Élie Cohen and Georges Truc: Obscure Conductors

Jerome F. Weber

[August 2007, rev. June 2017.]

I have found Conductors on Record by John C. Holmes (Greenwood Press, 1982) an invaluable source of information on conductors who have made records. Over the years I have supplemented the information by compiling my own list of conductors who were not included at all or whose vital dates are missing from the book (since so many have died in the meantime). But there are two French conductors whose vital dates were unknown to Holmes, and extensive research (even at the Bibliothèque nationale) has failed to unearth any information. Each made significant recordings, important enough that the obscurity of their conductors is hard to understand. All 78-rpm record numbers below are Columbia (France), with UK, US and Italian numbers added as far as is known. With a few exceptions as noted, the orchestra is not identified in any source. Several discrepancies are noted between data found in the Pathé-Marconi logs and two discographic sources: GSERM (The Gramophone Shop Encyclopedia of Recorded Music, 1st ed., 1936) and WERM (The World’s Encyclopaedia of Recorded Music, 1953).

Georges Truc

For lack of biographical information, Georges Truc (pronounced TREEK) is not even mentioned in Holmes’s book. Nigel Simeone wrote in The Musical Times (Spring 2002) that Truc was artistic director of Columbia in 1937. Lionel Salter wrote in International Opera Collector (Summer 1999) that Truc would have conducted the complete Pelleas et Mélisande in 1941 but died and was replaced by Roger Desormière. I have found a book dedication that cites Truc’s date of death as January 6, 1941. Arbie Orenstein (A Ravel Reader) shows his date of birth as 1893. The following discographies of both conductors may be incomplete, for the logs that I have used are scanty before the beginning of 1927.

Truc made the first recording of Le Carnival des Animaux (Saint-Saëns) on 13 and 16 June 1927, matrices WLX 78-2 to 85-2. The Paris SO played with soloists including cellist Joseph Faure and flutist Marcel Moyse. It was issued as D 12504-07; UK, 9519-22; US, 67380-83D in set M 81.

Truc then made extended excerpts from Pelléas et Mélisande (Debussy) between 14 February and 6 March 1928, matrices WLX 186-88, 193-95, 209, 222-23, 265-67. The orchestra was unidentified, but the set was distinguished by the singing of Hector Dufranne, the creator of the role of Golaud, along with Marthe Nespoulous as Mélisande and Claire Croiza as Geneviève. It was issued as D 15021-24 & 15026-27; UK, L 2233-38; US, 68518-23D in set OP 13. In 1953 Columbia reissued the set on LP as Entré RL 3092. In 2002 Andante included the set in AND 3990, a four-disc box of early recordings of the opera, including other excerpts conducted by Coppola, Wolff and Cloëz around the same time along with the later complete Desormière version. At the same time VAI Audio issued this and Coppola’s (both sets probably incomplete) on a single CD as VAIA 1093.

Finally, Truc conducted the first recording of L’Heure Espagnole (Ravel) from 6 to 12 March 1929, matrices WLX 897 to 900, 903 to 908 and 912 to 915. It was issued as D 15149-55; US, 68838-44D in set OP 14. A CD reissue on VAI Audio appeared in 1994 as VAIA 1073, and in 1997 it was reissued on Pearl as 9283.

In addition, Truc conducted a few operatic singles, summarized briefly:

Georges Thill (ten, in French), “Nessun dorma” and “Non piangere, Liù” from Turandot (Puccini), c.1926, matrices L 1013-1 and L 1014-1, issued as D 13042. The latter side has been reissued on LP as Preiser Lebendige Vergangenheit LV 224 and on CD as Preiser 89168.

Marcelle Denya (sop, in French), “Voi che sapete” and “Non so più cosa son” from Le Nozze di Figaro (Mozart), 10 and 18 April 1928, matrices WLX 332 and 337, issued as D 15077.

