Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Which musicians played in Titanic's trio?

It is an interesting and difficult proposition to reconstruct the make-up of the bands aboard Titanic. Several have tried, though under the old assumption that both bands had a pianist. Although there were six pianos on board, there was no piano in the trio’s only performance venue, the Reception Room adjoining the à la carte Restaurant and Cafe Parisien. Without a piano one can surmise that theirs was a string trio with two violins and a cello.

The à la carte Restaurant and Cafe Parisien were operated as a separate concession on Titanic and the manager, Signor Luigi Gatti, hired the staff, including waiters. The cooks were French and the waiters, Italian.

When looking to fill the positions of the musicians who were to play in this location, C. W. & F. N. Black, musical directors, also made an effort to find musicians from Continental Europe who could speak with accents.

ROGER BRICOUX, CELLO

Cellist Roger Bricoux, 20
It has been suggested that the cellist Bricoux, who was French-speaking, was placed in the trio. His persona would have added a touch of authenticity to the French atmosphere of the restaurants. Because he played only the cello, the possibility that the trio had a cellist who alternated on a piano is slim.

Bricoux must have been an outstanding musician, because at the tender age of twenty he was hired to play the best seagoing gig, not just on the Titanic, but in the most exclusive venue on Titanic for the world’s most elite passengers.

His pedagogical pedigree was second to none. The son of a professional musician, he had begun his musical studies as part of his Catholic education in Monaco. After graduation he was accepted to study for three years at the Accademia Filarmonica di Bologna, Italy, and won first prize in cello performance. He then studied in France for a year at the Conservatoire de Paris.

It was in his late teens that Bricoux set out to begin his professional career, first taking a position at the Grand Central Hotel in Leeds, and later taking positions at establishments in Lille. Prior to his embarkation on April 10, 1912 he had only played on two previous voyages on the much smaller steamer, Carpathia. He had certainly climbed the ranks quickly. Had he lived he would have gone on to a stellar career.

GEORGES KRINS, VIOLIN

Violinist Georges Krins, 23
Historians feel sure that, based on his nationality, Georges Krins was also a member of the trio. In one statement the directors C. W. & F. N. Black had identified him as a German, but Krins was indeed French-born and French speaking, and had spent part of his upbringing living in Belgium.

Krins left home at thirteen and studied for six years at the Conservatoire Royal de Musique in Liege. His first professional position was with the city of Spa’s La Grand Symphonie. After two seasons with the orchestra he played first violin in a Parisian theatre, and from there went to London’s Ritz Hotel where he played for high tea in the city’s most exclusive Palm Court.

Although it has been suggested by at least one source that Krins played viola, it does not seem likely. In his studies he was the recipient of a number of first and second prizes, all for theory and violin performance. In Paris when he played at the Trianon Lyrique theatre, his position was first violin.

While some string players are able to switch back and forth between instruments, there is a lack of evidence in the case of Krins. If he had played viola on Titanic there would be mention of him studying or performing viola in other period sources. Musicians of his caliber never take public performance lightly; they make it their life’s work to master their instrument, and perform on the instrument they have worked to master.

The trio is two-thirds complete. Traditionally Percy Taylor was listed as the trio’s third musician. But he was listed as pianist, alternating on cello, and the trio had no piano and had no need of a second cello (assuming he played piano and cello). Taylor is no longer a viable candidate for inclusion in Titanic’s trio.

If you have heard Titanic albums that are currently on the market you might have noticed that a piano has been exclusively included in every instrumental arrangement. Anyone thinking about recording Titanic’s music or filming a Titanic movie in future should consider including music for string trio in the spirit of historical accuracy, especially when following Titanic’s richest travelers to the Restaurant.

3 comments:

  1. I am not sure whether the nationality of the musicians is the proper criterion for assignment musicians to the trio, but anyway, we don't have any other better criterion...

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    1. I agree. But I've read this from so many sources and I have no reason to question it, especially since the waiters and kitchen staff were hired based on nationality. Titanic's visionaries were trying to create an oasis on board the ship, a new experience.

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