Georges ENESCO

a glimpse into the
Paris Musical World
of the 1930s
and beyond

To say that Céliny Chailley-Richez came of a musical family is something of an understatement. She was born in Lille on May 15th 1884, in the school of her father, Emile Richez. Her mother, Léonie, was the sister of Félix Galle, conductor at the Théâtre des Variétés, whose daughter Yvonne Gall, was a singer in the Paris Opera. The family had numerous other musical connections. Céliny's mother, recognizing her musical potential enrolled her at the age of ten in the Lille Conservatory where she studied piano. Her success was such that she was admitted to the Paris Conservatory a year later, her mother leaving her husband in Lille in order to support and supervise her daughter's musical advancement. In July of 1898 at the age of 14, Céliny was awarded First Prize for Piano. It is possible that she may have met Enesco at this time; he studied violin at the Conservatory from 1894, obtaining First Prize for Violin in 1899.

As the new century opened, Céliny remained at the Conservatory, supported by a 3-year bursary of 1,000 Francs per year from the City of Lille. She also gave music lessons to the children of wealthy and well-connected families. In 1908, escaping the watchful eye of her mother, Céliny met Marcel Chailley, a young violinist, at one of the chamber music soirées which were a feature of Paris musical life at that time. Charmed by his elegance and music sensibilities, Céliny was to become his wife on April 21st, 1908.

Marcel Chailley, at left early 1930s, despite being the only musician in his family, was a brilliant violinist, recognized at an early age by Camille Saint-Saëns who often invited him to perform his latest compositions. He was a familiar contributor to all the main Paris orchestras and chamber music groups of the time. Interestingly, he was the same age as Georges Enesco, moved in the same musical circles, and would have undoubtedly have performed some of Enesco's early compositions.

Sharing a common training in, and a passion for chamber music, the young couple were to be seen and heard at concerts and musical soirées, performing alone, with the Pasdeloup, Colonne and Lamoureux orchestras (names which became widely known through early Oiseau Lyre recordings), and with their own Quartet. In combination with the Geloso Quartet, of which Pierre Monteux was the violist, they formed an Octet which performed Enesco's Octet Op 7 and Quartet in D Major Op 16 under the direction of the composer in a programme entitled "Festival Georges Enesco".

Just before the outbreak of WWI in 1914, Céliny and Marcel purchased a property in the village of Seignelay which was to become their country home to which they would retire regularly during summers, together with their children, and later grandchildren. Here too they would being their students, among whom were Ivry Gitlis, Lola Bobesco and Denise Soriano, making music "en famille" on summer evenings following studies during the day. There was not sufficient room in the main house for all the students who took rooms in the village. The Chailley Summer School thus took over the village, and at every street corner one could hear the sound of music practising coming from open windows. After work they would all go out on bicycle rides in the countryside, or for a swim in the Serein River. It is rumoured that Lola Bobesco had her first love affair there, at the tender age of 14…. she is sitting on the right at Marcel's feet, with Céliny far left.

An insight into these "summer schools" at Seignelay was recalled by Marcel and Céliny's eldest son, Jacques Chailley. In 1929 a concert was given by teachers and pupils in the church at Seignelay in aid of the fund to pay off the new "Théodore Jacquot" organ which had been installed in 1927. On that occasion 19 different nationalities were represented, including several students from Romania recommended to Marcel by his friend Enesco. Though they had known each other sporadically for some years, it had been in 1927 that Marcel Chailley and Enesco began to work more closely together. On February 5 of that year Enesco invited Marcel and Céliny to hear the ten-year-old Yehudi Menuhin, whose playing even then was quite exceptional. Menuhin also met Marcel's daughter, the violist Marie-Thérèse Chailley with whom he would collaborate musically, the two forming a profound friendship.

Céliny and Marcel had pursued joint careers as teachers and performers until 1926, when Marcel's delicate state of health forced him to give up recitals and dedicate himself to teaching, becoming with the encouragement of Jacques Thibaud, professor at the Ecole Normale de Musique. He is shown here seated in the middle of the picture, surrounded by his students. Photo taken around 1932/3. Céliny was, meanwhile, beginning to work more closely with Enesco. They gave a number of concerts together, beginning in April 1932 with Beethoven's complete Violin and Piano Sonatas as well as musical Soirées in private homes.

The Chailley-Richez home at 18 rue Guersant had witnessed visits of many illustrious musicians of the time, not only violinists and pianists. The list included such as Stravinsky, Lola Bobesco, Christian Ferras, and many others too numerous to mention. But when Céliny and Enesco worked together, it was she who would visit him in his celebrated ground-floor apartments at 26 rue de Clichy, with the Pleyel which is now in the George Enesco Museum in Bucharest. Here she made extensive notes on the scores, notably those of Bach, recording in the minutest detail the suggestions and indications of her "grand ami".

With the death of her husband from pleurisy on June 10, 1936, Céliny devoted herself almost entirely to her collaboration with "The Master", who was by then also suffering ill-health. Her accomplice was Princess Maruska (Maria) Cantacuzino, shown at left, whom Enesco had known, fairly intimately, since 1907, and whose husband had been killed in a vehicle accident in 1928. Enesco was to marry her in December 1937.

