The best record store in the world?

Let's celebrate the best record stores in the world before they are all submerged beneath characterless web sites and anonymous file downloads. One of the truly great stores is shown in my photos here. Rombaux at Mallebergplaats 13 in Bruges, Belgium opened as a piano retailer in the early 1920s, and has remained an independent store which is now run by the third generation of the original owners. The piano origins of the business can be seen in the legend over the door in the final photo in my sequence.

Despite retaining its traditional look Rombaux's store has moved with the times. It has recently been completely refitted with floor to ceiling CD browsers to hold their massive range and their is a separate room for opera recordings with auditioning equipment. The company also continues to sell pianos and other instruments and the store next to the current one has been acquired for a new instrument showroom.

This is a classical music store, but jazz and world music are also stocked. There is no discounting, so given the current strength of the Euro prices reflect the quality of the store. Visit the Rombaux web site here. Despite the prices I defy anyone to visit this store and not leave with a pile of CDs. Below are details of just two of the new recordings with local connections that I bought there.

Hans Neusidler - music for renaissance lute played by Bart Roose. Flanders has a particularly rich musical heritage and continues to be home to a thriving music scene. The emphasis is on early music but, like the country itself, tastes are catholic and we were in Bruges for the John Cage Happening. Lutenist Bart Roose was born in Ostend in 1962, studied in Ghent and Antwerp and now teaches at the Conservatoires of Aalter and Gentbrugge and lives in Bruges. Hans Neusidler was a leading figure of the German lute school of the sixteenth century, and the music on this recording dates from the 1530s. Released on the Belgian Passacaille label this CD is beautifully played and atmospherically recorded in the Maria-Aalter Chapel 'De Brooders van Liefde' in Flanders. Wonderful late night listening.

Joseph Haydn - Harpsichord Concertos in F and G and Divertimento in F played by Ewald Demeyere with La Petite Bande directed by Sigiswald Kuijken. Another home team, young Belgian harpsichordist and regular bande member Ewald Demeyere studied in Antwerp while Sigiswald Kuijken was born in Brussels and studied in that city and at the Bruges Conservatoire. A typically spikey performance from La Petite Bande finely captured in the Doopsgezinde Kerk, Haarlem across the border in Holland. (Interestingly Doopsgezinde Kerk is a member of the Universal Mennonite Congregation - the Mennonites are a group of Christian Anabaptist denominations named after Dutchman Menno Simons [1496-1561] and are one of the historic peace churches committed to nonviolence and pacifism.) This excellent CD is released on the Accent Records label, which appropriately was founded in 1979 by the the Belgian maker of baroque recorders and transverse flutes Andreas Glatt.

Rombaux in Bruges is undoubtedly one of the best record stores in the world. Other examples of this much-needed but sadly threatened species gratefully received On An Overgrown Path. In the meantime I'll relish those few wonderful hours in Bruges when record shopping was fun again.

* Another candidate for best record store in the world is Prelude Records in Norwich. In a pleasing convergence of independent retailer and independent record label Jordi Savall will be in Prelude this Saturday (May 17) at 11.30am not only signing his discs but also playing his viola da gamba ahead of his evening Norwich Festival concert. Music to the ears of the independents!

All photos (c) On An Overgrown Path 2008. Report broken links, missing images and errors to - overgrownpath at hotmail dot co dot uk


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