Posts Tagged ‘Auguste Mesnard’

1916 Recording of Auguste Mesnard

August Mesnard

Auguste Mes­nard, c. 19171

Auguste Mes­nard was born Novem­ber 17, 1875 in Cognac, France. He began his musi­cal career as a vio­lin­ist, study­ing at the Ecole Nationale de Musique d’Angoulème, and earn­ing a first prize from there in 1891. After an unsuc­cess­ful audi­tion to enter the Paris Con­ser­va­toire, one of his musi­cal col­leagues in Angoulème sug­gest­ed that he take up the bas­soon instead. He evi­dent­ly took to the instru­ment right away, as he man­aged to gain entry to Eugène Bourdeau’s bas­soon class at the Paris Con­ser­va­toire only two years lat­er (Novem­ber 1893). He won a first prize there in 1897, and went on to bas­soon posi­tions in the Con­certs Rouge, Orches­tra Lam­oureux, and Soci­eté Nationale de Musique. In his posi­tion as sec­ond bas­soon­ist with the Orches­tra Lam­oureux, he played the pre­mieres of Debussy’s Noc­tur­nes and L’Après-midi d’un faune.

In 1905, Wal­ter Dam­rosch, music direc­tor of the New York Sym­pho­ny Orches­tra, trav­eled to Paris in search of prin­ci­pal wood­wind play­ers for his orches­tra. Mes­nard audi­tioned for Dam­rosch and was hired, along with flutist George Bar­rère, oboist Marcel Tabuteau, and clar­inetist Léon Leroy. Mes­nard played under Dam­rosch for the the 1905-08 sea­sons, and then took a posi­tion with the Chicago-Philadelphia Grand Opera Com­pa­ny. In 1912 he turned down a job with Leopold Stokowski’s Philadel­phia Orches­tra, but soon returned to New York to join the New York Phil­har­mon­ic under Josef Strán­ský. Willem Men­gel­berg suc­ceed­ed Strán­ský in 1922, and did not get along with Mes­nard. Mesnard’s col­league Ben­jam­in Kohon relat­ed a pos­si­ble rea­son:

Mes­nard and I were asso­ciate 1st bas­soon­ists with the N.Y. Phil­har­mon­ic Orches­tra for 2 sea­sons under W. Men­gel­berg, con­duc­tor. I imag­ine that Men­gel­berg did not like the French bas­soon sound and thus was pick­ing on Mes­nard. They had an argu­ment after a rehearsal and Mes­nard resigned. And I would have done the same thing if I had been treat­ed in a sim­i­lar man­ner.2

Mesnard’s career con­tin­ued for anoth­er 20+ years, play­ing with the tour­ing Wag­ne­r­i­an Opera Com­pa­ny, the Cap­i­tal The­ater Orches­tra under Eugene Ormandy, the Roxy The­ater Orches­tra, and an orches­tra sup­port­ed by the Works Pro­gress Admin­is­tra­tion.3 Mes­nard retired in 1945 at the age of 70, and died in New York in Octo­ber 1974, just shy of his 100th birth­day.4

Mes­nard began writ­ing his mem­oirs in 1943, short­ly before his retire­ment, and worked on them over the next decade or so. The­se were nev­er pub­lished, but copies of the type­script reside in the libraries of South­ern Illi­nois Uni­ver­si­ty and the Inter­na­tion­al Dou­ble Reed Soci­ety. I haven’t been able to exam­ine this yet myself, but French bas­soon spe­cial­ist Lau­rence Ibis­ch wrote an arti­cle about Mes­nard in the Octo­ber 1978 issue of The Dou­ble Reed, with infor­ma­tion tak­en from the mem­oirs.5 Unless oth­er­wise not­ed, all the infor­ma­tion in the pre­ced­ing bio­graph­i­cal sketch comes from Ibisch’s arti­cle.

Ibis­ch also owns and reg­u­lar­ly plays on Mesnard’s Buf­fet bas­soon — the very one in the pho­to above.6 It was made in 1900, and has six­teen keys (rather than the 22 present on the Jan­court “per­fect­ed” sys­tem). Buf­fets are com­mon­ly made of rose­wood, but this instru­ment has only a rose­wood wing joint. The rest of the instru­ment is made of much lighter maple, which is more com­mon for Ger­man bas­soons.

