manuscripts from being sold individually.

Several people in the field of music, including Marie Cornaz, Bernard Foccroule and Manuel Couvreur, came together to ensure that the Boesmans documents were not dispersed.

It was at the request of Marie Cornaz, Curator of the Music Department at the Royal Library of Belgium, and Olivia Wahnon de Oliveira, from the Belgian Royal Conservatory, that the Foundation was asked to purchase the music archives of Philippe Boesmans. Following consultation with Cécilé Auzole, Lecturer at the University of Poitiers and a Boesmans specialist, and the positive opinion of other experts, the purchase was recommended to the Management Committee of the Léon Courtin-Marcelle Bouché Fund, managed by the King Baudouin Foundation.

Important source

Marie Cornaz and Olivia Wahnon de Oliviera stress that “This is a real first because, hitherto, Belgian libraries and other institutions did not keep composers’ handwritten scores.”

Marie Cornaz commented: “The acquisition of these 17 compositions at the Ader sale, all of which come from the collection of music manuscripts of Parisian publisher Jobert, not only prevents the dispersion of this integral source of Belgian musical heritage; it also helps to develop a unique and innovative musical and musicological expertise on Boesmans right here in Belgium and based on real manuscripts, something that was previously absent from Belgian institutions.”

A Belgian composer of international renown

Philippe Boesmans (b. Tongres, 1936) developed a very personal musical language and was rapidly recognised as a highly talented composer. He has won several prizes in Belgium and abroad, including the Prix Italia (1971) for his composition Upon la mi, one of the manuscripts included in the Foundation’s acquisition.

Other manuscripts acquired include that of the composer’s first opera, La Passion de Gilles, premiered at the Brussels opera La Monnaie in 1983, and L'incoronazione di Poppea, a new orchestration of Monteverdi’s opera, which Boesmans made at the request of Gerard Mortier, the Monnaie’s Director.

Boesmans is also widely recognised for his orchestral and instrumental compositions. His Concerto pour violon et orchestre, a homage to the Belgian violin school of Vieuxtemps and Ysaÿe, was awarded the Prix de l'Académie Charles Cros.

In 2000, Boesmans was awarded the Prix Honegger for the entirety of his work and, in 2004, the SACD’s Prix de la Musique.

More about the Léon Courtin – Marcelle Bouché Fund

Managed by the King Baudouin Foundation, the Léon Courtin-Marcelle Bouché Fund supports the acquisition, conservation, restoration and promotion of our Belgian heritage, so that it is kept for future generations. Over the years, the Fund has made numerous very important acquisitions, as well as being a major pillar in the field of our musical heritage.

Thanks to the Fund, the following works have been acquired and kept in our pubic collections:

  • the double base made by Benoît Joseph Boussu (1703-1773), the only known double bass attributed to him;
  • a bassoon dating from the early 19th century, made by the Belgian musical instrument maker Jean Arnold Antoine Tuerlinckx (1753-1827); 
  • the last piano made by the Brussels piano maker Jacques-François Vogelsangs; 
  • the oldest baritone saxophone (1846), personally made by Adolphe Sax.

This recent acquisition of music manuscripts means that important new archives of our musical heritage have been preserved for posterity.