Louise Hanson-Dyer’s 78 rpm Oiseau-Lyre recordings of the music of her contemporaries
In the 1930s Louise Hanson-Dyer established the Editions de l’Oiseau-Lyre music press in Paris, naming it after Australia’s lyrebird. In a remarkably short time she produced a prodigious number of scholarly editions of early music. From December 1937 Hanson-Dyer diversified, firstly issuing sound recordings on 10 and 12 inch 78 rpm discs. These were given distinctive purple labels – her favourite colour – and a new lyrebird logo with the bird in profile.1
Hanson-Dyer was drawn to the idea of illustrating the music she published with recordings on disc. This pairing of scores and recordings was something entirely new and it proved attractive to both young and established composers, some of whom might not otherwise have considered publishing with a smaller firm like Oiseau-Lyre. Although not all the works recorded on 78s were published as scores and/or instrumental parts, most were; in some instances, a recording would precede the release of the printed music.
A range of instrumentations can be heard on the 78 rpm discs: from one to four pianos, tuned to realise quarter tones; and from reed trio to chamber orchestra. Similarly, the recordings feature a mixture of experienced and up-and-coming performers, many of whom were Hanson-Dyer’s personal friends. One such group is the Trio d’Anches de Paris, the pioneering reed trio consisting of Fernand Oubradous (bassoon), Myrtil Morel (oboe), and Pierre Lefèbvre (clarinet). Hanson-Dyer was a fierce promoter of the group in the 1930s and beyond, and the three musicians feature extensively across the 78-rpm catalogue in recordings not only of modern compositions and arrangements, but also of early music with woodwind parts.
Since the Oiseau-Lyre 78s entered production in the late 1930s, their sound quality is perhaps clearer than one might expect from ‘early’ recordings. As opposed to acoustical recordings from the beginning of the twentieth century (which required the artist to sing or play straight into a horn), 78 rpm discs date from the electrical era, meaning they were recorded with an electric microphone and amplifier. This technology made it possible to capture a wider variety of sounds with enhanced clarity.2
Ibert – Cinq pièces en trio for oboe, clarinet and bassoon
Although it was the first contemporary work recorded on the Oiseau-Lyre label, the Cinq pièces en trio by Jacques Ibert (1890–1962) were not actually commissioned by Hanson-Dyer; Ibert had composed them for the Trio d’Anches de Paris in 1935 and subsequently offered them to Oiseau-Lyre for recording. Hanson-Dyer knew Ibert through the chamber music society Triton, of which he was a committee member and she was a patron, and she had already published his music in 1934 for the Pipeaux volume, Oiseau-Lyre’s first publication of contemporary French music.3 The Trio d’Anches recorded Ibert’s Trio during their first session for Oiseau-Lyre in December 1937 at the Pathé-Marconi studio in Paris. The recording was released commercially in early 1938, and Hanson-Dyer published the instrumental parts in 1947.
Barraud – Trio for oboe, clarinet and bassoon
Like Ibert, Henry Barraud (1900–1997) would have met Hanson-Dyer through the chamber society Triton, which he founded alongside the composers Pierre-Octave Ferroud and Jean Rivier. Barraud’s Trio for oboe, clarinet and bassoon was composed in 1935 for the Trio d’Anches de Paris, who recorded the piece for Oiseau-Lyre in December 1937. It was released on disc and published as parts in 1938, an example of Hanson-Dyer’s innovative use of recordings to increase her sales of printed music. Barraud’s Trio is complex but aesthetically appealing, balancing sharply articulated rhythms with simple, folk-like melodies. Its recurring use of unison writing also showcases the unique sonorities made possible by the combination of instruments in the reed trio.
Oubradous – Arrangements of 17th and 18th century music for reed trio
In addition to the unparalleled virtuosity of the players, an important part of the Trio d’Anches de Paris’s legacy was the sheer number of new works commissioned especially for them. On top of this, the group’s founder and bassoonist Fernand Oubradous (1903–1986) prepared numerous reed trio arrangements of works originally for keyboard or ensemble, some of which were published and recorded on the Oiseau-Lyre label. The first, and the only example included here, Bach’s Prelude & Fugue in B minor (OL 8), was released on a single disc in early 1938 and supplemented by a set of parts shortly after. This release was soon followed by the fourth of Mozart’s Cinq divertissements, released across two separate discs (OL 15/16). Later in 1938, Oiseau-Lyre released the Trio d’Anches’s recording of Mozart’s fifth divertissement (OL 36/37), and the first, second and third of the same set (OL 64/65, OL 66/67, OL 68/69) were recorded at the very end of the year, ready for commercial release in early 1939. Hanson-Dyer published the scores of Oubradous’s Mozart arrangements in the same order: the fourth and fifth in 1938 and 1939 respectively, and the first, second and third in 1946.
