On occasion of a conference at Orpheus Instituut I had some tremendous days in the Flemish town of Ghent in November. My mind has been fueled with so many new ideas, open-minded people and inspiring encounters during and after the conference that I can easily write several blog articles about my time in Ghent and the conference. I decided to write first about my visit in the library of the conservatory, one of the most impressive libraries I ever have seen.
Jeroen Billiet, lecturer in the conference and French horn teacher, had recommended me to visit the library. He described it as a place where to find unknown preciosa in cardboard boxes, but at the same time mentioned that it may be that some things I find in the catalogue may not be available due to the library moving these days.
When I arrived at the library in the Conservatory (street: Hogpoort) I was welcomed by librarian Wim and chief librarian Roos. The room I entered was not more than 30m² big and did look like a cluttered office rather than a library: Computers for catalogue research, shelves with standard encyclopedias such as the New Grove, and desks with piles of random books on them. In the middle of all this: Librarian Wim; „chief librarian“ Roos and librarian Cindy Colman were soon to come, too. I introduced myself as a clarinetist searching for clarinet music of all kinds, especially 19th and 20th century. The digital catalogue showed me some interesting results that are worth researching more. At that point I was still wondering where all those books and scores were, I mean, where the actual library was. Soon after, I found out: On my request Roos got me scores of three Belgian / Ghent composers from 19th and early 20th century, and I was amazed to see some of their manuscripts. The entrance to the „real library“ was a small door on the right, and through a looooong corridor that was covered in scores over and over (not quite: Some shelves were already empty, their „inhabitants“ moved to the new place), one would come to a huge, attic-like room which held all the treasures. First of all, Roos showed me one of the library’s top preciosa: The manuscript of two concertinos for clarinet and orchestra by Charles Louise Hanssens (or Karel Lodewijk Hanssens), composed 1836 and 1837. The conservatory’s clarinet professor has edited them, and they have been published at Metropolis; a faksimile of the manuscript of Concertino no. 1 can be found on imslp.
Roos also showed me the manuscript of a clarinet concertino by Martin Lunssens (1871-1944). Another concertino for clarinet and orchestra, by a certain Adolphe-Abraham Samuel (composed in 1841?) was not on its shelf anymore.
Finally, Cindy Colman helped me get a scan of another interesting piece, „Humoreske voor klarinet en klavier“ (1971) by Gabriel Verschraegen, who was a church musician at the great St Baafs Cathedral; a piece which I could only find in this one library since as far as I know it is not published.
Many of the Ghent musicians and composers and their families have passed on their musical inheritment to this library, and many more preciosa, especially from late 19th to early 20th century, are hidden there. Since I did not really plan on my visit and only had a short time to spend there, I may go back and dig into everything that seems worthwhile!
Unexpected encounters often turn out to be the most interesting ones.