Jeanne Charlotte Gautier was born in Asnières, France on September 18, 1898, the daughter of Charles Gautier and Eugénie Doublet. She started the violin at four, when she had her first lessons from Henri Berthelier. At the age of nine, she carried off the first prize in the “Concours international des Prodiges”. This prize was awarded by the unanimous opinion of the judges. In 1914, she obtained the first prize of the Paris Conservatory. At the Paris Conservatory, she attended orchestral classes conducted by Vincent D’Indy and Gabriel Pierne, whose trio she had often played with them. Ravel, took a great deal of interest in her work, with whom she worked before he died. At the same time she concentrated on the technical and historical sides of her art and her instrument, and rapidly acquired a considerable authority in these fields. Her first appearance was in Spain during the Great War, when she had a tremendous reception, and an exceptional ovation. Since 1915 she played in most European capitals and had given concerts: France, Czechoslovakia, Germany, Rumania, Greece, England, Switzerland, Belgium, Spain, North America, Ireland and Holland. She heard Debussy playing at a concert for soldiers before he died. She recalled what he said about piano playing: “When one plays the piano one must forget that the notes have to be struck”. She introduced the Stravinsky Violin Concerto to Australian audiences in 1943, which she performed in Paris with composer himself. In 1938 she premiered his Concertino for solo violin and small orchestra in Paris under his direction. She was engaged to make a 12 week’s tour of Australia, beginning of September 11, 1939. When she was traveling to Australia the ship was taken over for war purposes. Consequently, she had to remain in Bombay until it was possible to come on later. She stayed after her arrival in Perth, Australia since the outbreak of war. She lived during World War II in Melbourne, where she taught at the University from 1942 to 1944. Gautier returned to Europe after end of war in June 1945, where her parents and two brothers had lived. She had no news for more than 5 years of them since 1939. She first arrived in England on board “the Mauretania” and went touring to South Africa to aid orphans of France. She recorded a large number of violin works for the French Radio “Radiodiffusion française” with Nadine Desouches, Lélia Gousseau and Claude Pascal. Gautier also formed the Trio de France in 1952 with the pianist Geneviève Joy (1919-2009) and the cellist André Levy (1894-1982). She taught at the Lyon conservatoire from 1952 to 1968. She was awarded the premier French decoration “Croix de Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur” in 1963. Jeanne Gautier died in Neuilly-sur-Seine on January 6, 1974.
René Auguste Ferdinand Benedetti was born in Toulon, France on June 10, 1901, the son of Auguste Benedetti, and Alaide del Picchia from Italy. The family moved to Paris and his father opened a music shop in Montmartre. As a child of seven, he started violin studies with the eminent violin pedagogue Édouard Nadaud (1862-1928) at the Paris Conservatory. In 1918 Benedetti graduated from the Paris Conservatory with an artist’s diploma and the Prix d’excellence. He won the Nadaud Prize in 1922. Darius Milhaud arranged his orchestral score Le Bœuf sur le toit, first performed in 1919, as a “Cinéma-fantaisie pour piano et violon”, and he dedicated it to Benedetti, who gave the first performance on May 26, 1921 in the Salle Gaveau. He made his American debut on February 20, 1922, which took place at Carnegie Hall, with Frank Bibb at the piano. He toured with the Dutch pianist Theo van der Pas in the Netherlands and Belgium in 1929. And two years later, Benedetti performed the entire cycle of Beethoven sonatas for violin and piano with his compatriot Arnaud de Gontaut-Biron at the piano in Paris. Between 1927 and 1936, he was an exclusive artist for Columbia Gramophone Records and recorded with Maurice Faure at the piano. Benedetti has played as a soloist with the major French orchestras such as the Orchestre des Concerts Pasdeloup, Société des concerts du conservatoire and Orchestre National. He played the solo violin in Saint-Saëns’s Danse macabre with the Orchestre National de France under Arturo Toscanini at the Théâtre National de l’Opéra in Paris on November 26, 1935. On August, 14 1939 he performed the Brahms violin concerto with the Het Residentie Orkest under Carl Schuricht in Scheveningen. Benedetti formed a trio “B.B.N” with the cellist André Navarra (1911-1988) and pianist Joseph Benvenuti (1898-1967) in 1941. They gave their first appearance on 26 May 1941 at Salle Gaveau in Paris. They recorded for France Pathé the Schubert piano trio D 898, the Beethoven piano trio Op.1, No.3, and the Ravel piano trio in A minor at the Studio Albert in Paris. On 22 November 1946 he made his debut with the Berlin Philharmonic playing the Lalo Symphonie espagnole under the direction of the legendary conductor Sergiu Celibidache. He taught at the Paris Conservatory from 1942 to 1971. Henryk Szeryng and many other musicians regarded him as the best French teacher along with Jules Boucherit. René Benedetti died in Paris on October 19, 1975.
