Writing, writing

not much recent posts as I spent most of the last months finishing articles. I’ll make updates on the most recent findings soon!


My lecture on Dufrasne on IHS46 was received very positively by the many attendants!


period mutes

The Royal Ghent conservatory kindly lender us their collection of 4 piston-horn mutes. These mutes are (probably) made from maple, and can be opened at the top. We’re currently experimenting with them in the Mengal Ensemble and hope to get acquainted with them by the IHS14 symposium in London...IMG_2979

mr. Dufrasne (quatro)

In Pau, South of France, searching for evidence of mr. Dufrasne’s years at the local orchestra. In the 5 years Dufrasne played here, the Palais d’Hiver had financial tousles at least 2 times, and musicians were the first to remain unpaid. Also new: Dufrasne had a wife and kid at that time...

(photograph by courtesy of Archives Municipales de Pau)

Van Cauwelaert-project

In Bremen at the workshop of the wonderful Daniel Kunst. He is preparing for the reconstruction work of a valve horn by Ferdinand Van Cauwelaert, a patent of 1847 of which no specimen survive. The valve block (very close to a viennese valve set) have been produced, now it will be reconstructed from scratch with only a patent to follow… Valve block

mr. Dufrasne (tris)

Last days of an opera project in Vienna…
Going trough some years of Ostend regional press yesterday evening (amazing online archive they have in Ostend!), discovered some interesting fact about mr. Dufrasne’s youth years in Belgium.
I had been looking already if Dufrasne, before being admitted to the Ghent conservatoire in the last years of the 19th century, had followed courses at a local music school in the Hainaut region. He was born in Quiévrain, but his name was not on the graduates lists I could find of nearby music schools…

I knew Dufrasne has been a member of the Kursaal orchestra in Ostend during some seasons in the years before he migrated to the US. But now it appears that he had moved to Ostend already as a teenager.

A possible explanation might be that Dufrasne’s father, a railway employee, moved from the service in Quiévrain to another important railway centre, Ostend.
Anyhow, Dufrasne has been a pupil at the Ostend conservatoire, certainly until 1893, when he obtained a 2° prix with high honors in the brass class of mr. Pierkot. His name figures in the local press several times.
He was called for the tirage au sort (some kind of a lottery that decides who had to go to compulsory military service) in january 1897, probably this is how he ended up in Deprez’ class at the Ghent conservatoire some time after.

I keep on digging into the life of this intriguing exponent of the Belgian horn school…

the press search revealed other interesting things, more to come!


Working on an edit of the beautiful „invocation” for Horn quartet, found back along other interesting horn quartets in lyrical style, that will make a recording and concert projects in the near future…


Ghent (opera archives)

Was here last week already to browse the catalogue of the Ghent opera archives. It’s always a joy to have a proper catalogue instead of having to empty dozens of boxes without finding anything. I selected 25 files in which I suspected interesting information, and was able to find mostly what I was looking for. Some nice side findings as a letter from Mengal père (the father of Jean-Baptiste and Martin-Joseph) to director C.L. Hanssens to ask why he was town out of the opera orchestra…the comment in the margin by Hanssens: „trop agé” (too old). Some times truly don’t change…

Jacques Mengal

And another amusing thingy on Norbert Herteleer (1828-1874),

Amende de cinq francs: Infligée à M. Herteleer, 1° cor pour avoir, malgré les observations réctérées de chef d'Orchestre pendant la répétition joué des variations et toute autre partie écrite dans sa partie dans le ballet, représentation au 20 novembre 1871”


Research at the Library of the Brussels Conservatoire today. Retrieving information from the student’s registration cards from 1870-1950, well prepared by Richard Sutcliffe, whom I owe a nice beer for this effort! Besides this, some very interesting information from archive documents as ARC017 (register of musical instruments), an archive piece that was not available to the public until very recently.
Seems mr. Sax has done some good business here...

mr. Dufrasne (bis)

Finally I got time to look at mr. Dufrasne’s birth certificate I copied in Quiévrain a while ago. So far, we know he was 2 years older than he declared on his immigration documents (probably issue of being able to migrate easier), his father was in service of the railway company (still now, Quiévrain is an important lining station for the Belgian railways as it is the last station before the French border), and his mother was 10 years younger than his father. This is the kind of document that brings amazing stories to your research….

Dufrasne Birth

Ghent (conservatoire)

In the library of the Ghent conservatoire, unable to see most of the archive pieces I was looking for because of their move to another location.
I went trough the entire archive and library back in 2003-2004, and found amazing things as original letters of Adolphe Sax, and an amazing resource on everyday musicians life.
Besides some data on mr. Dufrasne, I stumbled across this interesting document, showing musicians in Liège were much less paid at the time than their counterparts in Ghent. It’s always striking to see that nothing ever changes.

comparison Ghent-Liège


By the end of the 19th century, many Belgian horn players came from the region of Mons and the Borinage mining region, a region that had seen an enormous raise in the number of wind bands in the second half of the century due to union work. Horn players originally from this region were well represented in the enrollment lists of f.e. the Brussels conservatoire.
Today’s visit to the Mons conservatoire confirmed that a rich history of horn playing must have been present in the region. I was very warmly welcomed by the director, mr. Stockhem and the very help some librarian of the institute. On top of that, Mons is an extremely hie city to walk in and the weather even allowed me to eat outside on the market square...

