Jacqueline Francois was one of the greatest singers and interpreters of French song. There are so many classic recordings, and some of the repertoire is considered cabaret. She exemplified a certain kind of charming, classy diva and was popular from her very first singles, and a global star a few years later. Born Jacqueline Guillemautot in 1922, she had a very long life in singing, recording countless, mostly French-penned, songs. Her voice, a rich alto with a ton of character and a certain smokiness throughout her range, is one of my favorite voices of all time. The feel of her voice on the microphone is something so soothing but commanding, hypnotic but laid-back.

“Mélancolie” (Melancholy) is a haunting, lesser known number which was written by the famous songwriting duo Al. Romans & Pierre Dudan. Recorded in 1951 for French Polydor, it features Jo Boyer and His Orchestra (who also worked with greats like Dizzy Gillespie and Django Reinhardt) and Francois’ mesmerizing voice singing the lonesome lyric:                              (English translation is below)

Mélancolie un jour s’achève,
Mélancolie on n’y peut rien.
Chaque jour dans la fumée et dans l’alcool, on noie ses
rêves,
Seul, jusqu’au matin…
Et chaque nuit, ça recommence
Pour torturer le coeur trop lourd,
Le cafard dans la fumée et dans l’alcool, mène la danse
Jusqu’au jour.
Demain y aura d’ l’amour et d’ la lumière,
Peut-être bien, ça m’est égal…
Barman jusqu’au matin, remplis mon verre,
Je veux rêver que j’ai moins mal.
Mélancolie… tu nous enchaînes,
Plus fortement qu’un grand amour,
Un beau soir dans la fumée et dans l’alcool, on noie ses
peines

Melancholy one day ends,
Melancholy can’t be helped.
Every day in smoke and alcohol, we drown our
dreams,
Alone, until the morning…
And every night, it starts again
To torture the heavy heart,
The pointless depression in the smoke and in the alcohol, leads the dance
Until the day is over.
Tomorrow there will be love and light,
Maybe I don’t care…
Bartender till morning, fill my drink,
I want to dream that I have less pain.
Melancholy… you chain us,
Stronger than a great love,
One fine evening in the smoke and in the alcohol, we drown its pains

 

 

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This is the other side of that rare, red, French Polydor that I posted so long ago. It is Brailowsky (solo piano) playing Robert Schumann’s “Songes Troubles”; “Traumes Wirren” in the composer’s native German, or: “Dream Disorders” in English. I also really like how the piano was recorded.

Quick notes on Schumann: his parents were not musical but they encouraged his interest in music with piano lessons from the age of 10. However, his family was later to be beset by tragedy. When Schumann was in his teens, his father died and his sister committed suicide in quick succession, events that were to have a deep impact on the young musician. Initially music was to take a back seat in his life. For his main subject he studied law at Leipzig while simultaneously continuing his music studies. One of his music teachers was Friedrich Wieck whose daughter Clara showed a great talent at the piano while she was only 9 years old. A further tragedy was to hit Schumann when a mishap damaged one of his hands and spoiled his chances as a pianist. Some accounts blame a device he used to strengthen his fingers, but other theories suggest mercury poisoning as a side effect of his syphilis treatment. After the accident, Schumann was to concentrate more on composing.

Alexandre Brailowsky – Songes Troubles, Op. 12, No 7, Schumann < < PLAY

Alexandre Brailowsky was born in 1896 in the city of Kiev. He was a prodigious child musician, first studying piano with his father and then at the Kiev Conservatory. Other teachers included Leschetizky (Vienna 1911 to about 1914) and Ferruccio Busoni (Zurich); Brailowsky completed master studies in France with Francis Plante. In 1919 he made his concert debut in Paris, and in 1926 he became a French citizen. A specialist in the works of  Frederic Chopin, he performed the first ever complete Chopin cycle (using the composer’s very own piano) in 1924, in Paris. Afterward he travelled the globe, playing the same historical recital in cities like Brussels, Montevideo and New York, among others.

Brailowsky played more than Chopin and made durable, noteworthy recordings of Debussy, Rachmaninoff, Liszt, and Saint-Saens. This posting is of a Mendelssohn scherzo which I happened upon at an estate sale a few weeks ago: so much more for interest because on the other side is Brailowsky playing Schumann’s Songes Troubles, Op. 12 No 7 (which I might also post sometime.)

It is on the French Polydor label from the recordings of 1928-1934, beautiful, and a complete rarity in the  78 rpm format.

Alexandre Brailowsky-Scherzo en Mi Mineur, Op.16 No 2, Mendelssohn <<PLAY