Columbia A2161

Columbia A2161

Dur­ing his tenure with the New York Phil­har­mon­ic, Mes­nard also worked worked as a record­ing artist for the Columbia Gramo­phone Com­pa­ny. Record­ing com­pa­nies in that era gen­er­al­ly didn’t cred­it indi­vid­u­al orches­tra mem­bers, so it’s prob­a­bly impos­si­ble to know how many ensem­ble record­ings he par­tic­i­pat­ed in. His one record­ing as a soloist was made on Octo­ber 14, 1916 — a duet with harpist Charles Schuet­ze. The piece they record­ed, Ser­e­nade by Edmond Fil­ip­puc­ci (1869–1948), is almost cer­tain­ly an arrange­ment. Filippucci’s music is not easy to come by today either in print­ed or record­ed forms, so I haven’t been able to iden­ti­fy the piece itself. But a like­ly can­di­date is his 2 Pièces pour vio­lon avec accom­pa­g­ne­ment de piano: Nº 1. Séré­nade, pub­lished in 1894.

Mes­nard and Schuet­ze record­ed four takes, the last of which was issued on Columbia A2161 in 1917 (backed with the Columbia Minia­ture Orches­tra play­ing The Music Box).7 This is from the era of acoustic record­ing (no micro­phones), and my copy of the disc has been well-used. So, the record­ing has a fair amount of back­ground noise. But, it’s still quite enjoy­able. Lis­ten to Ser­e­nade here:

Listen to Auguste Mesnard and Charles Schuetze - Filippucci <em>Serenade</em> (1916)

While you’re lis­ten­ing, read this short review of the record­ing, pub­lished in the Bridge­port (CT) Evening Farmer in March 1917:

An extra­or­di­nary Columbia record­ing is a wood­wind (bas­soon) and harp duet: Filipucci’s “Ser­e­nade,” played by Auguste Mes­nard and Charles Schuet­ze, solo mem­bers of the New York Phil­har­mon­ic Soci­ety. A zephyr-like harp intro­duc­tion is fol­lowed by a love­ly inter­weav­ing of beau­ti­ful inspir­ing notes. The light del­i­cate voice of the harp over the deep under­tones of the bas­soon is indeed elo­quent of evening—shimmer-moonbeams gleam­ing over the shad­ows of night. So far as is known, the “Ser­e­nade” is the only record­ing extant of a harp and bas­soon duet.8

Mesnard’s also record­ed “The Ele­phant and the Fly” with flutist Mar­shall Lufsky in Decem­ber 1916, but this was evi­dent­ly nev­er released.9 His col­league Ben­jam­in Kohon record­ed the same piece in 1918 for Edis­on Records. That ver­sion was released, and is avail­able to stream from the UCSB Cylin­der Audio Archive.


  1. Arthur Edward John­stone, Instru­ments of the Mod­ern Sym­pho­ny Orches­tra: A Pic­to­ri­al and Explana­to­ry Guide for Music Lovers (New York: Carl Fis­cher, Inc., 1917), 32. 

  2. Ben­jam­in Kohon, “Let­ter to the Edi­tor,” The Dou­ble Reed 2, 1 (1978).  

  3. The Fed­er­al Music Project of the Works Pro­gress Admin­is­tra­tion was respon­si­ble for the cre­ation of 34 new orches­tras around the coun­try, and also sup­port­ed a vari­ety of oth­er per­for­mance, edu­ca­tion­al, and schol­ar­ly activ­i­ties relat­ed to music. Pre­sum­ably, Mes­nard was a mem­ber of the New York Civic Orches­tra, but I haven’t yet been able to con­firm this. 

  4. Unit­ed States Social Secu­ri­ty Death Index,” data­base, Fam­il­y­Search (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:VSNF-26P : 20 May 2014), Auguste Mes­nard, Oct 1974; cit­ing U.S. Social Secu­ri­ty Admin­is­tra­tion, Death Mas­ter File, data­base (Alexan­dria, Vir­ginia: Nation­al Tech­ni­cal Infor­ma­tion Ser­vice, ongo­ing). 

  5. Lau­rence Ibis­ch, “A French Bas­soon­ist in the Unit­ed States,” The Dou­ble Reed 1, no. 2 (Octo­ber 1978): 5–7. 

  6. Lau­rence Ibis­ch, e-mail mes­sage to author, March 20, 2017. 

  7. Discog­ra­phy of Amer­i­can His­tor­i­cal Record­ings, “Columbia matrix 47068. Ser­e­nade / Auguste Mes­nard ; Charles Schuet­ze,” accessed March 19, 2017, http://adp.library.ucsb.edu/index.php/matrix/detail/2000024351/47068-Serenade

  8. Talk­ing Machine Records,” Bridge­port Evening Farmer (Bridge­port, CT), Mar. 9, 1917. 

  9. Discog­ra­phy of Amer­i­can His­tor­i­cal Record­ings, “Columbia matrix 47247. The Ele­phant and the Fly / Mar­shall P. Lufsky; Auguste Mes­nard,” accessed March 19, 2017, http://adp.library.ucsb.edu/index.php/matrix/detail/2000024530/47247-The_elephant_and_the_fly