Fred Bordon (bs), “Vous que faites l’endormie” from Faust (Gounod), 4 June 1928, matrix WLX 378-2, issued as D 12035 (GSERM and WERM say D 12083).

Fred Bordon (bs, in French), “Ein Mädchen oder Weibchen” from Die Zauberflöte (Mozart), 4 June 1928, matrix WLX 379-2, issued as D 14221.

Armand Narçon (bs), “Au bruit des lourds marteaux” and “Écoutez, c’est l’orage” from Philemon et Baucis (Gounod), 13 October 1928, matrices WLX 584 and 585, issued as D 14244.

Georges Thill (ten, in French), “Nur eine Waffe taugt” from Parsifal (Wagner), 13 November 1928, matrix WLX 639, issued as D 15121; US, 50294D, 7232M. This has been reissued on LPs devoted to Thill, including Columbia OCD 50005, 2C 061-12153, and Preiser Lebendige Vergangenheit LV 224, and on CD as Preiser 89168 and Malibran CDRG 105.

Suzanne Hédouin (sop), “Elle a fuit, la tourterelle” from Les Contes d’Hoffmann (Offenbach), 14 November 1928, matrix WLX 640, issued as LFX 53. This was reissued on CD as Malibran MR 608.

* * *

Élie Cohen

Élie Cohen does have a place in Holmes’s book, but his vital dates are lacking. The website findagrave.com lists Elie Cohen (1899-1942) in the Shoah Memorial, Paris, presumably referring to the conductor. His career is documented, however, in Stéphane Wolff’s Un demi-siècle d’Opéra-Comique (1900-1950): les oeuvres, les interprètes (Paris, 1953). He made his début with Lakmé (Delibes) on 7 August 1922. The last date cited for him is his revival of Le Chemineau (Xavier Leroux) on 9 January 1936, but he probably conducted for some time after that. Three complete opera recordings should have ensured that Cohen would not be forgotten. All three were made with the orchestra and chorus of the Opéra-Comique.

First was Carmen (Bizet) with Raymonde Visconti as Carmen, Marthe Nespoulous as Micaela and Georges Thill as Don José, recorded between 13 February and 9 June 1928, matrices WLX 177-5, 178-79, 196, 197-5, 229-32, 235-37, 243, 244-4, 245, 248-53, 254-4, 255, 276-78, 286-87, 289-5. There are two curiosities in this set. Thill made the Flower Song, conducted by Philippe Gaubert, on 11 February 1927, matrix WLX 46, a full year before the complete set was begun. Nespoulous remade Micaela’s air on 1 December 1928 as WLX 648-1, but it is not clear whether this was inserted in the set to replace WLX 231-3. The set was issued as D 14222-36; UK, 9527-41; US, 67544-58D in set OP 1. In 2006 it was reissued on CD as Divine Art 27809. About the same time, Coppola also recorded Carmen for H.M.V. in French, while Sabajno (for H.M.V.) and Molajoli (for Columbia) also recorded it in Italian.

The second complete opera was Manon (Massenet) with Germaine Féraldy as Manon Lescaut and Joseph Rogatchewsky as Des Grieux, recorded from 5 December 1928 to 3 January 1929, matrices WLX 655-56, 676-80, 684-94, 723-31, 740-41 (661-3 was remade on 13 March 1929). It was issued as D 15156-73; UK, LX 202-19, LCX 84-101, LGX 85-102; US, 68163-80D in set OP 10. In 1953 Columbia reissued it on LP as Entré EL 6. In 1990 The Classical Collector reissued it on CD as FDC 2 2001. About 2001 Arkadia reissued it on CD as 78049. In 2003 Naxos reissued it on CD as 8.110203-04.

Another set has won renown for its enduring worth. Madeleine Grey (sop) sang the Songs of the Auvergne arranged by Joseph Canteloube on 3 and 5 February 1930, matrices WLX 1263 to 1269 (the Pastorelle on 1268 was not issued). They were issued as LFX 27-29; US, 50303D, 7328; 50321D, 7249; 50360D, 7262. Columbia reissued the set on LP as ML 4459 in 1952, and in 1966 Pathé-Marconi’s Great Recordings of the Century reissued it as COLC 152. In 2006 Cascavelle reissued it on CD as VEL 3093.