Renée Henriette Joséphine Chemet was born in Boulogne sur Seine, France on January 7, 1887. She entered the Paris Conservatoire as a pupil of Roy Got, and afterwards of Henri Berthelier. In 1903, she obtained the first prize of the Paris Conservatory and upon graduation was engaged as first violinist by the Orchestre Colonne. Appeared as soloist with Nikisch in Berlin, Wood in London, Mahler in Vienna and Steinbach in Cologne. She married on June 1, 1906 Camille Decreus (1876- 1939) a French pianist. Decreus had been a pupil of Raoul Pugno at the Paris Conservatoire. After serving his apprenticeship as repetiteur at the Paris Opéra he made his solo debut in 1906. He was a valued recital partner for many artists both in Europe and America including his wife and Eugène Ysaÿe. He became professor of piano at the American Conservatory at Fontainebleau in 1926. She made her debut in America (U.S, Mexico and Canada) in 1907, accompanied by her husband Decreus in more than 80 recitals. She gave under the auspices of the Paris Conservatory several series of the Beethoven recitals in the 1920s. She made her debut at Carnegie Hall on March 22, 1921 performing the Saint-Saëns Violin Concerto No.3 with the National Symphony Orchestra under Willem Mengelberg, at his special request. She returned to US for a Coast to Coast tour in 1923 and in 1930 for a recital tour with the Swiss pianist Rudolph Ganz. The New York Evening Sun critic declared her that she was second only to Fritz Kreisler. Chemet was a pioneer recording artist who, during the period 1926-1931 was represented by several 10″ electric discs for Victor. Godfrey Turner, the husband of the late Maud Powell, kept the Stradivarius violin used by his wife until the time when he might find an artist whom he thought the logical successor of his wife. After hearing Chemet he presented the Frenchwoman with the violin, offering it to her as a tribute to her genius. He became the US manager for Chemet for a short time as she disappeared from the American scene forever in 1932. In June 1932 she sailed for Japan on the N.Y.K Asama Maru from San Francisco, accompanied by Anca Seidlova, Czecho-Slovakian pianist, and her accompanist, appearing in principal cities of China, Singapore and Japan. “For many years I have looked forward to a concert tour of Nippon, and I am doubly happy that it should be in the season of cherry blossoms. The Japanese are truly appreciative of classical music”. In Tokyo, her concerts were honored by presence of the Royal Family. After hearing Miyagi perform Haru no Umi Chemet arranged the Shakuhachi part for violin, which she and Miyagi then recorded for distribution in Japan and Europe. She stayed for a few years in Japan and continued to perform in the Far East. She did return to Europe in 1935 and gave a performance of Brahms’s Violin Concerto with the Concertgebouworkest under Eduard van Beinum on 13 January 1935 in Amsterdam. In the late years of her life, she recorded several performances for Radio Paris with the French pianists Reine Gianoli in 1940, with Jean Hubeau in 1943 and with Nicole Rollet in 1947. Despite her former renown, her later career became virtually unknown after she returned to Europe. Her husband died in 1939. There are no known reports or published information about her death!
