Category Archives: Sheet Music Covers

Comments on some special, funny or beautiful covers

The Birds

Chansons des Oiseaux‘ published by L. Henri May, Paris, 1898. Cover and inside illustrations by Georges Fraipont.

Today’s post is not a usual story. Rather, it is a dreamy walk through enchanted sceneries of the kingdom of birds and a few fluttering bats. The very special songbook Chansons des Oiseaux was published in 1898 by the Société française d’éditions d’art L.-Henri May.
This monsieur Louis-Henry May may have given his venture a rather pompous title, but it well reflects the care and attention that was given to the book: the unusual oblong format, the peaceful cover image without room for names nor other text than the title, the decorative pastedown to finish the inside of the hardboard cover, and last but not least the delicate full-page illustrations by Georges Fraipont (1873-1912).

The cock on the front cover of 'Chansons des Oiseaux'
Detailed scan of the front cover (click for high resolution).

We have already written about ‘Recto Verso de Luxe‘ where sheet music is illustrated on both the front and back cover to form one large image when you fold open the sheet. This is one of these special covers.

illustration by Georges Fraipont for 'Chansons des Oiseaux'
Front and back cover of ‘Chansons des Oiseaux’, 1898 (illustration by Georges Fraipont)

The book collects 10 songs composed by Georges Fragerolles (1855-1920), who is famous for being the maestro of the Chat noir, having enlivened at the piano many shows of the Théatre d’ombres. The lyrics of four songs were written by Fragerolles himself.

The decorated pastedown on the cover interior of the book, designed by Jean Closset.

In our collection the name Fraipont is familiar. Gustave Fraipont (1849-1923) created a few sheet music covers. It was however his son Georges who illustrated this book. It is rather hard to discern the work of Gustave from that of Georges, as they both use ‘G. Fraipont’ as signature, and their style is comparable. Besides, Georges was also a composer. On at least one sheet music cover both father (illustrator) and son (composer) appear together. Yes, also with birds.

Tendresse sheet music by Georges Fraipont
Tendresse‘ by Georges Fraipont and Pierre Barbier. Published by Costallat & Cie (Paris, s.d.) and illustrated by Gustave Fraipont.

But let us continue with the book. Here is the title page.

The title page for the ‘Chansons des Oiseaux’.

And here follows your oxygen, your antidote to nastiness, negativity and gloom: ten lithographs, so delightfully charming that it is hard to imagine that they are but the result of a combination of ink, brush and paper.
Savour and rejoice!

'Mon Coq - Chanson rustique' illustrated by Georges Fraipont
‘Mon Coq – Chanson rustique’
'Les Mésanges Divines' by G. Fraipont
‘Les Mésanges Divines – Légende Mystique’
'Les Mouettes - Chanson de Mer' illustration by G. Fraipont
‘Les Mouettes – Chanson de Mer’
'La Chauve-souris' by Georges Fraipont
‘La Chauve-souris – Chanson d’Enfant’
'Voici l'Hirondelle - Aubade' by G. Fraipont
‘Voici l’Hirondelle – Aubade’
'Le Cygne - Stances' by Georges Fraipont
‘Le Cygne – Stances’
l'Oiseau Favori by G. Fraipont
‘L’Oiseau Favori – Romance dans le genre ancien’
'Le Perroquet - Rondo' by G. Fraipont
‘Le Perroquet – Rondo’
‘La Colombe – Romance’
'Le Rossignol - Sonnet' by Georges Fraipont
‘Le Rossignol – Sonnet’

 


The book was printed by R. Engelmann, Imprimeur-lithographe
(
16 rue Nansouty, Paris)

Alcool de Menthe Américaine

Alcool de Menthe Américaine‘ by Henri Kling, published by Oertel (Hannover, s.d.)

Our story starts with a cover for a commercial song to promote an ‘American’ mint alcohol. Well, not very American as you will learn from the little fait divers we are about to tell.

alcol 6
No one should be fearful of tropical fevers when in possession of l’Alcool de Menthe Américaine.

But first this. Mint alcohol is a solution of essential mint oil diluted in alcohol. Not the best of recipes if you ask me, but hey someone even invented menthol cigarettes.
According to a publicity from 1884 the menthe américaine could  treat cholera. It was also a mixture of the highest quality to stop epidemics, and a remedy for dyspepsia, stomach cramps, head aches, nausea, colonial fevers or in the event of one or other epidemic. Mmm, haven’t we seen similar effects for an alcoholic beverage before?

