Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Tonbilder from the Neumayer Collection

Tonbilder mit Oskar Messter. Photo: Bundesarchiv N1275 Bild-184. Just an illustration, not shown in the programme.

I Tonbilder della collezione Neumayer
Tonbilder from the Neumayer Collection

    English subtitles on the DCP, e-subtitles in Italian, at Teatro Verdi (Le Giornate del Cinema Muto), Pordenone, 8 Oct 2014

GCM catalogue and website: Anke Mebold: "In the early 20th century, Berlin’s Metropol Theater was one of the hot spots of popular music theatre in Germany. It specialized in revue, and its annual Jahresrevue was considered a highlight of the season, with tickets selling at exorbitant prices. The song and dance numbers were composed by Victor Hollaender, the Metropol’s music director, while the witty and frequently saucy libretti and lyrics were written by Julius Freund. Revue in imperial Germany provided entertainment paired with satirical commentary on the daily life, society, and political events of the period."

"Revue numbers were short and self-contained, making them perfect material for the young recording industry. Many numbers were “canned” for exploitation to a growing consumer market eager for recordings issued on shellac gramophone discs."

"The nascent German film industry naturally eyed a share of this market, and film production companies joined into collaboration with disc manufacturers and record labels. Numbers from highly popular shows, for example the Metropol’s Jahresrevue of 1906, Der Teufel lacht dazu! [It Makes the Devil Laugh!], and Das muss man seh’n! [You’ve Got to See This!] from 1907, as well as opera, operetta, and spoken comedy performances, were re-enacted on a film studio stage in front of a backdrop. The camera recorded a performance acted in playback to a pre-existing disc recording, to produce moving images made for projection with synchronous sound."

"These early audiovisual works were marketed in Germany as Tonbilder – literally, “sound pictures”. After a slow start around 1903, spearheaded by Oskar Messter, Tonbilder sound films became “the rage” for a very brief period; between 1907 and 1909 they practically dominated German film production. Tonbilder enabled audiences in urban centres, as well as rural areas (thanks to Wanderkinos, travelling cinemas), to enjoy the latest smart delights of the musical stage at affordable prices. The majority of these early sound films were produced by two companies, Deutsche Bioscop and Deutsche Mutoskop und Biograph, with smaller output by Messter, Duskes, Vitascope, and Internationale Kinematograph- und Lichtbild-Gesellschaft. The discs expressly made for cinema performance were called Filmbegleitplatten (film accompaniment records), and are easily recognizable by the film companies’ credentials on their labels. The sound recordings themselves were usually not produced exclusively for the cinema market, but were issued (and re-issued) commercially under different labels."

"Cinemas specializing in Tonbild presentations were known as Tonbildkinos, which required special equipment for these synchronous sound screenings. Several different sound systems were used: Biophone by Messter, Cinephone by Duskes, Synchroscope by Deutsche Bioscop, Vitaphon by Deutsche Vitascope, and Ton-Biograph by Deutsche Mutoskop und Biograph. Depending on the system employed, the projector and gramophone were either linked mechanically, or had to be synchronized by the projectionist, usually with the aid of an indicator system monitoring the speed alignment of the gramophone and the projector. To achieve precise synchronization of sound and image, the projector speed was adjusted; in most cinemas of the time this required cranking either
slower or faster."

"Opera and operetta, stage genres of longer standing and higher reputation in Germany, reigned supreme in the Tonbilder repertoire, and represent the highest percentage of such material that survives in archives today. Opera predominates in the extraordinary Tonbild collection at the Deutsches Filminstitut–DIF. Our programme begins with the duet Wenn ich im Kampf für dich siege from Wagner’s Lohengrin, and continues with arias from Verdi’s Rigoletto and Il Trovatore, Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor, and Gounod’s Faust, as well as lesser-known operas like Otto Nicolai’s Die lustigen Weiber von Windsor (The Merry Wives of Windsor) and Friedrich von Flotow’s Martha."

