Letter from Dutch Music Institute

By Philomeen Lelieveldt

By Philomeen Lelieveldt, curator collections at Nederlands Muziek Instituut (Dutch Music Institute) and The Hague City Archives (philomeen.lelieveldt@denhaag.nl)

Dynamics surrounding the NMI Collection Henriëtte Bosmans

For a long time I have had a special relationship with the music of Henriëtte Bosmans. When I became an active member for the Foundation Woman and Music at the end of the eighties I got to know her compositions. In 1991 we organized a major international conference Beyond Biography, where we used Bosmans’ portrait on the cover of all publicity material, because her great orchestral works and position in the music world broke all existing gender stereotypes. As a pianist she devoted herself to the work of contemporaries and as a composer she developed a musical language, with unmistakable French influences. She wrote orchestral works with solo instruments and a lot of chamber music and songs.


When I checked the archives of her colleague and friend Max Vredenburg, I came across this – as yet unknown – snapshot of Bosmans, visibly tired, with a bunch of flowers. Could it have been after a performance? Fortunately, date and place were on the back: “Scheveningen Jetty (Bosmans), August 27, 1950.” Delpher gave the answer:




Programming beyond the grave

This Summer, to our surprise, it turned out that the Dutch Music Institute has the rights to Bosmans’ family grave at Zorgvlied Cemetery in Amsterdam. In the mid-1980s my predecessor Frits Zwart had bought off the burial rights perpetually after unsuccessful attempts to interest other parties. We were approached by a grandniece of Bosmans who looked after the opposite grave and offered to plant something new, because the greenery looked a bit run down. She was already regularly weeding, as well as Helen Metzelaar, Bosmans’ biographer, who also turns out to be a silent caretaker of her grave. This Spring, the three of us are going to place a new tree to prepare the grave for the memorial year.

Grave Bosmans, Cemetery Zorgvlied, Rom.Cath. dep. ´t Heilig Hart (directly right at the entrance)


Without music, life is unnecessary

In 2002 Helen Metzelaar wrote in the biography Without music, life is unnecessary, a beautiful portrait of Bosmans’ life and of the musical family in which Bosmans grew up, with a mother who was a pianist and composer, and a father who was a cellist in the Concertgebouw Orchestra. Although her work gradually became known in The Netherlands, abroad it remained somewhat behind. We notice from the many requests in our mailbox that this is changing. Not only the quality of her music, but also economic and political considerations play a role in this. After July 2, 2022 the copyright to her work will expire and it will become much cheaper to perform. In addition, step by step the – still very conservative programming – orchestra world is beginning to realize that concerts with only works by (dead) men are no longer possible. In 2022, Bosmans will be BBC Radio 3’s Composer of the Week. The BBC National Orchestra of Wales has re-performed and recorded the first Cello Concerto, with Gemma Rosefield as soloist. (performance November 17, 2021) Our own Concertgebouw Orchestra will perform Bosmans’ Concert Piece for Violin and Orchestra on March 6, 2022, with violinist Vesko Eschkenazy, conducted by Riccardo Chailly.

Do you want to perform her works?

Bosmans’ sheet music is mostly published by Donemus and can also be found in the library of the Dutch Music Institute. www.nederlandsmuziekinstituut.nl