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Thread: Charles Koechlin

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    Senior Member Neo Romanza's Avatar
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    Default Charles Koechlin



    Though his reputation as a composer has remained rather isolated in the decades since his death, Charles Koechlin enjoyed a prominent place in the French music scene in the first half of the twentieth century. Born in Paris on November 27, 1867, Koechlin began formal musical studies at the Paris Conservatory in 1890. His teachers there included Massenet and Fauré; the latter ultimately proved the greatest influence upon Koechlin's uncomplicated but colorful, mildly Impressionistic style. In 1918, Satie welcomed him into Les nouveaux jeunes, a short-lived collective of young French composers (including Roussel and Milhaud) that ultimately metamorphosed into Les Six.

    In his lifetime, Koechlin was more widely known for his work as a theorist and teacher than for his own music. His writings include a multi-volume treatise on orchestration, one of the most extensive of its kind. Among his students were two members of Les Six, Germaine Tailleferre and Francis Poulenc, as well as film and television composer Lalo Schifrin. Koechlin's skill and reputation as an orchestrator were considerable. Saint-Saëns, Fauré, and Debussy entrusted to him the orchestration of a number of their own works, including most of Debussy's first ballet, Khamma (1911-1912). Koechlin traveled widely as a lecturer on music, including three tours in the United States. After a career that encompassed every aspect of French musical life, he died in Le Canadel, France, on New Year's Eve 1950.

    While Koechlin's music is not as distinctive in its dramatic, structural, or formal profile as that of contemporaries like Debussy or Ravel, it nonetheless bears the stamp of an unusual personality. Many of his works are conspicuously sectional and almost improvisatory in the manner in which they unfold; his melodies in particular tend toward unrestricted, continual motion. Harmony and instrumental color are generally at the fore in Koechlin's music, which is perhaps most effective in the way it creates exquisitely shaded atmospheres. The composer wrote prolifically and for nearly every medium -- except, tellingly, for the operatic stage -- but carved out a quirky compositional niche that remains unique. Prefiguring multi-work "literary" cycles like American composer David Del Tredici's Alice in Wonderland series, Koechlin produced seven interrelated works based on Kipling's The Jungle Book. Perhaps unexpectedly, given his sober, messianic appearance, he also harbored a virtual mania for the cinema, which he translated into a number of works inspired by various silver-screen personalities. He celebrated the icons of Hollywood's Golden Age in works like Five Dances for Ginger [Rogers] (1937) and Epitaphe de Jean Harlow (1937), but his most stimulating muse was apparently English-German actress Lilian Harvey (1906-1968). Initially flattered by Koechlin's hommages, which included more than a hundred works, including two "Lilian Albums," Harvey eventually grew uneasy with his seeming obsession. She also enjoys a place of honor in what is likely the most famous (if not generally familiar) of Koechlin's works, the Seven Stars Symphony (1933). Neither astrological nor astronomical in inspiration, the symphony is instead a suite of tone poems, each an evocative portrait of a leading screen figure of the day: Douglas Fairbanks, Harvey, Greta Garbo, Clara Bow, Marlene Dietrich, Emil Jannings, and Charlie Chaplin.

    [Article taken from All Music Guide]

    What does everyone think of this composer's music? He's certainly one of the more interesting French composers of the early 20th Century. His music is quite textural and atmospheric but not without it's own sort of built-in tension and drama. I own all the Hanssler recordings and love them all. I also really like David Zinman's recording of the complete Jungle Book (possibly his masterpiece). His chamber music is beautiful but not as distinctive as his orchestral works.

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    Senior Member Prodromides's Avatar
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    Charles Koechlin is my favorite composer. Thank you for adding him into these composer guestbooks.

    I wished to create a thread here on Koechlin since he didn't have one until now, but I currently don't have the spare time to devote to the sort of detailed writing I would like to bestow upon Koechlin and his musical works.

    My introduction to Koechlin was around 1994 when I purchased the French Cybelia CDs, which offered interpretations by conductor Leif Segerstam. My favorite of these is Le buisson ardent.