"The on-screen actors of Deutsche Bioscop’s stock company for Tonbild opera still await identification. But it is evident that Martha and Lucia, as well as Leonore (Il Trovatore), are played by the same actress; and that the male leads in these films, as well as other cast members, are also the same. Further research is needed to establish whether the on-screen actors are identical to the vocal performers. The suspicion seems justified that more affordable talent was often hired for the image shoot. Lead singers usually received credit only on commercially issued shellac discs, not on the Filmbegleitplatten. This definitely complicates our efforts to trace the image and sound performers."

"The preoccupation of pre-war imperial German society with patriotism and militarism is also evident in the Tonbild repertoire, in selections like the Soldatenchor (Déposons les armes) from Gounod’s Faust, or Weiß nicht die Welt (Chacun le sait) from Donizetti’s La Fille du régiment. The strong German tradition of military marches is represented by the rousing Flottenmarsch by Ottomar Schwiecker, performed by the Kapelle des 2. Garde-Regiment zu Fuß (Band of the 2nd Foot Guards) under the direction of Max Graf."

"We round off our programme with selections from operetta and revue. Quite a few operetta numbers from the DIF’s collection still await digitization and successful track-matching, but we are able to present the Grisettenlied (Grisettes Song) from Franz Lehár’s Die lustige Witwe (The Merry Widow). We conclude with four Metropol revue numbers, two of which have their original matching track. The other two have been partnered with “illicit” tracks: Unterm Paraplui [Under the Umbrella], an elusive song in need of further research, and Der Bummel-Compagnon [The Season’s Companion], a number from the 1907 revue Das muss man seh’n!, are both examples of decidedly daring track-matching and synchronization work on our part. Without the matching shellac discs, we chose to simulate an impression of the original cinema performance, using recordings of the same musical number, albeit with obvious discrepancies between sound and onscreen action. Abends nach Neune and Roland und Viktoria close the programme, each smoothly matched with their original recordings, digitized from commercial Zonophone records in the absence of the original Deutsche Bioscop Filmbegleitplatten."

"Of the Tonbild films conserved in the collection of the DIF – our current count is 40 in total – 34 are from the Neumayer Collection, which was sold to the DIF in 1970 by a Mrs. Neumayer from Icking, near Munich. Virtually no contextual information about this collection exists. The vintage nitrate positive prints are predominantly Deutsche Bioscop productions, without main titles. Fortunately most of them survive with handwritten leader information, usually indicating the title of the film or the piece of music, although sometimes cryptically abbreviated. Also frequently found on the leaders is a printed-in punch mark, indicating what may be the film’s catalogue number, as well as a synch-marked frame, which presumably served to facilitate synchronization of the start of the film and the shellac disc. The films’ average length ranges between 50 to 70 metres, which makes for a running time of 3 to 4 minutes at a projection speed of 16 fps. The timings naturally correspond between shellac disc and moving image, provided the sound track is an exact match. The synch-marked frame, usually displaying a number followed by a fraction, has been helpful in identifying the matching track from commercially issued records, as it indicates the length of the lead-in groove, i.e., the number of disc revolutions before the sound actually begins. The playback or digitization speed for the shellac discs has to be determined with care and a trained ear, since shellac records from the first decade of the 1900s pre-date standardization at 78 rpm. In the course of our project we discovered that recording speeds at this period ranged from 72 to 82 rpm."

"The Tonbild digitization project at the DIF began in the second half of 2013, thanks to funding provided by the German Federal Government’s Commissioner for Culture and Media (Der Beauftragte der Bundesregierung für Kultur und Medien). A close partnership was established with the Deutsches Musikarchiv (DMA) at the Deutsche Nationalbibliothek in Leipzig, where most of the research was conducted on the soundtracks, and the digitization of the shellac discs took place. Film scanning in 2K resolution, cautious sound and image restoration work, and – where necessary – speed manipulation of the image to match the soundtrack, were carried out at Arri in Munich, starting in late 2013."

