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The History of Elesdisc

by PETER NAHON

Jewish records began to be issued in France as early as 1908 (if not earlier), but there were not important quantities of these records produced until 1933 when such labels as Salabert and Idéal got interested in this business. All their activities of course were stopped by breakout of the World War II.

It could look strange, but during the first decade after the end of the war, the new companies started to flourish and produce a lot of Jewish records, apparently for the community of Holocaust survivors. Here is the list of companies that produced such records: Elesdisc, Le Disque Folklorique Yiddish and Saturne [addenda from the author: Le Chant du Monde, Pathé, Hatikvah, Ducretet-Thompson], the first two labels are specialized on Jewish repertoire.

Le Disque Folklorique Yiddish had a short history, lasting only 2 years or so, between 1949 and 1950. It was run by some Serge Eisenstein, the nephew of the Soviet film director bearing the same name.

We decided to research into the history of Elesdisc. After investigating in diverse places such as Bibliothèque Medem (the largest Yiddish language library in Europe), Bibliothèque nationale de France, Bibliothèque des Archives de Paris and "in the field", we reconstructed the history of this business at the 34 rue des Rosiers in the center of Paris former Jewry which started as a bookshop in the late 19th century.

Wolf Speiser, born in Odessa, arrived in Paris circa 1895 and founded a library at the 34 rue des Rosiers, in the district in Paris that the newcomers of Jewish origin occupied since the 1880's. Soon it became the center of the Jewish cultural life in Paris. From 1910 he published calendars and an almanac, called "Yddisch-franzoischer Kalendar" (Jewish-french calendar). He was also known for a book for learning French using yiddish grammar, known as "Méthode pour apprendre le français au moyen du jargon dit ydisch"

The shop circa 1925

Wolf Speiser was involved in bad business and had to close the shop in 1929. According to Jean-Pierre Azéma (Vivre et survivre dans le Marais: au cœur de Paris du Moyen Âge à nos jours, Editions le Manuscrit, 2005), he died the 6 February 1941, and one of his sons restarted the business but died a few years later. Maybe this son is Léon Speiser..

[Addenda,January 2009] We have learnt that Wolf Speiser's wife Régine continued to run the shop after their divorce in 1930, with her son Léon Speiser. This son is the one who will recover the store after the war. During this time, Wolf Speiser opened a phonograph repair workshop somewhere else in Paris with his second wife.

Léon Speiser, after the war, renewed the store by creating his own record company soon after 1948, whose name being Elesdisc, after his initials. We found neither any catalog of this company, nor any advertisement of it. A few elements permit us to conclude that the records were not distributed somewhere else than in his store in Paris. This is because each Elesdisc record that we found has Léon Speiser advertising stickers pasted on it.

Léon Speiser advertising sticker

In despite of this it seems his records were known among the world, since they were re-issued by Melodisc, Stinson and Savoy. The Elesdisc records were manufactured by Philips, as attest the inscription on the labels:

[Addenda, January 2009]: Elesdisc issued Russian records, all recorded in France between 1949 and 1952 excepted the one numbered "LS-11" which consists in Soviet recordings.

The Russian records have a red label, whereas the Jewish ones have a blue label

Near-complete list of Russian recordings on Elesdisc

Catalog number Artist Title Matrix
LS-11ALeonid UtesovPartizanskaja boroda?
LS-11BPiatnitsky chorusPiesna pro Katjuschu?
LS-22ASarah GorbyKossa0541-1-ACP
LS-22BSarah GorbyRiazanotchka0542-1-ACP
LS-23ASarah GorbyTiomnaia Notch0543-1-ACP
LS-23BSarah GorbyBoudte Zdorovje0544-1-ACP
LS-24ASarah GorbyKostia Moriak?
LS-24BSarah GorbyIehal Ia iz Berlina?
LS-27ASarah GorbyTchornia Chale?
LS-27BSarah GorbyKatioucha?
LS-37ASarah GorbyLiubimi Gorod?
LS-37BSarah GorbyVdol Derevnii?
LS-38ASarah GorbyTri Tankista?
LS-38BSarah GorbyVesioli Veter?
LS-39ASarah GorbyKto Ievo Znaiet0745-1-ACP
LS-39BSarah GorbyEch, Dorogii0746-2-ACP
LS-40ASarah GorbySinii platotchek?
LS-40BSarah GorbyIno chotzi?
LS-52AGeorges StrehaSvietit miesatz (dance)?
LS-52BGeorges StrehaPolianka (dance)?
LS-60AVladimir SlastcheffBoublitchki?
LS-60BVladimir SlastcheffOgagnok?
LS-61AVladimir Slastcheff??
LS-61BVladimir Slastcheff??
LS-62AVladimir SlastcheffKalinka?
LS-62BVladimir SlastcheffJablotcheka?

It is partially based on Mrs. Lehman's (née Speiser) testimony, who is Wolf Speiser's daughter with his second wife.

We sincerely thank:

  • Mrs Lehman née Speiser, stepsister of Léon Speiser
  • Alexandre Litwak, archivist at the Fondation du Judaïsme Français,
  • Bernard Liebermann, bookseller, who knew Léon Speiser
  • T. Stern for discographical informations
  • Sharon Bar Kochva, Natalia Krynick and everyone at the Bibliothèque Medem who permited me to research into their archives.

and everyone else who helped us in my research.

 

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Nahon | 11.01.2009 01:36 | Last updated by:  bernikov | 15.04.2018 19:38
 
 
Author Comment
xprmental
Member
xprmental говорит
интересно
спасибо
  03.03.2009 18:35
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