Noël Gallon – Récit et Allegro for bassoon and piano
Noël Gallon (1891–1966) was a Prix de Rome-winning composer who taught solfege and counterpoint at the Paris Conservatoire. He was the younger brother of the composer Jean Gallon, who had realised the figured bass parts for the two volumes of Couperin’s chamber music published by Oiseau-Lyre in 1933. Noël Gallon’s Récit et Allegro for bassoon and piano was written for his friend, the celebrated bassoon soloist Fernand Oubradous. The short but virtuosic piece was recorded on a single side of a 78 rpm disc, released in early 1938 with a composition by Oubradous on the B-side. Récit et Allegro was published in print the same year and has since become a standard of the bassoon repertoire. It was even adapted in 2013 by the bassoonist Marc Vallon into a version with string quartet accompaniment.
Oubradous – Cadence et divertissement sur un air populaire for clarinet with piano accompaniment
Not only an accomplished bassoonist and arranger, Fernand Oubradous was also known during his lifetime as a conductor and composer. He is credited as a performer across many Oiseau-Lyre discs, but only one features an original Oubradous composition: his Cadence et divertissement for clarinet, written for fellow Trio d’Anches member Pierre Lefèbvre. The piece, which was published in print by Oiseau-Lyre in 1938, embellishes the melody of a popular French song so as to make full use of the clarinet’s virtuosic capabilities. The expressive style and moments of tasteful vibrato that Lefèbvre employs in the recording make it an interesting historical document for those interested in twentieth-century performance practice.
Milhaud – Suite d’après Corrette for oboe, clarinet and bassoon4
Hanson-Dyer had promoted the music of Darius Milhaud (1892–1974) since the mid-1920s in Melbourne5, so it should come as no surprise that one of the first modern compositions recorded on Oiseau-Lyre 78s was one of his. His Suite d’après Corrette for oboe, clarinet and bassoon was not a Oiseau-Lyre commission, however. It was composed in 1937 as incidental music for a play and, after adapting it into a concert version, Milhaud offered it to Hanson-Dyer for publication. The suite was released on disc and in print in 1938 and, unlike the trios before it, Hanson-Dyer also made Milhaud’s piece available as a pocket score – perhaps because of her particular fondness for his music. The Suite d’après Corrette is composed in the neoclassical style characteristic of twentieth-century French wind music, blending modernist musical techniques with themes borrowed from the 18th century French composer Michel Corrette. The Trio d’Anches’s recording of the suite features a number of added repeats and non-notated modifications, indicating either that the group performed it in a liberated style – one that extended the piece’s 18th century influences – or that they simply wanted to fill all four sides of their allocated discs.6 Either scenario makes the recording a valuable historical artefact.
Bate – Sonata for flute and piano
English composer Stanley Bate (1911–1959) is often remembered today for his eleven-year marriage to the famous Australian composer Peggy Glanville-Hicks, whom he had met while studying at the Royal College of Music in London. Though he struggled to find success after World War II, Bate was a prolific composer and his works achieved considerable acclaim in the 1920s and 30s. One of his first chamber music compositions was the Sonata for Flute and Piano (op. 11, 1937), written upon his return to England after two years of study with Nadia Boulanger in Paris. Whereas Bate’s earlier works are more reminiscent of his former teacher Vaughan Williams, Boulanger’s influence can be clearly heard in the Flute Sonata’s succinct yet expressive musical lines and unpretentious use of form. Hanson-Dyer accepted the sonata for publication in late 1937 and, in an effort to help further the composer’s career, she engaged the leading Parisian flautist Marcel Moyse (1889–1984) to record it. The 1938 recording also features Moyse’s son Louis, who performed with his father as a part of the Trio Moyse (Louis’s wife, the violinist Blanche Honegger Moyse, was the third member). The Flute Sonata would remain the only one of Bate’s works to be published by Oiseau-Lyre – Hanson-Dyer commissioned him to compose four more pieces but was deeply offended to learn that he was attempting to acquire deals with bigger publishers behind her back. The Éditions de l’Oiseau-Lyre Archive holds four unpublished Bate manuscripts – probably the four pieces commissioned in 1937. “There are so many interesting people to publish,” Hanson-Dyer wrote in 1943, “I feel there is no need to be bothered by a Stanley Bate.”7
Wyschnegradsky – Ainsi parlait Zarathoustra: Symphony in a quarter-tone system for four pianos, 3rd movement
Recorded in October 1938, the most avant-garde of the music in the Oiseau-Lyre catalogue of 78s is the third, slow movement of Ainsi parlait Zarathoustra: Symphony in a quarter-tone system for four pianos by Russian émigré composer, Ivan Wyschnegradsky (1893–1979). The pianists – Monique Haas, Ina Marika, Edward Staempfli and Max Vredenburg – had premiered this version of the work early the previous year at the Salle Chopin-Pleyel in Paris. Correspondence in the archive indicates that the first formal meeting between Hanson-Dyer and Wyschnegradsky took place in May 1938, and was suggested by British composer and pianist Alan Bush.