The third complete opera was Werther (Massenet) with Georges Thill and Ninon Vallin, recorded from 16 to 29 January 1931, matrices WLX 1456 to 1485. It was issued as LFX 151-65; Italy, GQX 10862-76. In 1978 Pathé-Marconi reissued it on LP as 2C 153-10746/48M after issuing excepts in 1974 as 2C 061-12130M. In 1990 EMI reissued it on CD as CHS 7 63195 2. In 2000 Arkadia reissued it on CD as 78034, and in 2001 Naxos reissued it on CD as 8.110061-62. This last reissue was the occasion for the critic of Diapason (April 2001) to declare: “This is the Werther for all time.”

Cohen also conducted many single discs, mostly opera arias, for Columbia. A summary follows:

Joseph Rogatchewsky (ten), “Pourquoi me réveiller” from Werther (Massenet) and “De mon amie fleur endormie” from Les Pêcheurs de Perles (Bizet), c.1926, matrices L 950 and L 969, issued as D 13041.

Lucien Fugère (bar), “Elle m’aime” and “Trop lourd est le poids” from La Basoche (Messager), c.1926, matrices WL 1022-1 and 1023-1, issued as D 13045.

Lucien Fugère (bar), “Pour la Vierge” from Le jongleur de Notre Dame (Massenet), c.1926, matrix L 1024, issued as D 13077. (The flip side is piano-accompanied.)

Lucien Fugère (bar), “Couplets du docteur” and “Midi-Minuit” from L’Ombre (Flotow), c.1926, matrices L 1315 and L 1316, issued as D 13083.

Lucien Fugère (bar, in French), “Der Vogelfänger bin ich ja” and “Ein Mädchen oder Weibchen” from Die Zauberflöte (Mozart), c.1926, matrices L 1480 and 1481, issued as D 13092.

Lucien Fugère (bar, in French), “Madamina” from Don Giovanni (Mozart), c.1926, matrices L 148x and 148x (illegible), issued as D 13092.

Joseph Rogatchewsky (ten), Mort de Werther from Werther (Massenet) and “E lucevan le stelle” from Tosca (Puccini), c.1926, matrices L 1275 and L 1319, issued as D 13109.

Marcelle Denya (sop), “Il était un roi de Thulé” from Faust (Gounod), 8 January 1927, matrix WLX 30, issued as D 15007.

Georges Thill (ten) and Mary McCormick (sop), “J’ai marqué l’heure du départ” (Act 1) from Manon (Massenet), 6 and 9 May 1927, matrices WLX 51 and 57, issued as D 12509; UK, L 1953. Maurice Frigara may have conducted WLX 51.

Georges Thill (ten) and Mary McCormick (sop), “Toi! Vous!” (Act 3) from Manon (Massenet), 9 and 10 May 1927, matrices WLX 58 and 62, issued as D 12508.

Joseph Rogatchewsky (ten), “Vainement, ma bien aimée” from Le Roi d’Ys (Lalo), 7 July 1927, matrix WLX 89, issued as D 15007 (GSERM and WERM say D 12527); UK, L 2062; US, 50126D, 52060X. It was reissued on LP as Preiser Lebendige Vergangenheit LV 239.

Georges Thill (ten), “Heureux les coeurs” (#4) from Les Béatitudes (Franck), 18 October 1927, matrix WLX 101, issued as D 15121.

Joseph Rogatchewsky (ten, in French), “In fernem Land” from Lohengrin (Wagner), 18 October 1927, matrix WLX 102, issued as D 15010 (WERM says D 15021), LFX 39; L 2300, LX 71.

