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Review: Les Luths (Occident)

Review: Les Luths (Occident)

Reviewed by Alain Bieber

Previously published in American Lutherie #88, 2006

Les Luths (Occident)
catalogue des collections du musée de la musique (vol.1)

Les cahiers du musée de la musique #7.
Sous la direction scientifique de Joël Dugot
ISBN# 2-914147-34-1; 2006; 35€ tax included
Cité de la musique;

I remember my first visit to the musical instrument museum of Paris. At that time it was still a neglected part of the old “National Conservatoire,” the School of Music. I was an early teenager, still in short trousers. The museum was more than modest in its opening days, and very erratic. My dear guitar teacher visited the museum at an even younger age, just a few years after it opened. Being of a family of well-known musicians, he was presented by his mother to the curator. He has a very precise memory of an elderly lady of strict appearance in a grey smock, with a feather duster in her hand. She was Geneviève Thibault de Chambure herself, taking care of her beloved collections. She was specially devoted to this museum and, as time will progressively reveal, an active collector of ancient instruments, among many musical activities.

The collection was created in the turmoil of the 1789 Revolution. Its nucleus was the result of the rather high and regrettable rate of death penalties then applied to the local aristocrats. The first “curator” (so to speak) efficiently gathered many instruments in a very short time, and simply stored them. After this rather macabre birth, the collection progressed regularly and slowly with donations and, from time to time, an acquisition or two. Budgets were minimal. The first museum was only opened to the public seventy years later.

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