The microtones in the piece are achieved by tuning two of the pianos at concert pitch and the other two a quarter tone higher. Within the musical texture, each concert pitch-tuned piano is paired with a differently tuned piano, enabling the microtonality to be clearly audible both melodically and harmonically, and without the need to use purpose-built or modified instruments. While the disc was available commercially, the performance materials were exclusively for hire. Hanson-Dyer retained the score and parts in the composer’s hand.8
Glanville-Hicks – Choral Suite
The Rare Music Collection does not hold a copy of OL 100 in its collection, but the recording has been digitised and can be listened to at Internet Archive.
Written in 1937 while she was studying with Nadia Boulanger in Paris, Peggy Glanville-Hicks’s (1912–1990) Choral Suite is a setting of five poems by John Fletcher for female chorus, oboe, and string orchestra. Glanville-Hicks offered the work to Hanson-Dyer for publication in 1937, and in 1938 two movements were performed at the International Society for Contemporary Music (ISCM) festival in London - the first time Australia had been represented in the event’s sixteen-year history. Hanson-Dyer subsequently released the work on disc. Although the performers are unnamed, the Oiseau-Lyre 78 features the same two movements as were performed at the ISCM, and no evidence in the Éditions de l’Oiseau-Lyre Archive points towards another recording being made in Paris; the disc probably features the recording made by the BBC at the London premiere. For this performance, Sir Adrian Boult conducted the BBC String Orchestra and BBC Singers, and the English oboist Joy Boughton performed the solo part.
Landré – Suite for String Orchestra and Piano
Little known today outside of the Netherlands, Guillaume Landré (1905–1968) was an important Dutch composer, and one of the first contemporary composers in whom Hanson-Dyer showed a genuine interest. She had first heard his music at the 1933 ISCM Festival in Amsterdam and swiftly agreed to print his 1929 Piano Trio upon learning that none of his music had yet been published. This short piece achieved limited recognition, but the next work of Landré’s that Hanson-Dyer published – his 1936 Suite for String Orchestra and Piano – marked a turning point in his career. The short, motivic fragments that characterised Landré’s earlier music, an influence from his teacher Willem Pijper, was replaced in the Suite by a broader, more lyrical style. The work quickly became popular amongst local and international orchestras. Like Glanville-Hicks’s Choral Suite, Landré’s Suite for String Orchestra and Piano represented the Netherlands at the London ISCM festival – in fact, it was programmed immediately before the Choral Suite on the performance of 20 June 1938. Again like Glanville-Hicks’s piece, Hanson-Dyer released Landré’s Suite on a 78 rpm disc in 1939; however, the recording comprises only the second (Elégie) and third (Vivace) movements and does not include performer credits, suggesting that the audio is also that captured by the BBC at the live performance in London.
Auric – Trio for oboe, clarinet and bassoon
Unlike the earlier reed trios published by Oiseau-Lyre, Georges Auric’s (1899–1983) Trio for clarinet, oboe and bassoon (1938) was composed only after Hanson-Dyer began to print and record music concurrently, suggesting it was commissioned especially for the label. Auric was well and truly in Hanson-Dyer’s professional network – he had first written for Oiseau-Lyre in 1934 and was good friends with the composers Ibert and Milhaud, as well as the Trio d’Anches bassoonist Oubradous. Auric’s reed trio was recorded by the Trio d’Anches de Paris in March 1939, but due to the interruption of World War II the parts were not made available until 1948.