Jacques Thibaud was born on September 27, 1880 in Bordeaux. He began his training with his father and made his debut at age 8 in Bordeaux; at 13, he entered the Paris Conservatory as a pupil of Martin Marsick, graduating with the premier prix in 1896. Obliged to earn his living, he played the violin at the Café Rouge in Paris, where he was heard by the conductor Edouard Colonne, who promptly offered him an orchestral position, and soon there came an expected change to appear as soloist with such success that he was engaged for 54 concerts in Paris in the same season. Subsequently, he appeared in all the musical centers of Europe. He first visited the United States in 1903 and made his American debut at Carnegie Hall on October 30, 1903 performing Mozart’s violin concerto K. 268 and Saint-Saëns’s violin concerto No.3 with the Wetzler Orchestra under Hermann Hans Wetzler. On February 17, 1904 he performed the Schumann Piano Quartet in E-flat Major with Bernard Sinsheimer (violin), Paul Kefer (cello) and Alvina Friend (piano), again at Carnegie Hall. Thibaud’s military duties in World War I were of a hazardous character. His injuries were serious and his recovery slow, circumstances which prompted the authorities to grant him a leave of absence. He had to rebuild his technique after being injured. Under the management of Arthur Judson he gave his first recital with Alfred Cortot on November 26, 1929 at Carnegie Hall performing violin sonatas of Brahms, Mozart, Debussy and Franck. With his two brothers, a pianist and a cellist, he formed a trio, which had some success, but this was discontinued when he joined Alfred Cortot and Pablo Casals in a famous trio. In 1929, a London critic wrote: “An even greater crowd than the Albert Hall could accommodate tried to gain admittance recently to the trio recital, of Cortot, Thibaud, and Casals. Some could not obtain a ticket; others had tickets but were unable to find a seat, and half an hour after the beginning of- the concert emphatic protests were still being made at the box office by many who had been disappointed.”Thibaud undertook concert tours with pianist Yves Nat and George Enescu. He was a friend of violinist Eugène Ysaÿe, who dedicated his 2nd Sonata for solo violin to him and said: “He will be the master of us all.” He was then 9 years old; Ysaÿe who died in 1932, was 31. With Marguerite Long, he founded the renowned Long-Thibaud competition in 1943. He returned to the United States in January 1947 after 18 years of absence to perform the Lalo Symphonie espagnole with the New York Philharmonic under the direction of the legendary conductor Leopold Stokowski. Thibaud was killed on September 1, 1953 in an airplane crash and all 41 others aboard. The Air France plane, bound for Saigon from Paris, crashed and burned on a 10.700-foot peak. He was on his way to give recitals in Tokyo, was accompanied by his daughter-in-law, Suzanne, and his pianist, Rene Herbin. The airliner crashed shortly before it was due to land in Nice, near the summit of Mont Chemet, 140 miles northeast of Nice.
Miguel Candéla was born in Paris, France on September 16, 1914, the son of Vincent Michel Candéla (1877-1957), who was a violinist and conductor. His father played for many years in the violin section of the Société des Concerts du Conservatoire and the Opéra Orchestre. He studied with his father and entered the Paris Conservatory in November 1926, receiving the premier prix in 1927. As a child prodigy, he gave his first public performance at the age of 12 in Salle Gaveau, Paris with Alexis Kligerman at the piano. Subsequently, he toured widely, playing in all major cities in France, Switzerland, Germany, Netherlands, Austria, Spain, Portugal, Scandinavia, England and he made his American debut in 1928 performing the Wieniawski Violin Concerto No.1 and the Beethoven Romance in F with a string ensemble under the direction of his father. He continued his career as a concert violinist until the Second World War. Candéla received great acclaim for his performance of Brahms’s Violin Concerto on January 6, 1937 in Vienna with the Vienna Symphony Orchestra under Karl Böhm. The outbreak of war halted all performances abroad. After World War II, he took part in a cultural exchange program that had him touring throughout Germany and Austria. He performed a highly acclaimed recital with pianist Jeanne Marie Darré on March 3, 1946 in Vienna. He returned to Amsterdam on January 19, 1947 performing the Glazunov Violin Concerto with the Concertgebouworkest under Eduard van Beinum. In 1950 he gave the first performance of Khachaturian’s Violin Concerto in France. Candéla recorded until 1977 for the French radio. He taught at the Paris Conservatory. There are no known reports or published information about his death!
© Michael Waiblinger 2014
RECORDING OF THE MONTH
The relatively new label Meloclassic has outdone itself here, with a spectacular series of restorations taken from a variety of source material. The focus is on French violinists – Jeanne Gautier, René Benedetti, Renée Chemet, Jacques Thibaud and Miguel Candela – of whom, I think, only Thibaud will be familiar to general listeners.
