Charles Koechlin is a French composer of Alsatian ancestry who was venerated in his lifetime, but these days much of his music is seldom, if ever played, largely I think, because he has been somewhat overshadowed by his contemporaries, such as Debussy and Ravel. This is a great pity, because his works that I have heard show very fine and inspirational mastership and he deserves to be much wider known and performed. He was a student of both Fauré and Massenet. He wrote a lot of music for flute and this collection comprises ninety-six pieces of varying length and moods and takes about three hours to perform in its entirety. This work is rarely performed and has only been recorded once. [But see comments below.] It was inspired by the musings of Nectaire, a wise old flute player, playing on a rustic pipe.
The work is inspired by a novel of Anatole France called La Révolte des anges (1914). The first set depicts a time when angels take up residence in Paris, disguised as people. The flute player is called on to display a full range of moods, from the quietly meditative to the more wild and furious, and of course, apart from the purely technical work involved, it also means employing a wide range of expressions.
Listen — Charles Koechlin: Gaiety of a sunny morning (Les Chants de Nectaire Op 198)
(HS190206 track 31, 0:00-0:20) ℗ 2020 Hoxa :
Listen — Charles Koechlin: The Momentum of life (Les Chants de Nectaire Op 198)
(HS190206 track 25, 0:00-0:12) ℗ 2020 Hoxa :
The second set comprises thirty-two pieces that depict the ancient forest as seen in the writings of Virgil. I enjoyed this second set a little more, as the music is a little more varied in mood as the various mythical characters and scenes come to life in the writing. In this set, more opportunities are given to display the flautist's considerable technical prowess.
Listen — Charles Koechlin: Dance of the Fauns (Les Chants de Nectaire Op 199)
(HS190205 track 11, 0:00-0:17) ℗ 2020 Hoxa :
Listen — Charles Koechlin: The fluttering of leaves (Les Chants de Nectaire Op 199)
(HS190205 track 5, 0:00-0:21) ℗ 2020 Hoxa :
In summation, these two discs are a wonderful display of solo flute writing and the composer's love of a single melody and of classical literature and the mystical. As far as I know, there is only one other recording of this complete work - that by Pierre Yves Artaud, and I have not heard that set to compare. The work is more likely to appeal to flautists, but Nicola Woodward's flute playing in the two sets that I have heard is sumptuous and varied, and one could not wish for a finer performance. The ambience is lively without being too reverberant. I would recommend this set to all flautists and lovers of fine flute music.
Copyright © 25 November 2020