Gaisberg pursues an opportunity to record the Czar. More extracts from his field recordings of 1900.

(Fred is in St Petersburg recording local artists……)

On April 9th 1900, Fred Gaisberg returned to his hotel after watching the performance of Demon and flirting with Rodina to find a message asking him to “prepare to give a recording exhibition before the Czar’s secretary that evening”. This was news he had been hoping for. After “considerable bustle” he made his exhibition to “his High Excellence” Secretary Tanieff and entourage who all spoke good english. The exhibition consisted of a demonstration of the new-fangled recording technology and Fred played back some recordings from his trip, made a record of Secretary Tanieff playing one of his own compositions and then he and his colleague Darby sang a duet or two to round off proceedings. Gaisberg thought the evening had gone well (“they expressed themselves highly delighted”) and believed that it would lead to him having the chance to record the Czar’s voice for a charity release in Russia. This had been one of Fred’s great ambitions for this field recording trip to Russia. Darby and Gaisberg celebrated with a roister-doistering late supper and turned in after 2am convinced that they would be recording the Czar.

Alexander Sergievitch Tanieff, Secretary of State and Director of the Private Chancellerie of the Emperor

[Historical note: Tanieff’s daughter who was present at these recordings wrote a memoir of her time at court. She describes her family in “Memories of the Russian Court” in 1923:

” My father, Alexander Sergievitch Tanieff, during most of his life, was a functionary of the Russian Court, Secretary of State, and Director of the Private Chancellerie of the Emperor, an office held before him by his father and his grandfather. My mother was a daughter of General Tolstoy, aide-de-camp of Alexander 11. One of my immediate ancestors was Field Marshal Koutousoff, famous in the Napoleonic Wars. Another, on my mother’s side, was Count Kontaisoff, an intimate friend of the eccentric Tsar Paul, son of the great Catherine.”

Tanieff himself is clearly a good connection for Gaisberg and also personally very musical:

“My father, aside from his official duties, had no Interests apart from his home and his music, for he was a composer and a pianist of more than national fame. My earliest memories are of home evenings, my brother Serge and my sister Alya (Alexandra) studying their lessons under the shaded lamp, my dear mother sitting near with her needlework, and my
father at the piano working out one of his compositions, striking the keys softly and noting down his harmonies.”]

The St Petersburg part of the Russian trip begin to unwind at this point. One day of recording was expensively lost when the band failed to turn up and Gaisberg was left kicking his heels in a hired hall. When the band did arrive the following day, Friedman, the director of the band, refused to play the songs that Gaisberg had requested  and proved generally unhelpful to the recording process. This proved to the team’s last day in St Petersburg and on April 13th Gaisberg travelled by train to Moscow for Easter weekend hoping to meet the Czar.

Although he waited around for the opportunity, the Tanieff connection did not lead to an introduction to the Czar; Gaisberg’s luck was out. He did in fact get to see the Czar in Moscow but sadly only as one of thousands of people watching the parade of the Csar arriving at the palace in a convoy of twenty carraiges. Gaisberg got no closer to the Czar and after a couple of days of sight seeing at the Kremin and strolling around the bazaars he left on a late train to Warsaw arriving on Easter Monday 16th April 1900.

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