"The soundtracks for two Tonbilder were kindly provided by Rainer Lotz from Bonn, sourced from a music cassette recorded years ago by the California-based “Antique Audio” dealer Tom Hawthorne, from shellac Filmbegleitplatten (presumably by Messter) no longer available. Deutsche Bioscop Filmbegleitplatten of three of the Tonbilder in this programme have just surfaced at auction, and were successfully acquired by the DIF. In the case of the FAUST. Soldatenchor (Soldiers’ Chorus), this will enable a complete exchange of the sound recording in the near future, with a proper match in all likelihood resulting. With MARTHA. Mag der Himmel dir vergeben and DER TROUBADOUR. Terzett (Il Trovatore trio), this will make possible a direct comparison between the commercial recordings on the Gramophone Concert Record label and Deutsche Bioscop’s original Filmbegleitplatten, to verify that both discs feature the identical recording."

"Of the 14 Tonbilder presented, 6 are paired with the matching music recording. In 2 cases the nature of the match is somewhat unclear. For another 6, the proper match has not yet been found; in these cases the presentation is an attempt at reconstructive simulation."

"We would like to advise viewers (and listeners!) that since these sound recordings date back to the infancy of recording technologies, prior to electric amplification, their sound quality varies, and many surviving shellac discs exhibit signs of wear. It was therefore decided to add subtitles to aid the audience’s comprehension."
– Anke Mebold

"All films in this programme are from the Deutsches Filminstitut – DIF, Frankfurt. The film listings below include DIF catalogue numbers and 35mm lengths, plus gramophone disc information and call numbers from the Deutsches Musikarchiv (DMA). The archivally supplied title card on each film displays an image of the shellac disc digitized for presentation, and also includes an assigned “matching symbol” which rates the quality of each soundtrack match: = (true match); ≈ (unclear, somewhat approximate match); ≠ (not matching)."

"The assigned numerals included in several of the film titles are not music opus numbers, but film numbers found on the original leaders on the nitrate prints. In a number of cases these have been verified by checking them against Herbert Birett’s 1991 reference work Das Filmangebot in Deutschland 1895-1911. The numbers presumably correspond to those in actual vintage catalogues of the production companies involved, unfortunately no longer extant or accessible."

"All the soundtracks feature performances in the German language. All films will be shown as DCPs, with English subtitles. The individual film timings include the opening archival titles (each of c.10 seconds duration).

AA: The Tonbilder are straight records of opera or music hall performances, usually in plan-séquence, in long takes in long shots, almost all in painted or constructed sets in interiors.

LOHENGRIN. Wenn ich im Kampf für dich siege (Deutsche Bioscop – DE c.1908) Mus., libretto: Richard Wagner; cast: ?; vocals: Emmy Destinn, Ernst Kraus; conductor: Bruno Seidler-Winkler; 3'59”. Duet from Act 1 of Wagner’s opera Lohengrin: “Wenn im Kampf für dich siege” (“If in Thy Cause Today I Conquer”). Image: DIF 50_105: 35mm nitrate print, c.71.5 m. (orig. censorship length: 80 m.). ≈ Sound: DMA HU 36136: Gramophone Monarch 044056 VI, 543i, 1906 (3:47 min. @ 74rpm). - AA: Wonderful. 14 performers in costume. Slightly low contrast but a fine record of the grayscale.

RIGOLETTO. O wie so trügerisch (Deutsche Bioscop – DE 1909) Mus: Giuseppe Verdi; libretto: Francesco Maria Piave; cast, vocal: Werner Alberti; 2'40”. Aria from Act 3 of Verdi’s opera Rigoletto: “La donna è mobile” (common German title, “Ach, wie so trügerisch”). Image: DIF_50_104: 35mm nitrate print, c.47.5 m. (orig. censorship length 50 m.). ≠ Sound: DMA T2011 HB 01379: Polyphon 2299, 1910 (2:25 min. @ 78rpm) - AA: A humoristic performance by Werner Alberti.