Céliny and the Princess remained on friendly terms after Enesco's death, and regularly exchanged New Year greetings. Later Céliny would bequeath her scores annotated with Enesco's comments and directions to the new Enesco Museum in the Princess's palace in Bucharest.

Céliny had always enjoyed touring abroad, and had made several concert tours with the Chailley Quartet (Brazil 1918/19, Holland, Germany,Switzerland and Britain in 1920/25), and she eagerly accepted Enesco's offer to accompany him on a concert tour of Italy. In retrospect it seems strange to embark on a concert tour a month after the outbreak of war (September 3, 1939), and indeed, the tour was ill-fated. Her letters home from Turin spoke of her initial exaltation, turning so swiftly to disappointment. After their first concert, Enesco fell ill and the rest of the tour had to be cancelled. Enesco and Maruska returned to Romania. Italy and Romania would in any case, enter the war.

Burying herself for a while in the country, Céliny returned to Paris where she successfully gave several concerts, also teaching at the Conservatoire for a year. She then formed a partnership with Denyse Favareille, a wealthy landowner, music-lover and amateur pianist. In spite of the war they managed to assemble a Quintet, entirely female, giving nine concerts between 1941 and 1943 – of which Céliny carefully retained the relevant programmes and press cuttings. Audiences were some thirty in number, mostly by invitation, including members of the De Gaulle family. In 1943 the two friends founded and generously endowed the "Prix Favareille-Chailley-Richez" to encourage new composers.

Enesco, meanwhile, had retired during World War II to his Villa Luminis at Sinaia, near Bucharest, which had long been his favorite "hideaway". Here he had composed his Roumanian Rhapsodies (1901-1902) the Piano Quartet in D (1909-1911), his Piano Sonata in f-sharp minor (1924) and a major part of his opera Opera Œdipus. Here he also received his many friends. In 1927 Yehudi Menuhin arrived at Luminis to take his first violin lessons with Enesco, beginning what was to be a great friendship and artistic collaboration.

After the War, Enesco returned to Paris, his roots with his beloved Roumania having been unceremoniously severed when in 1948 the communist regime confiscated his and his wife's Bucharest Residence (though it has since been restored to its former glory as the National Enesco Museum). Céliny and Enesco were able to resume their concert activities, giving, for example, a Recital of Sonatas (Bach, Schumann, Enesco) on October 24, 1947, in the Salle Gaveau. In 1949 they also collaborated in a recording of Enesco's Sonata Number Three "dans le caractère populaire roumain". Despite Enesco's growing weakness, the recording, issued on three 78 rpm discs, was nevertheless distinguished with a prize by the Académie du disque Charles Cros.

Whether as an attempt to revive the Master's flagging spirit and to overcome his ill-health, or as yet another record of Céliny's collaboration with the Master – or perhaps a combination of both – Céliny and her friend Denyse Favareille persuaded Enesco – and Decca, then just launching the "new" long-play records – to embark on what was in fact a huge project given Enesco's health: the complete concertos by Bach for keyboard(s) and orchestra. Enesco gave his written agreement late 1950, but it was not until 1953 that the recordings took place in Decca's Paris studios.

The solo pianist was, of course, Céliny herself (far right in the photo), joined for the concertos for 2 and 3 pianos by Jean-Jacques Painchaud (left above), and Françoise Le Gonidec, one of her old students (standing next to Enesco, seated). Yvette Grimaud (not shown) played the fourth piano in 1065. Included in the series were two triple concertos, BWV 1044 and 1057, together with the 5th Brandenburg. Additional soloists were Jean-Pierre Rampal and his pupil Gaston Crunelle, flutes, with violinist Christian Ferras, pupil of Menuhin and whose father had studied with Marcel Chailley. Françoise Le Gonidec recalled, many years later, that Enesco directed sitting down, and more with his eyes than with his baton which he was barely able to lift. Nonetheless, Yvette Grimaud recalls (2005) the spirit of tranquility which pervaded the recording sessions, an impression which is clearly conveyed in the performances themselves. With the addition, to fill up the last LP side, of Bach's Italian Concerto BWV 971 for keyboard solo performed by Céliny herself, the grand project was completed and joined the ranks of early long-play records, handsomely boxed and annotated. Enesco however barely lived to see the completion of publication; he passed away on May 4th, 1955.

In June 1955, Céliny published a record of her last visit with Enesco in "Musique et radio" (Paris), and from 1959 to 1965 corresponded regularly with Romeo Draghaci regarding the creation of the Enesco Museum in Enesco's and Maruska's old Residence in Bucharest, to which Céliny bequeathed all the scores which she had annotated with Enesco's directions and comments. She also participated in the foundation in Paris of "Les Amis d'Enesco", which organized its first concert in May 1971.

Céliny passed away on September 9th, 1973.

Photos: Courtesy Isabelle Guiard, Dominique Chailley

The Enesco/Chailley-Richez
Bach keyboard concertos
are available as free doanloads from
Baroque Music Library