Gaisberg, Fred (1873 – 1951)

From the very wondeful Gramophone Magazine (October 1951) and available on their website in full:
 
It is with deep regret that we have to announce the death of Fred Gaisberg who has been a trusted friend of ” The Gramophone” since its inception. Many articles have appeared under his name, but his life history is best told in his book ” Music on Record.” As the International Artists Manager to The Gramophone Co. he was responsible for the many great names which appeared on the ” H.M.V.” label.
We are pleased to publish the following appreciations.
The death of Fred Gaisberg is so recent that it has left me completely bewildered at the loss of one I had come to regard as my best friend, for Fred had proved his friendship in so many ways.
I think it would have been in 1928 that I first met him, when I was commissioned by THE GRAMOPHONE to interview him as the second of my series, “Round the Recording Studios.’ ‘The photograph accompanying that article might well have been called ” the long and short of it,” for we see him in his familiar bowler hat, modestly beaming as he faces the camera, with Chaliapin’s huge hand on his shoulder. Though small of stature Fred was always impressive, without the necessity to push himself forward, a trait so common among little but lesser men. I shall always regard Fred Gaisberg as the perfect blend of simplicity and shrewdness. One had only to hear his views on world politics, of which he was a voracious student, or see him quietly at work in the Abbey Road Studios, to realise that he always knew his subject and was an expert at his job.
It must have been two years later when I met him again, this time at Covent Garden, where I was in charge of publicity during the International Season when Gigli, a close friend of his, made such a successful debut. And in the singer, as in my friend, I found a man quietly concious of his powers but utterly without conceit of any kind. Gaisberg and Gigli had one characteristic in common, a sympathy with, and understanding of, one might say, the chorus, in which I include the rank and file of employees in a great business like H.M.V. and also the waiter or waitress in a public restaurant I was once lunching with Fred in wartime when the staff were working at high pressure, and one of the waitresses was being bullied by the manageress. That was enough. To hear Fred, as we would say in Ireland, ” walk into the affections” of that manageress, in modern parlance ” tell her off,” was as good as a play. Through a quarter of a century I observed instances, too numerous to mention, of his consideration for others, because that was a creed of this very Christian gentleman, Episcopal Church of America by denomination but Jewish by extraction. How impartial he was over that gifted people ! Once when I ventured to suggest that it seemed to me most of the famous instrumentalists were Jews, he reeled off a most formidable list of Gentile names, of which by no means the least was Paderewski, another great friend of his, and remarked, ” well, you see, the promising young Jewish artists in the musical world have the advantage of being backed by their bankers—gentlemen clannish enough to start them on the road to fame.”
 
Though an American citizen to the day of his death, Gaisberg had his roots firmly planted in British soil, and he liked nothing better than being on terms of intimate friendship with that hundred per cent Englishman, Sir Edward Elgar, for whose work he had a wholehearted admiration. I wrote of his consideration for others. Here are two or three instances. During the recent World War, I had occasion to bring in a British operatic soprano from the Carl Rosa Company for an audition. The poor girl had previously been treated with scant courtesy by the B.B.C. on just such an occasion. Not so with Fred Gaisberg at Abbey Road. Nothing could have exceeded his kindness and gentleness in introducing her to the microphone and getting her on almost familiar terms with that formidable instrument.
Over in this village of King’s Langley, where I am writing these lines against time, he was with us for the best part of a year, when his house in Hampstead was blitzed. Here again the innate friendliness of the man came out. Busy with his writing and advisory duties, he yet found time to give a typical gramophone lecture to our musical people at the vicarage, where our padre, the Rev. Rex Parkin, a great nephew of Lily Langtry and founder of the famous Drama Christi Players, had given our Music Circle leave to use his church for our Saturday concerts. Mrs. Parkin still treasures some drops of a costly perfume that remain from a Christmas present he gave her. Into our microcosm, Fred Gaisberg, a world-traveller—an internationalist but no cosmopolitan, fitted like a glove. He was always a grand ” mixer ” and therefore ideal for the positions he filled with H.M.V. so long, so honourably and with such distinction. I think I was one of the last of Fred’s friends to see him alive, and one of my last and liveliest recollections of him was out in his garden when he was instructing the Italian maid which suckers to snip off his standard roses. As an improving amateur gardener, I am quite sure that with this occupation, he was not nearly so much at home as he was in one of his recording studios, and warned him to consult an expert before proceedings too far with his ” deletions.”
And now he is gone and the world is poorer for his passing. His funeral service at Golder’s Green Crematorium was quite in keeping with the character of the man, simple, beautiful and impressive.
 
PERCEVAL GRAVES.

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