The choice of instrumentation in this piece stands out in Auric’s early period, which is comprised mostly of piano, vocal, and ensemble music for films and the stage. Yet the trio still references many of the styles and genres that influenced Auric throughout his career, from the quirky, 1920s vaudeville and circus themes in the first movement, to a more austere aesthetic reminiscent of the composer’s early film music in the second (which begins partway through the B-side of the first disc). The bouncy and jovial finale (recorded over two sides of the second disc) is constructed in five-part song form, reflecting Auric’s lifelong interest in popular music. In their rendition of this piece, the Trio d’Anches de Paris were mostly faithful to Auric’s directions, although some of their chosen tempos are much faster than marked in the already challenging score.9 That the trio could retain such clarity and synchronisation, particularly in the first movement, is testament to the extensive performance experience of the three musicians and their familiarity with each other’s playing.
Turina – Ritmos: Fantasia coreografica for piano & Kodàly – Méditation sur un motif de Claude Debussy
Discs 107 and 108 are noteworthy for featuring music that, unlike some of the works recorded on Oiseau-Lyre 78s, was written by living composers not exactly at the cutting-edge of 1930s modernity: Joaquìn Turina (1882–1949) and Zoltàn Kodàly (1882–1967). Turina was a Spanish composer who had lived in Paris from 1904 to 1915, where he studied with Vincent d’Indy and became associated with Debussy and Ravel. His orchestral work Ritmos, subtitled ‘Fantasia coreografica’ (op. 43, 1928), was composed twelve years after the composer’s return to Madrid, and expresses nationalist spirit by adapting Spanish, Andalusian and Latin-American dance rhythms.
On the B-side of the second disc is an excerpt from a piece by Kodàly, a Hungarian composer today best known for his widely-adopted music education method. Kodàly’s Méditation sur un motif de Claude Debussy is a dreamy rumination on a fragment taken from Debussy’s only opera, Pelléas et Mélisande (1902). As neither composer was in Hanson-Dyer’s network, we can assume that the choice of repertoire was made by the performer – Louise Gargurevich, an Australian pianist who was based in Paris during the 1930s. It is unclear whether the piano version of Ritmos is the composer’s or someone else’s: after her return to Melbourne in 1939, Gargurevich told an Australian journalist that she had uncovered the score in a library in Hampstead.10
Sauguet – La Voyante : scène pour voix de femmes et petit orchestre
A fine pianist, Henri Sauguet (1901–1989) arrived in Paris from Bordeaux in 1921 and immersed himself in Parisian musical life, becoming a composition student of Charles Koechlin for many years. Sauguet was a prolific composer whose works spanned ballet, choral, orchestral, chamber and various vocal genres. As a manuscript in the composer’s hand indicates, his cantata La Voyante (The Clairvoyant) for female voice and chamber orchestra, was completed in April 1932. The score is dedicated 'Au Vicomte & à la Vicomtesse de Noailles': Marie-Laure de Noailles, an heiress of almost unimaginable wealth, was a generous and thoroughly unconventional supporter of the creative arts, in partnership with her husband.
In February 1939 La Voyante was programmed as the last item in an Editions de l’Oiseau-Lyre invitation concert of “ancient and modern” French music conducted by Roger Désormière. In the following month Hanson-Dyer recorded the work with the same performers: French mezzo-soprano Germaine Cernay and no doubt the same unnamed orchestra. The cantata has three movements: Cartomancie (fortune telling with cards); Astrologie; and Chiromancie (palmistry). Dyer produced printed parts which were hired out with a full score in a copyist’s hand; she did not publish the full score.
Koechlin – Sonata No. 2 for Clarinet and Orchestra & Calme sur la mer
An eclectic composer and important figure in French musical life, Charles Koechlin (1867–1950) was also a good friend of Hanson-Dyer. His Second Clarinet Sonata (op. 86) was composed in 1923, but in 1946 – at Hanson-Dyer’s request – he orchestrated the work especially for recording.11 The sessions took place the following year, with the Trio d’Anches clarinettist Pierre Lefèbvre performing the solo part. He was accompanied by an ensemble of Parisian musicians credited as the Ensemble Orchestral de l’Oiseau-Lyre, and conducted by Roger Désormière, a regular contributor to the press’s recordings of early and orchestral music.
