A true and very unusual French tale!

Lavinia’s extraordinary French discovery

The scene is a small French market town on a quiet Sunday. They are holding a ‘Vide Grenier’ which can be translated as a Market Sale or perhaps Car Boot Sale. Lavinia has spent at least two hours looking for old french fashion prints which she has been collecting for several years.

 On this particular day she cannot find a single print so, much exasperated decides to give up and head off home. However, having second thoughts, Lavinia goes back up the main street once more for a final scan. On a table, a collection of Paris Theatre programmes is found amongst which is one documenting a performance at the Theatre de La Monnnaie in Brussels. While looking through the programme some beautiful coloured paintings of stage ballet sets by Benois were shown amongst other interesting photographs of performers. An envelope was spotted inserted between the back pages. Intrigued, she goes in search of the stall owner who is sitting in a cafe nearby having a cup of coffee.

Then upon hurrying back to the car and opening the envelope five individually written composers letters were found inside. Hurrying home and after further inspection of the Theatre Programme and the letters she decides to telephone me in the U.K., where I was working at that time. Lavinia had always known my passion for music and believed she had found originals.. I might add that I didn’t believe her. Some how these ORIGINAL letters had landed up in South Western France at a Vide- Grenier sale all the way from Paris. I did some extensive research and soon found out that they were the real deal. Here is the list: Hector Berlioz describing performance of his Te Deum in London in 1851. Charles Gounod talking about one of his works. Serge Prokofiev adding a couple of bars of music. This letter was typed as was his usual practice, and signed in the Russian spelling of his name Prokoffiev. The next was from the great French composer Arthur Honegger, he always wrote in a clear style with an easy to recognise signature. The final letter was written by Oscar Straus, not to be confused with the Johann Strauss’s. Oscar wrote some very successful operettas during the first decade of the 20th century. Here is a list of their dates:- Berlioz 1803-1869, Charles Gounod, 1818-1893, Serge Prokofiev 1891-1953, Arthur Honegger,1892-1955, Oscar Straus 1870-1954.

Article written by Trevor Doyne-Ditmas

One Response to “A true and very unusual French tale!”

  1. Chris du Plessis

    How extraordinary and intriguing. How on earth did these letters from such differing composers and spanning such a long period ended up in one envelope!?


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