Louis Frémaux, French Maestro Led Birmingham And Sydney Orchestras

Beethoven Symphony No. 7 with Sydney Symphony Orchestra – Watch on YouTube

Louis Frémaux was a French-born conductor (and former French Foreign Legionnaire) who led the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (1968-1978) and the Sydney Symphony Orchestra (1979-1982). His first musical directorship was with the Orchestre Philharmonique Rhône-Alpes (1969-1971).

In Birmingham, he formed the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra Chorus with baritone Gordon Clinton as Chorus Master. He was awarded an honorary DMus from Birmingham University and joined the Royal Academy of Music. Unfortunately, his tenure ended due to deteriorating relationship with the musicians, and he was replaced by the then-25 year old Simon Rattle.

His discography includes over 50 works, including of John McCabe’s “Nottuni ed Alba” and Second Symphony, for which he received a special citation from the Koussevitzky Jury.

Louis Frémaux, August 13, 1921-March 20, 2017

Saint-Saens The Carnival of the Animals, with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra – On Spotify

Léo Marjane, French Chanteuse During Paris Occupation

Léo Marjane at 100 years–Watch on YouTube (in French)

The artistry of Thèrése Maria Léonie Gendeblen, who performed under the stage name Léo Marjane, is overshadowed by her career choices during the Nazi occupation of Paris. During this period, Marjane, a popular chanteuse, continued to perform in clubs frequented by collaborationists and Nazis and sang on the tainted Radio Paris, which came under German control and was seen as a mouthpiece of the Axis. (Radio Paris was shuttered after the liberation of Paris.)

Marjane (August 26, 1912-December 18, 2016) was not the only French artist to find herself in a no-win situation. Maurice Chevalier worked to salvage his reputation by claiming to leverage his popularity to secure the release of 10 French POWs. (A video of Chevalier’s PR defense can be seen on holocaustmusic.ort.org.) For her part, Marjane claimed to have been naive.

After the war, Marjane’s popularity waned, and she sought audiences elsewhere, in  the U.S., Canada and South America. She gave up performing entirely by 1960. In recent years, she has had a bit of a comeback, appearing on CD anthologies of music from the 1930s and 40s.

Léo Marjane lived to be 104.

“Seule ce soir” on Spotify

Jean-Jacques Perrey, Popularizer of Electronic Music

Jean-Jacques Perrey on I’ve Got A Secret–Watch on YouTube

Jean-Jacques Perrey (January 20, 1929-November 4, 2016) was a music prodigy whose fascination with science fiction and new technology led him to electronic music in some of its most nascent forms.

When he met Georges Jenny, the inventor of the Ondioline, a kind of proto-synthesizer, he quit medical school and became a sales representative for the instrument. Using vacuum tube circuitry, the Ondioline had slider switches, which, when positioned in different configurations, could mimic the tone of almost any instrument. Its keyboard was suspended on springs, so that it could achieve a natural vibrato, as one hears on a violin.

Perrey made his way to the U.S. in the 1960s and contributed sounds to the commercial and entertainment industries. (As a sign of his mainstream acceptance, his music has been used in Disneyland and on “The Simpsons.”) As electronics became more sophisticated, Perrey moved from the Ondioline to the Moog. He often teamed up with American composer Gershon Kingsley, and the duo’s albums have provided inspiration to  groups such as Stereolab, the Beastie Boys and hip-hop producer Timbaland.

“E.V.A.” from Moog Indigo on Spotify

Georges Jouvin, the Man with the Golden Trumpet

“Les Enfants du Pirée,” 1960-Watch on YouTube

Between the 1950s and 1990s, Georges Jouvin recorded no less than 70 albums, selling 25 million records along the way. Classically trained, he was happy to cross genres, from jazz to pop and dance.

Nicknamed “Golden Trumpet,” Jouvin (June 19, 1923-October 24, 2016) studied at the Conservatoire de Rennes and Paris Conservatory. In 1950 he recorded with an orchestra in Paris led by Maurice Mouflard and featuring a guest appearance by Charlie Parker.

In 1994 Jouvin was appointed Knight of the Legion of Honor (Chevalier de la Légion d’honneur). First given by Napoleon Bonaparte, it is the highest honorary decoration awarded in France.

“Ton sourire est dans mon coeur” on Spotify

Patachou, Parisian Chanteuse

Patachou singing “Brave Margot” in 1954

When I was in college, I spent a semester in Paris. I soon discovered all the romantic images I brought with me–the Eiffel Tower, corner cafes, Parisians bustling about with baguettes tucked under their arms–were, well, pretty accurate. About the only thing that was missing was an accordion playing in the background, and even that, come to think of it, was sometimes present courtesy of street musicians in the Metro.

For many years a major contributor to the Parisian soundtrack was Patachou (June 10, 1918-April 30, 2015). Patachou was the stage name of Henriette Eugénie Jeanne Ragon. “Patachou” comes from “pâte à choux,” or “cream puff dough.” A 1958 article in The New York Times  noted “This is roughly the equivalent of Doris Day taking on the pseudonym of ‘Redi-Mix Batter.'”

A kind of anti-Edith Piaf, Patachou captured the joie de vivre of Parisian life. No painful romances for her. Her attitude reflected the reason she got into the music business in the first place: to boost business at the cafe she and her husband owned in Montmarte. Happy songs, delivered by a feisty young woman helped to draw–and hold–a crowd.

Watch Patachou perform “La chansonette”

You don’t have to speak the language to sense the affection the French felt for Patachou. Simply watch this short piece from Tele Matin.

Patachou profile and interview on Télélematin