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Koechlin The Man

Charles Koechlin (1867-1950) was a French composer who although unduly neglected during his lifetime is finally earning the recognition he deserves as equal of great composers like Faure, Debussy and Ravel.

 

Koechlin originally studied engineering at the Ecole Polytechnique but a bout of TB enforced a re-think and fortunately he turned to music, studying composition with Massenet and Faure. He married and had 5 children, taught composition and avidly supported the contemporary music scene and young emerging composers as well as composing prolifically across all genres.

 

Inevitably there is some unevenness in his output of over 200 opus numbers many of which are vast and this is often considered to be a factor in his lack of esteem by the establishment. He was, as are many genius types, not especially interested in self-promotion; Koechlin rejected Parisian society, choosing to live in the mountains or in rural areas because his love of nature ran deep. He was always true to himself, a fiercely independent thinker, he hated lies and was above all sincere.

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Koechlin’s works were inspired by his many obsessions; astronomy, mountaineering, science, cinema and cinematic stars, mythology, literature, in particular Rudyard Kipling and Virgil. He despised organised religion yet was very spiritual taking an interest in all religions, especially Hinduism and ancient Gods, declaring himself a pantheist. He was devoted to freedom in life and art and remained unbound by convention. He had a quick, lively mind, a twinkle in his eye and by all accounts was kind and with a great sense of humour.

Koechlin was a friend of the renowned flautist Jean Merry. He seems to have had a particular affinity with the flute, possibly because in its simplest form it is the most primitive and natural of instruments, closest to the human voice. The ‘Chants de Nectaire’ op 198 199 and 200 constitute one of the greatest works for flute both in terms of length and quality. Koechlin’s writing is so idiomatic and sensitive that it is hard to believe that he did not play the flute himself.

For more information about the composer, his life and works and photos please click Charles Koechlin - unknown master of the unaccompanied flute by Jemima Barnes which appeared in July 2020 in PAN magazine – the journal of the British Flute Society.

There is also considerable information in full reviews in the CD section.

If you would like to know more, please contact me.

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© 2020 Nicola Woodward