Where’s Marcel?

by Marc Mostovoy

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The above photograph appears on page 35 of Laila’s Storch’s biography: Marcel Tabuteau: How Do You Expect to Play the Oboe If You Can’t Peel a Mushroom?  Seated (l to r) are Georges Gillet, Tabuteau’s oboe teacher; Charlotte, Tabuteau’s older sister; and Émile Létoffé, Charlotte’s husband.  Standing (l to r) are Mme. Gillet; Francois, Tabuteau’s father; and Marcel’s brother, André—but Marcel is nowhere to be seen.

According to Laila Storch, this photo was probably taken in 1904 while the Gillet’s were visiting the Tabuteau family in Compiègne. 1904 also happened to be the year that Tabuteau received his Premier Prix from the Paris Conservatoire, the same year that Georges Gillet was made a Chevalier de la Légion d’ Honneur by the French Government. It is inconceivable that Marcel would absent himself from a visit by his celebrated mentor, George Gillet, at that time without good reason.

Laila Storch points out that Marcel’s brother-in-law, Émile Létoffé, “experimented with photography, developing films and printing the pictures himself.” But there is Émile, posing with the others for this rather formal shot. He is intently eying the photographer–possibly giving some kind of instruction.

With Létoffé’s knowledge of photography, it is highly doubtful he would have engaged another photographer to take the photo. Did 17-year-old Marcel ask his older brother-in-law whether he could ‘do the honors?’ Notice Francois intently ‘sizing up’ the photographer. There is some conjecture on my part, but putting all the pieces together, there is no doubt in my mind that the photographer is indeed the young Marcel.