    I would like to add my thoughts in here one at a time in the months ahead, but for now let me state that I think Charles Koechlin's chamber sonatas and solo piano pieces from around 1913 through 1919 are the works via which Koechlin developed his unique musical personality which listeners have come to know him by.

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    Senior Member Neo Romanza's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Prodromides View Post
    Charles Koechlin is my favorite composer. Thank you for adding him into these composer guestbooks.

    I wished to create a thread here on Koechlin since he didn't have one until now, but I currently don't have the spare time to devote to the sort of detailed writing I would like to bestow upon Koechlin and his musical works.

    My introduction to Koechlin was around 1994 when I purchased the French Cybelia CDs, which offered interpretations by conductor Leif Segerstam. My favorite of these is Le buisson ardent.

    I would like to add my thoughts in here one at a time in the months ahead, but for now let me state that I think Charles Koechlin's chamber sonatas and solo piano pieces from around 1913 through 1919 are the works via which Koechlin developed his unique musical personality which listeners have come to know him by.
    Wow, Koechlin is your favorite composer?!?!? That's awesome! I love his music a lot actually. I remember the first time I heard the Holliger-led performance of Vers la Voûte étoilée along with Le Docteur Fabricius my mind was truly blown. His harmonic vocabulary is extraordinary! I also love his orchestration. Yes, Le buisson ardent Parts I & II are amazing works. I especially loved the last climax of Part II so majestic and heartfelt. Of course, The Jungle Book is incredible work and one I return to quite often. I loved his orchestral songs as well. That recording with Holliger/Stuttgart RSO and Julane Banse is something else! Gorgeous music. There's so much orchestral music that has yet to be recorded. Come on Holliger get with it!

    I look forward to your commentary.
    “Competitions are for horses, not artists.” - Béla Bartók

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    Senior Member Prodromides's Avatar
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    Thumbs up Cybelia & Marco Polo



    This is Cybelia's gate-fold 2-LP vinyl album of Koechlin's Livre de la Jungle (circa 1985).

    This same program/recording was re-issued on CD around 1993 on the Marco Polo label.



    I think both Leif Segerstam and the French Cybelia label did much to create a sort-of mini-revival of interest in the music of Charles Koechlin, which was quite under-represented on recordings prior to the 1980s.

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    Senior Member Neo Romanza's Avatar
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    I'm rather lukewarm about Segerstam's Koechlin recordings. I believe they lacked the warmth of Holliger who has the excellent sonics provided by Hanssler engineers. Segerstam's recordings were fine for their time but they have been far surpassed by Holliger. David Zinman's Jungle Book is also very fine. Steuart Bedford's Jungle Book is also very good but it was a live performance that included applause after each symphonic poem which made it rather annoying to listen to all the way through.
    “Competitions are for horses, not artists.” - Béla Bartók

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    Senior Member Kivimees's Avatar
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    Another Koechlin fan here:

    3377891311933_p0_v2_s260x420.jpg

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    Senior Member Neo Romanza's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kivimees View Post
    Another Koechlin fan here:

    3377891311933_p0_v2_s260x420.jpg
    Great! We could always use more people around here. Any works you particularly enjoy? That's a great Timpani recording by the way.
    “Competitions are for horses, not artists.” - Béla Bartók

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    Senior Member Kivimees's Avatar
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    I'm particularly fond of his orchestral works (e.g., Le buisson ardent), as on this CD:

    8_223704.jpg

    To be honest, I've yet to explore his piano work.
    Last edited by Kivimees; May-10-2013 at 07:06.

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    Senior Member quack's Avatar
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    The only work of Koechlin I have really warmed to is Les Heures Persanes a kind of Satie like tone poem for piano. Apparently there is an orchestrated version too, I will have to give it a listen although I suspect I will prefer the piano. Don't think i've even heard Le buisson ardent, so that will be my nest quest.

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    Senior Member Neo Romanza's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kivimees View Post
    I'm particularly fond of his orchestral works (e.g., Le buisson ardent), as on this CD:

    8_223704.jpg

    To be honest, I've yet to explore his piano work.
    You should definitely checkout Holliger's performance of Le buisson ardent, Kivimees. The clarity Holliger gets from the Stuttgart Radio Symphony is outstanding.
    “Competitions are for horses, not artists.” - Béla Bartók

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    Senior Member Kivimees's Avatar
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    Okay, I'll try to find it.

