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Traces of early music pioneer Gusta Goldschmidt at the Orpheus Institute

News February 16, 2022

In December, the Orpheus Institute acquired photos, manuscripts, vinyl records and press cuttings once belonging to early music pioneer Gusta Goldschmidt. This donation by her daughter Anne Bailes -van Royen forms the ideal complement to the previously- acquired Huys, Koopman and Thwaites collections.

Gusta Goldschmidt (1913-2005) was born into an Amsterdam merchant family with a great love of music. As a young child she received violin lessons, but later changed to the piano. At the age of seventeen she went to Frankfurt to further her studies on that instrument, but being Jewish, the rise of Nazism in Germany convinced her to leave for Paris in 1933. It was after hearing a concert by Wanda Landowska at the nearby Saint-Leu-la-Fôret, that she decided to devote herself to the harpsichord, and spent six years studying at Landowska’s École de Musique Ancienne. Dozens of photographs in this collection offer unique glimpses into the daily life at Landowska’s home.

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Wanda Landowska’s class. Photo with dedication, 1935. Second from the right we recognize Gusta Goldschmidt. The musical incipit is from Vivaldi’s RV 978.

During a summer course at Landowska`s private school, `Guusje` met her future husband and duo partner, the flautist Everard van Royen. The outbreak of the Second World War put an early end to the rise of the Van Royen-Golschmidt duo. While Landowska saw her villa plundered by the Nazis and flew, first to Switzerland, and then to the U.S.A., Goldschmidt endured the horrors of the concentration camps at Vught and Westerbork.

After the war Everard founded the baroque sextet Alma Musica, of which Gusta was a member. Although he was responsible for the choice of repertoire, and general organisation, it was the
violinist Paul Godwin who took charge of rehearsals. The ensemble performed throughout Europe and made recordings for Ducretet Thomson (Selmer) in Paris. These were later re-released on Das Alte Werk.

Gusta continued to play with Alma Musica until its disbandment in 1964 and it was during these final years that her interest for the lute and its music grew. On the advice of musicologist Frits Noske she took up contact with Diana Poulton, from whom she took lessons, later furthering her studies with Walter Gerwig, Emilio Pujol and Eugen Dombois. Equipped with a substantial
knowledge of the repertoire for this seldom-heard instrument, she became the very first lute teacher at the Amsterdam Muzieklyceum and continued to teach there after its integration
into the Sweelinck Conservatorium. She also taught at the summer school of the English Lute Society, besides advising lute makers and string makers, and participated in recordings by the Leonhardt Consort, Concerto Amsterdam (Jaap Schröder) and Concentus Musicus (Nikolaus Harnoncourt).

After her retirement Goldschmidt set to arranging Bach`s violin sonatas and partitas (published in 1983) and cello suites (1987) for the lute, and it is for these that she is best remembered. Her
manuscripts bear witness to her search for an idiomatic, historically informed and artistic arranging style. Near the end of her life, a thumb fracture curtailed her lute playing. Undaunted, she returned to the instrument of her youth, the piano, and purchased a Bohemian instrument from 1809, practising up to five hours a day and taking lessons from Stanley Hoogland.

Gusta Goldschmidt’s legacy can be consulted by appointment at