On the other hand, archives of f.E. the Mons conservatoire (but as well of large music schools in the region as Frameries, Tournai and Ath) are all but easily accessible. Research in Wallonia is an adventure, for sure, but within some experimental browsing of old paper I already found back some interesting traces of horn playing, as this picture from the Société des Concerts of Mons, around 1900, where both players clearly play Van Cauwelaert Liégeois horns:

Mons orchestra

To browse these archives in the boring looking for traces of players, and of course their repertoire and playing style, will be a project for later this year.

lyrically trough the Bruges Beguinage

Todays concert at the Bruges Beguinage church featured a horn and organ program, with some nice Flemish pieces by Waelput and Guillemyn. Truly beautiful music in one of the most beautiful places in Europe.

Begijnhof Brugge

in a lyrical mood

You might know the wonderful „zomeravond” by Joseph Ryelandt, I recorded for phaedra a few years ago with Jan Huylebroeck and the Mengal Ensemble.
The recording is still available, but todays meeting was all about getting the private music collection that holds the manuscript back to Belgium.
In the next months, I will edit some very nice examples of the lyrical repertoire for horn quartet. Keep connected!

CD 92065 - cover-1

mr. Dufrasne

Being on a project in Madrid, the weather being bad, it seems an ideal occasion to lock up in y hotel room and look into the life of mr. Louis Dufrasne.

Dufrasne was a horn player orriginary from Quiévrain in the South of Belgium. He studied with Jean Deprez just before 1900, and was a players in several Belgian orchestras before he migrated -as many- to the US.

Thanks to mr. Norman Schweikert, retired horn player from the ChicagoSymphony, who is the kind administrator of the „Washington Archive of US Musicians”, I could retrieve many details on Dufrasnes career. Now, the puzzle seems not easy, as Dufrasne is reported to have played about anywhere in Western Europe before 1910, and even seems to have combined positions in European ànd in US orchestras during the years 1907-1911….
After his move to the US, besides being one of the most respected players in Chicago and elsewhere, he made history by teaching players as Phil Farkas and Frank Brouk.

This summer, during the 46th IHS symposium in London, I will do a lecture-performance on this amazing man who imported the Belgian playing tradition in the US.



I was kindly invited to the opening (vernissage) of the Sax200 expo in the Brussels museum of musical instruments.Truly a great exposition EVERYBODY should see. Lots of unique horns on display as well. Spread the word!www.sax200.be



Had a great day in Bern meeting up with old friends and hearing some very interesting lectures on Romantic Brass research.
Lecture went well today, looking forward to the publication of the proceedings.

Playing the 6-valver

Small trip to Wallonia today, visited mr. Bantuelle and mr. Delhaye, proud owners of another rare Sax 6-valve horn in company of my dear friend Bart Cypers (Flemish Opera principal).

Adolphe Sax Cor à Six Pistons Indépendants, 1878 klein

Mr Sax and his Valves...

the Monster!

It’s been a quite busy research month so far, with updates on past projects, making repertoire list and prepare for what’s coming. But not to late to share this:

First cliff to take: my lecture at the Romantic Brass symposium at the Bern Hochschule. I did already quite some research on the Sax 6-valve horn in the past, but now I’m going into the subject thoroughly, with 2 lectures this year: Adolphe Sax’s Ultimate Masterpiece: the History, design and Use of the Cor à 6 Pistons Indépendants, presented in Bern next week (feb 3-5), and another one, called Adolphe Sax’s Histoire Belge: the introduction of independently valved instruments at Belgian conservatoires, 1869-1874, in the Museum of Musical Instruments in Brussels (MIM), july 4-6.

On this behalf, I was kindly admitted to the MIM’s reserve by mr. Géry Dumoulin today. If I still wanted to examen the 6-valver in their collection in the next months, I had to do it now. In a weeks’s time, he’ll be on display.

The instrument was nicely polished on this occasion, and, being a few years ago I saw one of these for the last time, I was still impressed by it’s overall impression. It’s a monster and a beauty at the same time…


First day at the office!

First project day, which means signing contracts at the AP offices, a quick talk with the head librarian and overall lots of reading. An awful amount of work to do, but what a joy to be able to do this! First goal: In 4 weeks, my first lecture as a research fellow should be ready for the february conference of the Historic Brass society in Bern…so, get working, mr. Horn!Hoorndag 2010 foto 3