Joseph Rogatchewsky (ten), “Lorsque l’enfant revient d’un voyage” from Werther (Massenet), 18 October 1927, matrix WLX 100, issued as D 15010.

Joseph Rogatchewsky (ten), “C’est vrai! … En fermant les yeux” from Manon (Massenet), 19 October 1927, matrix WLX 107, issued as D 15011; UK, L 2063.

Joseph Rogatchewsky (ten), “Objet de mon amour” from Orphée et Euridice (Gluck), 19 October 1927, matrix WLX 108, issued as D 15011. Not in GSERM or WERM; see below.

Marthe Nespoulous (sop), “Légende” from Gwendoline (Chabrier), 27 October 1927, matrix WLX 130, issued as D 14209.

Marthe Nespoulous (sop), “Depuis le jour” from Louise (G. Charpentier), 15 December 1927, matrices WLX 146 and 148, issued as D 14208.

Georges Thill (ten), “Il est des Muselmans” and “A travers le desert” from Marouf (Rabaud) on 17 February 1928, matrices WLX 203-1 and 204-1, issued as D 15035; UK, L 2289; US, 50247D.

Germaine Féraldy (sop), “Mon coeur ne peut changer” from Mireille (Gounod), 10 March 1928, matrix WLX 288-2, issued as D 15043.

Lucien Fugère (bar), “La vierge entend” from Le jongleur de Notre Dame (Massenet), 14 April 1928), matrix WLX 350, issued as D 15119.

Cohen conducted the pizzicato and intermezzo from Sylvia (Delibes), 7 June 1928, matrices WLX 412 and 413, issued as D 11037.

Andrée Marilliet (sop, in French), “Abscheulicher! … Komm, Hoffnung” from Fidelio (Beethoven), 9 June 1928, matrices WLX 425 and 426, issued as D 14238.

Germaine Féraldy (sop, in French), “Si, mi chiamano Mimi” from La Bohême (Puccini), 1 November 1928, matrix WLX 597, issued as D 15096.

Germaine Féraldy (sop, in French) and Marcel Claudel (ten, in French), “Jako matka pozehnáním” and “Fille cruelle” (Utiš se, divko) from The Bartered Bride (Smetana), 7 November 1928, matrices WLX 607 and 609, issued as D 15120; US, 50231D.

Germaine Féraldy (sop, in French), “Si pur amour” (Ten lasky sen) from The Bartered Bride (Smetana), 7 November 1928, matrix WLX 608, issued as D 15136; US, 50307D.

Cohen conducted La Poupée d’Arlequin (Gabriel Darcy [Émile Vuillermoz, 1878-1960]) on 1 December 1928, matrices WLX 649 and 650, issued as D 11065 (two sides). This was a dance created by Robert Quinault (1887-1993) and Iris Rowe (1900-96).

Cohen conducted Polonaise de concert (Paul Vidal, 1863-1931), 6 January 1929, matrices WLX 762 and 763, issued as D 11043.

Cohen conducted Redemption (Franck), 7 January 1929, matrices WLX 764 to 767, not issued. Columbia did not make another recording of this work in the shellac era.

Yvonne Gall (sop), “Il était un roi de Thulé” and “Ah! je ris de mon voir” (the jewel song) from Faust (Gounod), 10 January 1929, matrices WLX 785-1 and 786-2, issued as D 15127; US, 50212D, 7213M. In 2004 it appeared in an Andante CD set as AND 3995.

Yvonne Gall (sop, in French), “Vissi d’arte” and “Non la sospiri” from Tosca (Puccini), 10-11 January 1929, matrices WLX 787-2 and 795-2, issued as D 15128; US, 50177D, 7282M.

Yvonne Gall (sop), “Oh! moi, quand je suis” and “Depuis le jour” from Louise (G. Charpentier), 11 January 1929, matrices WLX 796 and 797, issued as LFX 57. Cohen is not identified in the logs as conductor, but the session continued from the previous listing.

