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Rendez-vous au Gaumont-Palace
Raoul Gola (piano)
Georges Ghestem (organ)
Orchestra du Gaumont-Palace/Georges Tzipine (violin and conductor)
rec. 1939 except Rimsky-Korsakov and Chopin, rec. 1929 HORTUS 160 [63:18]
So deeply rooted is this music in Parisian ethos, so redolent of a time and a place, that it bears its Fabriqué en France nature with pride. The notes are in French only and there’s a feeling that the recordings made by the orchestra of the Gaumont-Palace in Paris will be of interest only to those d'un certain âge. Well, maybe but maybe not. The violin soloist and conductor of this ensemble was the esteemed Georges Tzipine and he remains a name; you may well have come across his Honegger, Roussel, and Ravel discs, though he was proficient in a raft of interesting French repertoire and was a fine accompanist. His violin recordings are more circumscribed and relate to his early pre-war career, so fiddle fanciers will be entertained to find them here.
The Gaumont-Palace was the largest picture house in Europe. It housed six thousand in a vast theatre. Its orchestra was commensurately grand and recorded for the Odéon label in 1939 with Tzipane and the resident organist and arranger, the versatile Georges Ghestem. These two men were contemporaries and one of the 78s, a duo for violin and organ, seems to have been recorded a full decade earlier, in 1929. The violinist was born in 1907, studied in Paris with Lafort and soon gravitated to orchestral direction including his own eponymous orchestra. Ghestem (1903-78) was a pianist and organist who had studied in Roubaix and became resident organist at the Gaumont in 1937. He was the French equivalent of Reginald Foort or Sidney Torch – or perhaps they were the British equivalents of Ghestem.
The music was largely arranged by the organist. Seven of the pieces are duos for Tzipine and Ghestem, whilst the remainder are for the full orchestra. The music is inevitably light but enviably disciplined. There’s a Parisian insouciance to the playing, notably in the Oscar Strauss arrangement of waltzes, that reflects the chic nature of the music making, the vast organ being well balanced – not an easy job one imagines – against the strings, saxophones, muted trumpets and drums, all couched in the dance band ethos then prevalent.
Tzipine proves an elfin soloist in the Lafarge piece Dans les bois and in the Chant Hindou where he and the organist come closest to the great duo of Albert Sandler and Sidney Torch in their contemporaneous Columbia 78s of music for violin and organ. But he also dishes out a fine czardas in the shape of Paul Misraki’s Dans mon Coeur. There’s a droll orchestral rendering of Eric Coates’ Birdsong at Eventide and plenty of savoir faire in Planquette’s Cloches de Corneville. If you’re seeking boulevardier elan, seek no further. But that would be to overlook the vitality of the Offenbach, can-can and all, which features the orchestra’s very fine clarinet soloist. The organ’s bells – it was a vast British Christie organ transplanted into the gargantuan theatre – can be savoured in Le Carillonneur de Bruges which shows its versatility and garish sense of colour. Ravel’s Bolero offers various principals their chance in the limelight, for all of 5:37, both sides of a 78 in other words. Listen out for the jazz-savvy trombonist. The Grieg is an old-school charmer whilst the violinist and organist play Vecsey’s evergreen violin standard Valse triste commendably well. To end there is a pocket battleship reduction of Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue. Not for the only time in shellac days it’s here bubbled and reduced to six-and-a-half minutes. Raoul Gola takes the soloistic honours.
The transfers are pretty good; maybe I’d have preferred just a touch more top. Notes are French only as noted but there are nice photographs including one of the organ which has long since been reinstalled in another location. If you have a romantic nostalgia for huge cinemas and their organs, for the lighter muse and for communicative music-making from splendid practitioners, this is a generous-spirited reminder of life in the 30s.
Jonathan Woolf Contents Oscar STRAUSS (1870-1954)
Trois valses [6:17] Guy LAFARGE (1904-1990)
Dans les bois, trans. G. Ghestem et G. Tzipine [3:13] Nikolai RIMSKY-KORSAKOV (1844-1908)
Sadko: Chant Hindou arr. Kreisler trans. G. Ghestem et G. Tzipine [3:09] Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)
Schubert Fantaisie; Fantaisie sur des thèmes de Franz Schubert, arr. Salabert [6:16] Eric COATES (1886-1957)
Birdsong at Eventide trans. G. Ghestem et G. Tzipine [3:09] Robert PLANQUETTE (1848-1903)
Cloches de Corneville , trans F. Jeanjean [5:49] Frédéric CHOPIN (1810-1849)
Tristesse (Etude Op.10 No.3) trans. G. Ghestem [3:07] Jacques OFFENBACH (1819-1880)
Orphée aux enfers, arr unknown [6:24] Paul MISRAKI (1908-1998)
Dans mon coeur trans. G. Ghestem et G. Tzipine [3:14] JOËGUY
Le Carillonneur de Bruges trans. G. Ghestem et G. Tzipine [3:12] Maurice RAVEL (1875-1937)
Boléro [5:34] Edvard GRIEG (1843-1907)
Peer Gynt; Solveig’s Song, arr. Sitt trans. G. Ghestem et G. Tzipine [3:11] Franz von VECSEY (1893-1935)
Chanson du Souvenir (Valse Triste) trans. G. Ghestem et G. Tzipine [3:15] George GERSHWIN (1898-1937)
Rhapsody in Blue, trans. Ferde Grofé [6:26]