From ‘Feuille d’avis de Neuchatel’, August 14, 1884.

This advertisement tells us that the medicinal drink was an American creation by R. Hayrwardt & Cie from Burlington in the United States, and exclusively imported by Jules Lecoultre, who owned a drug store in Genève. Now this Burlington-origin was a clever find because there are over a thirty places called Burlington in the US. Hard thus to verify the credentials of the merchandise…

In 1893 the company of Jules Lecoultre (by then Bonnet et Cie) had to appear before the court. Its biggest rival Ricqlès, who was selling L’Alcool de Menthe de Ricqlès, accused Lecoultre of fraudulently inventing the American house ‘R. Hayrwardt & Cie’. And indeed, after having searched the whole USA no such firm was found. Nonetheless the court ruled that —although being unfair— it didn’t matter that the advertisement was not entirely truthful because this fabrication did not actually harm Ricqlès.

Judgment of May 20, 1893 in the case of Ricqlès against Bonnet & C°.

So the court was lenient: a little white lie about the origins of your product couldn’t harm anybody. However, when it came to winning medals, now that was an altogether other matter: only the strictest rules could be applied, as we’ll see next.

alcool 3

At one point Jules Lecoultre and his then associate Bonnet raised billboards all over Geneva, showing off all their medals and certificates. But they shrewdly omitted to mention for which competition Alcool de Menthe Américaine had been admitted ‘hors concours’. Ricqlès also brought this to court and claimed that Lecoultre & Bonnet mislead the public in letting it believe that they had participated at the Parisian World fair, while in fact they had only received a silver medal. Their hors concours participation was at a much lower graded fair in Genève. The court ruled that this was indeed an act of unfair competition to falsely promote the superiority of a product. As a consequence, Bonnet & Cie had to adapt all of their billboards!

Medals were clearly very important in these days.

mentheThe polka Alcool de Menthe Américaine was composed by Henri Kling (1842 – 1918), a French-German horn virtuoso and  professor at the Conservatoire in Geneva. He was also a prolific composer but with a penchant for the lighter music.

His peculiar Kitchen Concert for piano, snare drum, funnel, forks, glasses, shovel, egg beaters, wooden spoons and other kitchen utensils was probably written as (a Christmas) entertainment for  children.

Let the kid in you enjoy Henri Kling’s culinary rhythms. Fascinating!

Mysterious Phenomena In Illustrated Sheet Music

Mystery‘, Fox-Trot by Joseph Cirina. Published by Salabert (Paris, 1919) and illustrated by Roger de Valerio.

The world of illustrated sheet music is magical. In this week’s article we give you an overview of puzzling cases in the realm of music publication and song illustration. Put on your Sherlock attire and grab your magnifying glass. There we are, ready to solve a few great mysteries…

The Vanishing Cloud

The Battle March –Triumphant entry into Delhi‘  by John Pridham, published by Samuel J. Brewer (London, 1857), lithography by M. & N. Hanhart.

The Miraculous Corn

LEFT: ‘Golden Rod‘ music by Vivian Grey, published by Leo Feist (New York, 1907), illustrated by John Frew.  RIGHT: ‘Gold Aehren‘, by Vivian Grey, published by Roehr (Berlin, 1917), illustrator unknown.

The Travelling Dandies

Gigerl – Les gommeux de Vienne‘, by J. F. Wagner. LEFT: published by Louis Gregh (Paris, s.d.). RIGHT: published by Rebay & Robitschek (Wien, s.d.). Unknown illustrator.

The Enigma of the Clock

LEFT: ‘Jeden Morgen in der Strassenbahn um half acht!‘ RIGHT: ‘Tous les jours, dans le tramway‘. Both by Sissermann and Hans Bussmann, illustrated by Herzig and published by Cranz (Leipzig Bruxelles, 1931).

The Botox Failure

LEFT: ‘Ciega de Amor‘ by José Camprubi and Pedro Puche – RIGHT: ‘La Cocaina‘. Both unknown publisher, date and illustration. Both performed by Raquel Meller.

The Metamorphosis of the Student

LEFT: ‘Lo Studente passa’ by J. C. Ibanez and Chiappo (Casa Editrice Musicale Chiappo, Torino, 1929). RIGHT: ‘Der Student geht vorbei‘ (Doblinger, Wien, s.d.). Both illustrated by Domenico Lubatti.

 

“How often have I said to you that when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth?”
Sherlock Holmes in The Sign of the Four