DIE LUSTIGEN WEIBER. Buffo-Duett (Deutsche Bioscop – DE 1908) Mus: Otto Nicolai; libretto: Salomon Hermann Mosenthal; cast: ?; vocals: Paul Knüpfer, Hermann Bachmann; conductor: Bruno Seidler-Winkler; 3'44”. Comedy duet from Act 2 of Nicolai’s opera Die Lustigen Weiber von Windsor (The Merry Wives of Windsor): “In einem Waschkorb” (In a laundry basket); also known as “Wie freu ich mich” (So delighted am I). Image: DIF_50_109: 35mm nitrate print, c.65 m. = Sound: DMA HU 026246 (Monarch Record Gramophone 044058 .O, 190?, 3:36 min. @ 74rpm). - AA: A humoristic interpretation of the comedy duet by Paul Knüpfer and Hermann Bachmann.

MARTHA. Mag der Himmel dir vergeben (Deutsche Bioscop – DE 1908) Mus: Friedrich von Flotow; libretto: “W. Friedrich” [Friedrich Wilhelm Riese]; cast: ?; vocals: Grete Forst, Hermine Kittel, Arthur Preuss, Wilhelm Hesch, Chor der k. k. Hofoper Wien [Chorus of the Vienna Court Opera]; 3'19”. Aria from Act 3 of Flotow’s opera Martha (Martha oder der Markt zu Richmond / Martha, or the Fair at Richmond): “Mag der Himmel dir vergeben” (“Lyonel’s Prayer: May Heaven Forgive You”), quartet with chorus. Image: DIF_50_120: 35mm nitrate print, c.59.5 m. (orig. censorship length: 65 m.). = Sound: DMA HU 005648 (Gramophone Concert G.C.-2-44225, 190?, 3:14 min. @74rpm). - AA: An engrossing record of the quartet with chorus. With some 20 performers in costume.

LUCIA VON LAMMERMOOR. Sextett (Deutsche Bioscop – DE 1908) Mus: Gaetano Donizetti; libretto: Salvatore Cammarano; cast: ?; vocals: Erik Schmedes, Friedrich Weidemann, Arthur Preuss, Richard Mayr, Elise Elizza, Luise Lukschic, Chor der Hofoper Wien [Chorus of the Vienna Court Opera]; 3'27”. Sextet from Act 2 of Donizetti’s opera Lucia di Lammermoor: “Wer vermag’s den Zorn zu hemmen” (“Chi mi frena in tal momento”). Image: DIF_50_102: 35mm nitrate print, c.59.5 m. (orig. censorship length: 65 m.). = Sound: DMA HU 012553 (Gramophone Concert G.C.-44432 XII, 1907, 3:17 min. @ 74rpm). - AA: "Chi mi frena in tal momento" was almost an emblem for high culture in the cinema until WWII (Renoir's Madame Bovary, Cukor's Little Women, animated cartoons...). Here it is in German. The singing is beautiful, Lucia's suffering is moving.

DER TROUBADOUR. Terzett. Nr. 71 (Deutsche Bioscop – DE 1909) Mus: Giuseppe Verdi; libretto: Salvatore Cammarano; cast: ?; vocals: Friedrich Weidemann, Erik Schmedes, Elise Elizza; 3'00”. Trio from Act 1 of Verdi’s opera Il trovatore: “O mein Geliebter” (“Qual voce”). Image: DIF_50_107: 35mm nitrate print, c.52 m. (orig. censorship length: 60 m.). = Sound: DMA HU 015290 (Gramophone Concert G.C.-2-44026, 190?, 2:54 min. @ 74rpm). - AA: Again music by Giuseppe Verdi in Pordenone's Teatro Verdi. Friedrich Weidemann, Erik Schmedes, and Elise Elizza perform the trio with feeling.