Suzanne Balguérie (sop), “De tous côtés” from Le Roi d’Ys (Lalo), 6 April 1929, matrix WLX 970, not issued.

Joseph Rogatchewsky (ten), “Euridice … Objet de mon amour” from Orphée et Euridice (Gluck), 12 April 1929, matrices WLX 991 and 993, issued as D 15223. This must use the same orchestra as the next entry.

Cohen conducted the Paris SO (GSERM) or Paris PO (WERM) for the ballet and gavotte from Orphée et Euridice (Gluck), 12 April 1929, matrices WLX 992 and 994, issued as D 11082; UK, DX 60.

Cohen conducted the overture to A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Mendelssohn), 18 June 1929, matrices WLX 878 to 881, issued as D 11080-81; US, 67795-96D.

Germaine Féraldy (sop), “Me voilà seule” from Les Pêcheurs de Perles (Bizet), 12 December 1929, matrix WLX 1213, issued as LFX 25.

Abby Richardson (m-s), La Cloche (Saint-Saëns), 8 January 1930, matrix WLX 1248, issued as RFX 6.

Suzanne Balguérie (sop), “Oh! mes clairs diamants!” and “Ah! ce n’est pas encore” from Ariane et Barbe-Bleue (Dukas), 3 February 1930, matrices WLX 968-4 and 969-4, issued as LFX 23. These two sides were first made on 6 April 1929, but like the Lalo aria made that day were not issued.

Lucien Fugère (bar), “Ah! quel plaisir de pressentir sa gloire” from Le maître de Chapelle (Ferdinando Paer, 1771-1839), 7 March 1930, matrices WLX 1297 and 1298, issued as LFX 32.

Germaine Féraldy (sop) and Edmond Rambaud (ten), “Foi de son flambeau” and “La brise est douce” from Mireille (Gounod), 5 and 7 November 1930, matrices WLX 1403 and 1404, issued as LFX 99.

Germaine Féraldy (sop), “Jours de mon enfance” from Le Pré aux Clercs (Hérold) and “Je suis Titania” from Mignon (Thomas), 7 November 1930, matrices WLX 1405 and 1406, issued as LFX 147.

Cohen conducted Les Erinnyes (Massenet), 4 & 6 February 1931, matrices WLX 1486 and 1488, issued as DFX 87; 6 February 1931, matrices WLX 1490 and 1491, issued as DFX 88; and 24 April 1931, matrices WLX 1526 and 1527, issued as DFX 92.

Yoshiko Miyagawa (sop, in French), “Un bel di, vedremo” from Madama Butterfly (Puccini) and “Jour sous le soleil béni” from Madame Chrysanthème (Messager), 11 February 1931, matrices WLX 1494 and 1495, issued as LFX 167.

Germaine Féraldy (sop), Abby Richardson (m-s), Louis Guénot (bar), “Tu ne chanteras plus … Chère enfant” from Les Contes d’Hoffmann (Offenbach), 23 June 1931, matrices WLX 1565-2 and 1566-1, issued as RFX 28.

Germaine Cernay (m-s), “Connais-tu le pays?” and “Elle est là … Elle est aimée” from Mignon (Thomas), 13 February 1933, matrices CLX 1666 and 1667. Along with ten more sides conducted by Jules Bastin with soloists, chorus and orchestra of Théatre Royal de la Monnaie in Brussels, these two sides were issued as part of an abridged opera set, RFX 33-38. In America two of Bastin’s sides were omitted and the other ten sides were issued as 69035-39D in set OP 19. In 1953 Columbia reissued it on LP as Entré RL 3093.

Truc and Cohen also accompanied various artists at the piano.

We need biographical information about both conductors, starting with their exact vital dates. Thanks to Michael Gray for access to the Pathé-Marconi logs and clarifications, and to Richard Warren, Jr. for additional assistance.

[The undated picture of Georges Truc is taken from https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:Georges_Truc#/media/File:Pv31.jpg.]