RSS feed RSS Twitter Twitter Facebook Facebook 15 Questions 15 Questions

CD Feature/ Charles Koechlin: "The Music of a Magician"

img  Tobias

It has often been claimed that the reason why Charles Koechlin never really caught on with the audience – neither in his lifetime, nor post mortem – was that he had a knack for inchoatness. His pieces, this school of thought persists, never really “closed”, they were often left hanging in the air, melodic phrases swirling around each other, without revealing where they were going. Subsequently, he has often been seen as a “mere” sound poet, a skilled orchestrator lacking in the necessary resolution to hit the nail on the head. While a first, suferficial glance may indeed lead one to conclude that it was beauty for beauty’s sake that he was after, a closer inspection reveals new layers of meaning. “The Music of a Magician” sets the record straight.

Of course, it can only do so with a certain degree of inchoatness itself. After all, Koechlin virtually wrote hundreds of pieces, among them symphonic works, a mass, songs and a considerable repertoire for solo piano. His creative mind was never idle, except for a short period of shock caused by the horrors of World War II (he did continue to write on a book, though). Any effort to summarise his oeuvre must therefore remain hopelessly incomplete.Which is why this CD doesn’t even try, concentrating on his chamber music instead. Tatjana Ruhland (flute and the only performer present on all tracks) and Yaara Tal (of the Piano Duo Tal-Groethuysen) have curated a string of collaborations, which range from various trios to a quartet and include diverse forms and the most unusual instrumental combinations. What strikes one immediately is the suggestive power of Koechlin’s melodies on the one hand and his capacity to effortlessly hit certain moods and to change ambiances within seconds. He also strongly favoured weightless, uplifting and fast finales with an occasionaly baroque feeling, which lend a slightly bizarre touch and an inner conflict to his works, which mostly start off in a contemplative mindset. It is almost as though the man wanted to pull the listener back into reality, after having seduced him into realms of mystery and imagination. In the slower movements, meanwhile, he uses juxtaposition and themes with shifting emphases to create sometimes diffuse, yet always intense scenes of vivid expressiveness. There is an air of uncertainty hanging over many of these impressions, but they do find a conclusion, a point of rest in the very end. Often, they convey the comforting feeling of a slightly distorted canon (the musical form, not the weapon, mind you), with the different voices picking up the same melody over and over again, never really able to  disentangle themselves from one another. In the trio for two flutes and clarinette, they even melt into a single, living veil of sound, drifting along peacefully and harmoniously.

Here, Koechlin comes closest to his own cliches, even though it remains a mystery why this should be a sin. In the remaining material, he thoroughly disprooves the notion of him escewing urgency. These are all poignant, moving, inventive and directly emotional miniatures. If there is indeed something inherent to his music, which prevented wider recognition, it was its lightheadedness. This slightly tipsy feeling might cause a sense of unease with those, who prefer more “grounded” sounds. On the other hand, this is exactly the reason why someone like Milhaud named him a “magician” in the first place.

By Tobias Fischer

Homepage: Tatjana Ruhland
Homepage: Piano Duo Tal-Groethuysen
Homepage: Hänssler Classic

Related articles

Denis Patkovic: Accordionised Goldberg Variations cause Bomb Alarm
Accordionist Denis Patkovic is preparing ...
CD Feature/ Viviana Guzman: "Telemann Flute Fantasies"
Playful, despite his Prussian education: ...
CD Feature/ Aisling Agnew & Matthew McAllister: "Recital"
Works 300 years old and ...
15 Questions to Sharon Bezaly
2007 will be the year ...
CD Feature/ Viviana Guzman & Anibal Corniglio: "Argentine Music"
Eclectic, energetic, elevating and electricising ...
15 Questions to Tatjana Ruhland
She held a fascination for ...
CD Feature/ Vivaldi: "Sacred Music 2"
The spiritual journey continues.
CD Feature/ Mozart: "Unknown Arias for Soprano"
Even 15 years after their ...

Partner sites