'De Stad Amsterdam' (City of Amsterdam)
of May 8, 1931, Vol. 11, No. 8, has an appealing cover which shows
what magazines look like in the early nineteen thirties. There is
something else that deserves our attention.
It is the article on pages 2 and 3 describing a remarkable event which
took place in the Tobis Klangfilm Studio at Epinay, north of
MENGELBERG AS MOVIE ACTOR
is the heading of the two-page article. The journalist writes that
some readers would have thought that Mengelberg had given up his orchestra,
the Concertgebouw Orchestra, one of the greatest orchestras in the
world, the article says. Now his ambition was to be an actor in movies.
The readers might have thought that he had sold his soul to Mammon.
It was not that serious. Fortunately.
fact is that the man and the complete orchestra performed to be captured
on film in the large Paris Studio of Tobis Klangfilm at Epinay-sur-Seine.
Mengelberg conducted in front of the camera. There was a modest and
mixed audience. It consisted of those who made the filming possible,
several international journalists attended the concert, and there
were the necessary studio people of course, cameramen, sound recording
technicians and electricians.
is about 12 kilometer North of Paris. All persons involved had boarded
big autocars on the Avenue des Champs Elysées and traveled full speed
to the destination.
The article does not mention that
the orchestra had given two concerts in Salle Pleyel on April 28
and 29 respectively, with a Beethoven program, The Song of the Earth
of Mahler, and a few excerpts from Wagner operas.
was in for a surprise when they entered the studio at Epinay. Several
months earlier, Russian architect Meerson had measured the stage of
the Concertgebouw, the famous stairs included. Here it was rebuilt
to serve as the set on which the orchestra would be seated.
The journalist wrote that it was no wonder that the musicians felt
at home right away. The space in front of the set could be regarded
as the hall or auditorium. But now it was filled with constructions
for the cameras and for the many big lamps. High quality microphones
were hanging from long beams at left and right of the orchestra, so
the article says.
of the best sound recording technicians, a man by the name of Storm,
had witnessed a special rehearsal of the scores in Amsterdam in order
to get an idea of the sound levels that were to be recorded. Operator
was N. Farkas, from Hungary. The script was written by B.D. Ochse,
managing director of Dutch Polygoon Film, together with Max Tak, conductor
of the Tuschinski Theater Orchestra of the cinema with the same name
massive flood of light was thrown over the orchestra. Then there was
the call for "silence" and loud sirenes announced that cameras and
sound film were ready to get into motion to record music and image
of the 'Mengelberg Orchestra'. First the Overture to Oberon of Carl
Maria von Weber was played. It had been performed many times before,
but now it was captured on a lifeless material, the journalist
the emotion of the moment was recorded. Even the electricians said
when the piece had ended, "c'était épatant", in other words "it
was awesome". After the Overture Oberon had ended, all those
present applauded while Mengelberg took his bows. When the "Marche
Hongroise" of Hector Berlioz had been played, Farkas, the Hungarian,
said that he had never heard anything like it. The third and last
film captured the "Adagietto" from the Arlesienne Suite of Bizet,
now executed by an orchestra of 40 string players.
be inserted in the film was the sound of the loud passages of the
timpanist in the Berlioz piece which were recorded in close up. Therefor
the recording device was positioned close to the timpani and in between
the musicians. This was done with a special microphone that by its
directivity suppressed surrounding and ambient sound.
singular fragment that was to be added to the film was Mengelberg
descending the replica staircase. And there was the short sequence
of Mengelberg in close up when he spoke his introduction in Dutch,
and repeated it in French, German, and English.
The film will be distributed by N.V. Remaco and be represented in
many countries. People who have never been in the position to visit
the Concertgebouw can now view the orchestra in its "surroundings"
and hear Mengelberg and the Concertgebouw Orchestra.
Paris, May, 1931.
author does not mention the names of the hotels the orchestra members
were staying in. Only 'Hotel de France' is mentioned in the caption
under the photograph of Louis Zimmermann and his wife. The individual
next to Mrs. Zimmermann is not named. At right in the picture is second
solo cellist Henk van Wezel (1895-1968) to whom Hans Henkemans dedicated
a Cello Sonata, and Henk Badings his First Cello Concerto. He formed
the 'Concertgebouw Trio' with Jan Keessen (violin) and Gerard Hengeveld
few more names and dates:
Ochse (Brand Dirk), 1892-1958
Farkas (Nicolas), 1890-1982
Max Tak, 1891-1967
Meerson (Lazare), 1897-1938
N.V. Remaco Advertising Agency, Herengracht, Amsterdam
Ned. Mij. Cinematografie Filmfabriek Polygoon, established 1919
article was signed with the initial V. It is probable that the author
is Matthijs Vermeulen (1888-1967), Dutch composer (self-taught) and
journalist, who lived in France at the time of the Orchestra's visit
at Epinay. The fact that his 1st Symphony was rejected by Mengelberg
did not mean that he did not have ties with the orchestra and its
musicians. He must have been one of the journalists present during
the filming and it is likely that writing the article was an arrangement
between him and DE STAD AMSTERDAM. After World War Two Vermeulen returned
to Amsterdam and continued writing. He was music editor of 'De Groene
published on the internet on September 13, 2015. Research and text Rudolf
you are interested in more early film and sound history:
Back to the Mengelberg
Willem Mengelberg, Bach's St. Matthew Passion and the Philips Miller
Sound Recording System