Touched by the music of Bosmans

By Loes Visser

During my studies orchestral conducting in The Hague, I received a present from my teacher Lucas Vis: a record with the ‘Concertstuk for violin and orchestra’. composed by Henriëtte Bosmans, played by Vera Beths and conducted by Lucas Vis himself. I was directly touched by this very moving, intense, brilliant, colorful, French orientated music and it planted the wish in my mind to perform this concerto in the future.

That wish came true when we celebrated the hundredth birthday of Henriëtte Bosmans on December 6th 1995 with a Bosmans Project. Together with soprano Julia Bronkhorst I organized three concerts with symphonic repertoire of Bosmans. To prepare I visited Dr. Frits Zwart of the Dutch National Music Institute, Marius Flothuis (composer and former artistic director of the Concertgebouw Orchestra), and Donemus and Broekmans & van Poppel, to find as much scores as possible, mostly handwritten, of her orchestral compositions. Finally we played three concerts: One in the venue Beurs van Berlage (this concert was broadcasted December 7th 1995 on the Dutch National Radio by the VPRO), one in the Fentener van Vlissingenzaal in Utrecht, and the last one in the Kleine Zaal of the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam (here we played the ‘Fluitconcertstuk’ and Bosman’s songs with piano).

For the full program I chose: Fluitconcertstuk, Fètes Galantes by Willem Pijper (Bosman’s composition teacher), dix Mélodies (orchestrated by Willem Strietman), the songs ‘Lead Kindley Light’, Gebed and Doodenmars and finally the Concerstuk for violin and orchestra. Performers were: Adamello Orchestra (a festival orchestra), Loes Visser – conductor, Eleonore Pameijer – flute, Julia Bronkhorst – soprano, Mariëlle Ponsen – violin.

I truly think that the Concertstuk for violin and orchestra by Bomans is one of the best and most colorful Dutch violin concertos. The three parts of the concert are composed in one piece, though clearly recognizable. The introduction touches you directly with a grand mourning melody in the orchestra with its continuously returning augmented second, followed by the lyric violin solo resembling the human voice. After the introduction a vivid Allegro continues with virtuoso, cantabile and tender passages in the violin and the orchestra, followed by the intimate, mysterious Adagio, with different measures like 5/4, flowing organically into the intense finale, that is closed repeating the theme of the introduction.

Henriëtte Bosmans wrote the Concertstuk for her beloved partner Francis Koene, who unfortunately died before the piece premiered. The concert deserves to be performed much more often, just like Bosman’s other compositions. Since I peformed the Concertsuk for violin and orchestra in 1995, I had the opportunity to conduct it once more, again with soloist Mariëlle Ponsen. I am a real fan of Bosman’s music and I intensely want to record several of her symphonic compositions that have not yet been recorded on CD, to make them heard by a much larger audience. Amongst these are the Concertstuk for violin and orchestra, her Dix Melodies, the song Lead Kindly Light and the wonderful 2nd cello concerto. I think it is a must that all Bosman’s music should be recorded to make it more known and performed in the concert halls, on the radio and on other media.

Apart from the symphonic repertoire I also promoted the chamber music of Bosmans by performing in 2017 the second movement of the cello sonata with the Britten Youth String Orchestra and the winner of the Britten Cello Competition that year. For this occasion composer Ben de Ligt made an arrangement for cello and string orchestra. During the chamber music concerts of The Britten Youth String Orchestra our Britten Quartet often played the Bosman’s String Quartet.

Loes Visser