Broadcasting and Orchestra Libraries Branch

By Benelli, Sabina | Fontes Artis Musicae, October-December 2014 | Go to article overview

Broadcasting and Orchestra Libraries Branch


Benelli, Sabina, Fontes Artis Musicae


This year our branch session was on the topics of Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Music Engraving in Modern Times, and the Belgian National Radio Institute.

The first paper, 'Music library of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra' was presented by Marianne Butijn and Douwe Zuidema (Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Amsterdam). Introducing the first paper of the open session, the music librarians Marianne Butijn and Douwe Zuidema offered to the audience a short overview of the history and activities of the Concertgebouw Orchestra, supported by a poster showing the last tour of their orchestra, a six continents trip around the world in one year, organized in 2013 to celebrate the 125th anniversary of the institution. Marianne Butijn's presentation outlined the role of the music library as an active partner of the orchestra in planning and preparing performances, remarking how the term "archive" is employed to describe both archives and orchestral music libraries, in spite of the big differences regarding both the professional training and the actual tasks of the music librarian, the collections stored in the library, and their dynamic use, which generates continuous changes in the collected materials. Several anecdotes highlighted how some of the principal skills required to be a good orchestral librarian have to be the abilities to prevent and to react to unexpected events, in a short time and sometimes through non conventional ways, due to the different nature of the many troubles that one can face.

The speaker then described the principal steps made by the librarians in adjusting and setting parts and scores for the various orchestra activities, not only for the concerts planned in the regular season but also for tours and other kinds of performances, such as participation in TV broadcasts, which need different strategies. For example, programs for TV broadcasts must be adapted to a very precise timing depending on the schedule, and supplementary stage indications have to be notated in the conductor's score, creating a kind of "prompt score". For tours in foreign countries, the orchestra performs national anthems, and very often, after having checked the correct version, the librarians must obtain orchestral sets transcribing the only available materials, in many cases originally written for brass or wind ensembles.

Last, but not least, the orchestral music librarian has to cooperate with the artistic management and with the conductors in the choice of editions and orchestral sets to use; the librarian checks if there are differences between the score and the parts, conforms performance markings following the conductor's indications and can also give indications for the stage setting after checking the score, if there are any technical reasons about the best placement of instrumental groups. Since productions are often circulating and deadlines are shorter and shorter, it is also very important to stay in touch with colleagues abroad in order to find orchestral sets specifically used and required by different conductors; moreover, sometimes conductors and composers need qualified assistance about technical and practical aspects of the performance. A good connection with music publishers is also recommended in order to contribute to better quality in orchestral materials.

Answering some questions from the audience, both librarians gave some further information about the effective amount of work for the music library during the season.

The second paper of the session 'The Art of Making Notes. Music engraving in modern times and what it holds for music librarians' was given by Werner J. Wolff (Notengrafik Berlin).

Werner Wolff, who had been also invited to attend as a guest our working meeting on the previous day, had manifested from the beginning his keen interest in practices concerning the activity of orchestral music librarians: this interest could be explained by the paper presented at the open session. …

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