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    Senior Member Neo Romanza's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kivimees View Post
    Okay, I'll try to find it.
    Should be easy to obtain via Amazon. In fact, here's the link: http://www.amazon.com/Charles-Koechl...rds=B000095SL0

    Amazon UK:

    http://www.amazon.co.uk/Koechlin-Cou...chlin+holliger

    Amazon Germany:

    http://www.amazon.de/La-Course-Print...chlin+Holliger
    “Competitions are for horses, not artists.” - Béla Bartók

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    Senior Member Prodromides's Avatar
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    Cool

    Quote Originally Posted by Neo Romanza View Post
    I'm rather lukewarm about Segerstam's Koechlin recordings. I believe they lacked the warmth of Holliger who has the excellent sonics provided by Hanssler engineers. Segerstam's recordings were fine for their time but they have been far surpassed by Holliger.
    Hi, Neo Romanza.

    I hope we won't discredit any conductor's interpretation on the basis of recording technology & sound engineers.

    Sure, I agree with you that the Hanssler discs are superb and Heinz Holliger is an excellent advocate for the music of Charles Koechlin.
    I even read somewhere (perhaps it was the Penguin guide?) that Leif Segerstam's version of Le Livre de la Jungle possesses greater mystery than David Zinman's edition [though I love all the albums, honestly].

    During the late 1980s & early 1990s, Segerstam was one of the few who championed Koechlin. Major labels such as Deutsche Grammophon typically passed-over Koechlin's oeuvre and smaller specialty labels began to carry the Koechlin 'torch', like Skarbo and Accord and Cybelia.

    Before the '80s, I'm aware that Pierre Boulez did "Les Bandar-Log" (1960s?) and there are some vintage 1950s monaural recordings done a few years after Koechlin's 1950 death, like the poeme for horn and orchestra.

    If you think Segerstam's recordings were only good for their time, what would you think about the mono recordings pre-1960?

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    Senior Member Neo Romanza's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Prodromides View Post
    Hi, Neo Romanza.

    I hope we won't discredit any conductor's interpretation on the basis of recording technology & sound engineers.

    Sure, I agree with you that the Hanssler discs are superb and Heinz Holliger is an excellent advocate for the music of Charles Koechlin.
    I even read somewhere (perhaps it was the Penguin guide?) that Leif Segerstam's version of Le Livre de la Jungle possesses greater mystery than David Zinman's edition [though I love all the albums, honestly].

    During the late 1980s & early 1990s, Segerstam was one of the few who championed Koechlin. Major labels such as Deutsche Grammophon typically passed-over Koechlin's oeuvre and smaller specialty labels began to carry the Koechlin 'torch', like Skarbo and Accord and Cybelia.

    Before the '80s, I'm aware that Pierre Boulez did "Les Bandar-Log" (1960s?) and there are some vintage 1950s monaural recordings done a few years after Koechlin's 1950 death, like the poeme for horn and orchestra.

    If you think Segerstam's recordings were only good for their time, what would you think about the mono recordings pre-1960?
    Well, I honestly think Holliger possesses a firm grasp of Koechlin's idiom and conducts the music admirably well. I do think, however, that Segerstam has the greater Persian Hours. I need to revisit Segerstam's recordings. I remember being quite disappointed with Le buisson ardent. I thought he could have given the climaxes, especially towards the end of Part II, more energy and drive. This is where Holliger is recommendable over Segerstam --- these overwhelming crescendos. I do remember enjoying Segerstam's Jungle Book but I often wondered why he didn't go ahead and record the Three Poems? I mean just make it a 2-CD set. That was a missed opportunity IMHO.

    Anyway, have you heard Bedford's Jungle Book?
    “Competitions are for horses, not artists.” - Béla Bartók

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    Senior Member Neo Romanza's Avatar
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    I wish Segerstam would record The Jungle Book again. This time on the Ondine or even BIS labels would excellent and in surround sound! In Koechlin's music, crystalline audio is a must or else so many of those wonderful textures will be lost in muddiness.
    “Competitions are for horses, not artists.” - Béla Bartók

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