FAUST. Soldatenchor. Nr. 79 (Deutsche Bioscop – DE 1909) Mus: Charles Gounod; libretto: Jules Barbier, Michel Carré; cast: ?; vocals: Chor der Kgl. Hofoper Berlin [Chorus of the Berlin Court Opera]; conductor: Bruno Seidler-Winkler; 4'21”. “Soldiers’ Chorus” from Act 4 of Gounod’s opera Faust: “Legt die Waffen nieder” (“Déposons les armes”) [Lay Down Your Arms]. Image: DIF_50_103: 35mm nitrate print, c.57 m. (orig. censorship length: 65 m.). ≠ Sound: DMA T2012 HC 01168 (Gramophone Monarch 044502, 1906, 4:11 min. @ 74rpm). - AA: This Tonbild starts with the music without an image, which appears a bit later.

FLOTTENMARSCH (Deutsche Mutoskop und Biograph – DE 1908) Mus: Otto Schwiecker; cast: Kapelle 2. Garde-Regiment zu Fuß, conductor: Max Graf (?); musicians: Kapelle 2. Garde-Regiment zu Fuß, conducted by Max Graf; 2'43”. Flottenmarsch (Navy March) by Ottomar Schwiecker, played by the Band of the 2nd Foot Guards, conducted by Max Graf. Image: DIF_50_136: 35mm nitrate print, c.49 m. (orig. censorship length: 54 m.). ≈ Sound: DMA T2010 HB 01185 (Gramophone Concert G.C.-3- 40288 III, 1906, 2:37 min. @78rpm). - AA: A switch to German military music.

DIE REGIMENTSTOCHTER. Weiß nicht die Welt (Deutsche Mutoskop und Biograph – DE 1909) Mus: Gaetano Donizetti; libretto: Jean-François-Alfred Bayard, Jules-Henri Vernoy de Saint-Georges; cast: ?; vocals: Erika Wedekind, Chor der Kgl. Hofoper Dresden [Chorus of the Dresden Court Opera]; conductor: Bruno Seidler-Winkler; cartello titolo imbibito/tinted title card; 3'30”.
Aria from Act 1 of Donizetti’s opera La fille du régiment: “Weiß nicht die Welt” (“Chacun le sait”); also known in German as “Regimentslied der Marie”. Image: DIF_50_131: 35mm nitrate print, c.61 m. (orig. censorship length: 63 m.). ≠ Sound: DMA HU 02319 (Gramophone Concert G.C.-43948, 1907, 3:12 min. @ 74rpm). - AA: This exhilarating Tonbild has been shot outdoors, and the music track is not in synch but serves very well all the same.

DIE LUSTIGE WITWE. Die Grisetten (? – DE?, 190?) Mus: Franz Lehár; libretto: Victor Léon, Leo Stein; cast: ?; vocals: ?; cartello titolo imbibito/tinted title card; 3'10”. Grisettenlied (“Grisettes Song”; also known as “Ja, wir sind es, die Grisetten” or “Das Trippel-Trappel Lied”) from Act 3 of Lehár’s operetta Die lustige Witwe (The Merry Widow). Unfortunately, some portions of this film are affected by nitrate decomposition. Image: DIF_50_130: 35mm nitrate print, c.63 m. (orig. censorship length: ?). ≠ Sound: DMA (digitization from audiocassette, Rainer Lotz Collection; 2:52 min. @ ? rpm). - AA: Thinking about the film adaptations of Stroheim (beautifully re-scored by Maud Nelissen) and Lubitsch this less glamorous visualization is completely different but perhaps even more full of life. The image turns abstract via a damage in the source.