As Koechlin’s music underwent continuous stylistic evolution throughout his long life, the orchestrated Clarinet Sonata is an interesting synthesis of musical language, having been originally conceived during the composer’s intensive period of chamber music writing (from 1911 to 1924), but revised some twenty years later, during his post-war immersion in orchestral writing. Oiseau-Lyre’s recording of the Clarinet Sonata unfolds over one and a half discs, with the remaining side filled out by the fourth movement of Koechlin’s Partita for Chamber Orchestra (op. 205, 1946). The extract, titled Calme sur la mer, is a plaintive duet for flute and clarinet with string accompaniment, an appropriate complement to a wind sonata.
Sauguet – Trio for oboe, clarinet and bassoon
The final reed trio to be recorded on Oiseau-Lyre 78s was another work of Henri Sauguet’s: the Trio for oboe, clarinet and bassoon, composed for the label in 1946. Sauguet’s is distinct from the earlier recorded reed trios in that it was written not for the pioneers of the interwar period; instead, it is dedicated to the Trio d’Anches René Daraux, a trio of slightly younger performers named after the oboist, and also comprising Fernand Gossens on clarinet and Ange Maugendre on bassoon. The trio’s recording of Sauguet’s piece was released commercially in 1947, meaning it preceded the printed music (which Hanson-Dyer published in parts the following year and as a pocket score in 1950).
In addition to the René Daraux Trio’s masterful interpretation of Sauguet’s spritely, folk-inspired music, these discs are interesting in that they speak to advancements in the technology used to play 78 rpm records in the home. The discs are ordered non-chronologically so as to be played on a record changer, an Australian invention that allowed its user to listen to a sequence of phonograph records without having to change the disc or side every three to five minutes.
Unfortunately, a copy of the second disc has not been located. OL 219 side A contains the first then, surprisingly, the 3rd movements; side B starts a little after figure E in the 4th Choral varié (page 21 in the miniature score) and finishes the work. The 2nd movement and beginning of the 4th movement will be on the missing disc.
Louise Hanson-Dyer (1884–1962) was a remarkable Melbourne woman, remembered both for her professional achievements and for her support of many cultural endeavours. The University of Melbourne is one of her beneficiaries. The Rare Music collection holds a substantial and diverse collection of material relating to Hanson-Dyer’s professional and personal life. The majority of this can be found in the Editions de l’Oiseau-Lyre archive.
Researched and written by Madeline Roycroft
Research assistant, Editions de l’Oiseau-Lyre projects
Audio by Jen Hill
Curator, Rare Music, Archives and Special Collections
1Funding from the Hanson Bequests has facilitated a project digitising the 78 rpm discs (OL 1 to OL 236), where copies are held or can be located. Thanks are extended to the then Principal, Ms Dawn Clements and the Archivist, Ms Jane Dyer, of Presbyterian Ladies College, Burwood, for permission to borrow and digitise discs in the school archive.
2All but one of the digital transfers were engineered by Damsmart, Canberra. This resource uses restored MP3 files. For making available his transfer of OL 70, Ainsi parlait Zarathoustra by Wyschnegradsky, thanks are extended to Peter Adamson (St Andrews, UK).
3Kerry Murphy and Madeline Roycroft, ‘Louise Dyer and contemporary French music: Publisher, Friend, Promoter “Within and Without” France,’ in Louise Dyer: Pursuit of the New (Melbourne: Lyrebird Press, forthcoming 2022).
4OL 17A has a deep scratch at the opening
5Murphy and Roycroft, ‘Louise Dyer and contemporary French music’ (forthcoming).
6Catherine McGee Stockwell, ‘The Oiseau-Lyre Wind Trios: A Critical Study of Interpretations Documented in Sound Recordings’ (PhD thesis, Universidade de Évora, 2016), 393.
7Thank you to Thalia Laughlin for sharing with me this passage from Chapter 2 of her forthcoming PhD thesis.
8More information on this composition and its context can be found in the Archives and Special Collections blog. The US premiere of the entire work took place as recently as 2019 and has been recorded by the Hocket ensemble.
9Stockwell, ‘The Oiseau-Lyre Wind Trios,’ 250.
10‘Louise Gargurevich at Celebrity Concert,’ The Wireless Weekly: The Hundred Per Cent Australian Radio Journal 36, no. 26 (1941): 17.
11Murphy and Roycroft, ‘Louise Dyer and contemporary French music’ (forthcoming).