Wednesday 1 October 2014

Editorial Boileau - one of the greatest Spanish music publishers of all time

Editorial Boileau, or affectionately known simply as Boileau, has been and is still one of the most well-known and important music publishers in the world.  Based in Barcelona, it champions the publishing of Spanish music over the last 100 years. 

Pianists and musicians will not be foreign to its books with the signature light beige cover.  It is also one of the most easily readable and durable scores I have come across.  I have amassed a collection of its earlier publications as well as newer ones.  This past July, as an incentive to some
visiting students from Hong Kong, we took a tour to the one and only Boileau shop.

Editorial Boileau was founded by Alessio Boileau Bernasconi in 1904.  Arriving from Italy, he first opened a printer's shop  and later in 1913 expanded into engraving and publishing music.  Age-old engraving tools can still be found in the present premise, which are testaments to the time-consuming and painstaking task of producing music scores in the past. 

A rarity these days, Boileau is still family-run.  Alessio's three daughters, Elvira, Mercedes and Rosario lovingly runs the house with the grandchildren.  Granddaughter Yolanda and great-granddaughter Marta, with whom I have come to know and collaborate over the years, led the nostalgic visit through the same shop space that they have known since childhood.  In one of the rooms now stocked with boxes and boxes of music there used to be regular concerts where composers such as Mompou would present the latest works. 

The house has meticulously preserved many of the old tools used to engrave and prepare a music score.  New machineries were installed in recent years to combat with the bigger demands, but the tedious process is no less easier.  In an age when digital downloads make publishing a debilitatingly difficult business, old houses such as Boileau strive on the passion of musicians and music lovers.  Even with the help of modern technology, producing music is a laborious task.  It is one of the most overlooked items of luxury we can hold in our hands.  

I love how old publishing houses always have a piano available at their shop.  I remember the old Alphonse Leduc in Paris having an old Bechstein once used by Poulenc and Messiaen, and here in Boileau I often try out and sight-read music on their piano.  If you are a musician, you should definitely put Boileau on your visit list next time you are in Barcelona. 

Boileau shop: 287 Carrer de Provença, 287, 08037 Barcelona
Marta can be reached at

Grandaughter Yolanda and great-granddaughter Marta explained at length the printing process.

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