To violin collectors, and bearing in mind the date of the source material which is 1937 to 1955, expectancy levels will be very high indeed. Who would have expected to hear the quintessential French player Jeanne Gautier recorded by Frankfurt Radio in June 1937 with the Orchester des Reichssenders Frankfurt directed by Hans Rosbaud? The piece is Ravel’s Tzigane, and it may remind one that she recorded the 1927 Sonata in G with Léfebure on a 7” LP on Chant du Monde and also the 1922 Sonata with cellist André Levy, her colleague, alongside Geneviève Joy, in the Trio de France. The 1937 recording has some degradation but the harp comes through clearly and Rosbaud’s typically astute direction is very pleasing to hear. Gautier is her typically resinous self, bringing considerable character to the piece. Contrasts with Gautier’s contemporary Zino Francescatti’s three altogether more patrician studio recordings are fascinating.
Next we hear the jewel of this CD though it’s not live. This is the restoration, the first I’ve heard, of René Benedetti’s recording of Paganini’s First Violin Concerto, made in September 1941, in war-torn Paris, with the Orchestre Symphoniques des Concerts Lamoureux under Eugène Bigot. This is simply stunning. The cadenza, alone, was once included in Thomas Clear’s LP boxes of great violin performances (TC 2580) but to hear the whole thing is to experience one of the great Paganini concerto performances. By all accounts Benedetti had a big tone, though one wouldn’t necessarily think so from the recording, but his effortless digital legerdemain, his stylistic brilliance, and sheer flair, have to be savoured in full. Savoir faire, superb intonation, witty Gallic insouciance, magnificent bowing, legato refinement, subtle vibrato usage – where does one begin in measuring Benedetti’s glittering and magnificent playing? There are a few small glitches in the restoration, not helped by Benedetti’s pronounced habit of slowing right down into disc turn-overs. Notice how the trill episode at 4:09, after which he picks up the tempo like a bullet, has caused side-join problems. This happens elsewhere too but the pleasure of hearing this full-on recording very much outweighs such matters. Finally, this ensemble was clearly considered just the thing for Paganini because once war was over the orchestra and conductor reconvened to accompany a new rising star in the same work, Ruggiero Ricci.
I was amazed to see the name Renée Chemet in this disc. No one has ever got to the bottom of what happened to her, and no one seems to know when she died. She returned to Europe from a sojourn in Japan in 1935 and presumably settled in Paris because she performed there during the war. This example dates from November 1947, and documents the Lalo Sonata in D major with Nicole Rollet. Chemet was once a popular recording artist, notably in Britain after the First War, but by now she had long been forgotten which adds poignancy to her appearance here. The recording set-up is rather domestic sounding with a tinny piano and what sounds like some light cross-station interference. She was always cited for her idiosyncratic bowing, and things hadn’t much changed, and in her 60s she can be slithery. She’s full of style and despite the unflattering recording her technique seems largely intact. How surprising and valuable to encounter her again.
Despite claiming first CD release status for everything, that assuredly isn’t the case with two of the Thibaud pieces – the Mozart and Saint-Saëns – which were released on Malibran CDRG179 some years ago. The Leclair Tambourin, in the Kreisler arrangement, is however new to me. Thibaud’s tone had long since thinned but his panache and charm are still in evidence. The Leclair is sensitively shaped though it won’t efface memories of his 1925 recording of it with pianist Harold Craxton. Finally there is another outstanding representative of the French tradition, Miguel Candéla, heard in I Palpiti with pianist Simone Gouat in 1955. This is a most valuable restoration as he recorded no Paganini commercially. His insinuating playing carries a whiff of the fragrant about it and whilst he’s not in Benedetti’s league as a technician he always had a strongly personalised approach, as anyone who has heard his splendid pre-war concerto performances of Saint-Saëns and Glazunov will know. This is another outstanding reclamation.
There are useful biographical notes printed in the digi-pack. This is a wonderful CD – a real feast for violin lovers and specifically for those who revere French players.
© Jonathan Woolf