UNTERM PARAPLUI (Nr. 78) (Duskes – DE, c. 1908) Cast: ?; vocals: ?; tinted title card; 3'12”. Duet, “Unterm Paraplui” (variant spelling “Unter’m Parapluie”) [Under the Umbrella]. Show source unknown. Image: DIF_50_114: 35mm nitrate print, c.57 m. (orig. censorship length: ?). ≠ Sound: DMA (digitization from audiocassette, Rainer Lotz Collection; 2:54 min. @ ? rpm). - AA: A nice popular song.

DER BUMMEL-COMPAGNON. Duett aus DAS MUSS MAN SEH’N! Nr. 26 (Deutsche Bioscop – DE 1908) Mus: Victor Hollaender; lyrics: Julius Freund; cast: ?; vocals: Walter Steiner; 3'25”. Duet, “Der Bummel-Compagnon” (The Season’s Companion), from the 1907 Metropol-Theater revue Das muss man seh’n! (You’ve Got to See This!). Image: DIF_50_111: 35mm nitrate print, c.61.5 m. (orig. censorship length: 65 m.). ≠ Sound: DMA T2014 HB 00041 (Zonophone X2-22256, 11000 l, 190?, 3:13 min. @74rpm). - AA: Victor Hollaender and Julius Freund had a more earthy approach in their popular songs in the three last Tonbilder of this programme. They are full of life.

ABENDS NACH NEUNE. Duett aus DURCHLAUCHT RADIESCHEN. Nr. 11 (Deutsche Bioscop – DE 1907) Mus: Victor Hollaender; lyrics: Julius Freund; cast: Anna Müller-Lincke, Leonhard Haskel; vocals: Alfred Müller [Henry Bender], Fräulein Schulz; 3'09”. Duet, “Abends nach Neune” (After Nine in the Moonshine), from the 1903 Metropol-Theater Austtatungsposse (costume farce) Durchlaucht Radieschen (His Highness Radish). This saucy song and dance number recounts the seedy dangers threatening an unwitting country bumpkin in Berlin after 9 p.m. Image: DIF_50_117: 35mm nitrate print, c.56.5 m. (orig. censorship length: 60 m.). = Sound: DMA T2013 HB 00108 (Zonophone X-24046, 190 l, 190?, 2:32 min. @ 76rpm). - AA: See above. There is a wonderful extended final comedy kiss shot.

ROLAND UND VIKTORIA. Duett aus NEUSTES! ALLERNEUSTES! Nr. 10 (Deutsche Bioscop – DE 1907) Mus: Victor Hollaender; lyrics: Julius Freund; cast: Anna Müller-Lincke, Leonhard Haskel; vocals: Alfred Müller [Henry Bender], Fräulein Schulz; 3'19”. Duet, “Roland und Victoria”, from the 1904 Metropol-Theater revue Neustes! Allerneustes! (The Latest! All the Very Latest!). This number expresses the growing affection between the figures atop two well-known Berlin monuments, the Rolandsbrunnen, a fountain featuring a granite statue of a legendary medieval warrior, given by Kaiser Wilhelm II to the citizens of Berlin in 1902, and the grand gilded winged goddess of the Siegessäule victory column. Viktoria initially rebukes Roland’s advances, but then yields. All this is sung in Berlin dialect, in front of a wind-swept backdrop identical to that used in Abends nach Neune. Image: DIF_50_118: 35mm nitrate print, c.59.5 m. (orig. censorship length: 63 m.). = Sound: DMA T2013 HB 00108 (Zonophone X-24045 II, 189 l, 190?, 2:59 min. @ 76rpm) - AA: Anna Müller-Lincke plays the Siegessäule and Leonhard Haskel is the Rolandsbrunnen. See above.

AA: A well edited and enjoyable programme, complete with photographs of the original phonograms with their label information. The synch in most of the numbers is fine, and the not matching soundtracks work well, too.

The whole is more than a sum of its parts. It conveys a special feeling of a joy of life expressed in these songs, high and low, from Richard Wagner till Victor Hollaender.

This DCP can be recommended both for pleasure and for serious study in the history of music and performing arts.

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