Charles Koechlin

Koechlin was born in Paris, the youngest child of a large family. His mother's family came from Alsace and he identified with that region; his maternal grandfather had been the noted philanthropist and textile manufacturer Jean Dollfus, and Koechlin inherited his strongly developed social conscience. His father died when he was 14. Though he was early interested in music his family wanted him to become an engineer. He entered the Ecole Polytechnique in 1887 but the following year was diagnosed with tuberculosis and had to spent six months recuperating in Algeria. He had to repeat his first year at the ecole and graduated with only mediocre grades. After a struggle with his family and private lessons with Charles Lefebvre he entered the Paris Conservatoire in 1890 studying first with Antoine Taudou for harmony. In 1892 he started studying with Massenet for composition, Andre Gedalge for fugue and counterpoint, and Louis Bougault-Ducoudray for musical history. His fellow-pupils included George Enescu, Ernest Le Grand, Reynaldo Hahn, Max de Ollone, Henri Rabaud and Florent Schmitt. From 1896 he was a pupil of Gabriel Faure, where his fellow-pupils now included Ravel and Jean Roger-Ducasse. Faure had a major influence on Koechlin; in fact Koechlin wrote the first Faure biography (1927), a work which is still of value. In 1898 a grateful Koechlin orchestrated the popular suite from Faure's Pelleas et Melisande music and in 1900 assisted Faure in the production of the huge open-air drama Promethée.

After his graduation Koechlin was a freelance composer and teacher. He married Suzanne Pierrard in 1903. In 1909 he began regular work as a critic for the Chronique des arts and in 1910 was one of the founders, with Ravel, of the Societe Musicale Independante, with whose activities he was intensely associated. From its inception in the early 1930s to his death he was a passionate supporter of the International Society for Contemporary Music, eventually becoming President of its French section. From 1937 he was elected President of the Federation Musicale Populaire. At first comfortably off, he divided his time between Paris and country homes in Villers-sur-Mer and the Cote d'Azur, but after the onset of World War I his circumstances were progressively reduced, he was forced to sell one of his houses and, from 1915, took work lecturing and teaching. Partly due to his vigorous championing of younger composers and new styles, he was never successful in his attempts to gain a permanent teaching position for himself, though he was an examiner for many institutions (eg the Conservatoires of Brussels, Rheims and Marseilles). He was rejected for the post of Professor of counterpoint and fugue at the Paris Conservatoire in 1926 by 20 votes to two (the two being Albert Roussel and Maurice Emmanuel), but from 1935 to 1939 he was allowed to teach fugue and modal polyphony at the Schola Cantorum.

He visited the USA four times to lecture and teach in 1918-19, 1928, 1929 and 1937. On the second and third visits he taught at the University of California, Berkeley. On the 1929 visit his symphonic poem La joie paienne won the Hollywood Bowl Prize for Composition and was performed there under the baton of Eugene Goossens. Even so, Koechlin had to pay for the preparation of orchestral parts, and in the 1930s he sank most of his savings into organizing performances of some of his orchestral works. In the 1940s, however, the music department of Belgian Radio took up his cause and broadcast several premieres of important scores including the first complete performance of the Jungle Book cycle. He died at his country home at Le Canadel, Var, aged 83.

Year / Artwork Title Importance Medium
1899-1901 Trois poèmes Opus 18 (from Jungle Book) 4.00 stars 2 CD
Comments:

Solists, RIAS Kammerchor

1913-1919 Les Heures Persanes, 16 pieces for piano op.65 4.50 stars CD
Comments:

Orchestral Version

Radio-Sinfonieorchester Stuttgart cond. Heinz Holliger

1908-1925 Course de Printemps Opus 95 (From Jungle Book Cycle) 4.00 stars 2 CD
Comments:

Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra cond. David Zinman

1923-1933 Vers la Voute étoilée op.129 4.00 stars CD
Comments:

Radio-Sinfonieorchester Stuttgart cond. Heinz Holliger

1933 The Seven Stars Symphony Opus 132 4.00 stars 2 CD
Comments:

Berlin Deutsches Symphony Orchestra cond. James Judd

1933 L'Andalouse dans Barcelone 4.00 stars 2 CD
Comments:

Berlin Deutsches Symphony Orchestra cond. James Judd

1936 Meditation de Purun Bhaghat op.159 (From Jungle Book Cycle) 4.00 stars 2 CD
Comments:

Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra cond. David Zinman

1939-1940 Loi de la Jungle Opus 175 (From Jungle Book Cycle) 4.00 stars 2 CD
Comments:

Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra cond. David Zinman

1939-1940 Les Bandar-Log Opus 176 3.50 stars  LP
Charles Koechlin Les Bandar-Log Comments:
For large orchestra
Based on Kipling's Jungle Book.

BBC Symphony Orchestra cond. Antal Dorati

1939-1940 Les Bandar-Log Opus 176 (From Jungle Book Cycle) 4.00 stars 2 CD
Comments:

Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra cond. David Zinman

1941-1944 Chant de sérénité 4.00 stars 10" 45 rpm
Comments:

Excerpt from "Le Docteur Fabricius" (La Nature, La Vie, l'Espoir).

Nelly Caron Ondes Martinot
Guillemette Boyer - Piano

1942-1944 Etude No 10 4.00 stars CD
Comments:

Wardy Hamburg - Saxophone
Nageeb Gardizi - Piano

1941-1946 Le Docteur Fabricius op.202 4.00 stars CD
Comments:

Christiane Simonin - Ondes Mortinot
Radio-Sinfonieorchester Stuttgart cond. Heinz Holliger

1947-1948 (Introduction et) 4 Interludes de style atonal-seriel op.214 4.00 stars 2 CD
Comments:

Berlin Deutsches Symphony Orchestra cond. James Judd

Compilation Le cortège d'Amphitrite 4.00 stars CD
Comments:

Cinq Mélodies, Op. 5 - No. 5: Si tu le veux (1894)

Sept chansons pour Gladys, Op. 151
(No. 1: M'a dit Amour; No. 2: Tu croyais le tenir; No. 3: Prise au piège; No. 4: La naiade; No. 5: Le cyclone; No. 6: La colombe; No. 7: Fatum) (1935)

Six Mélodies, Op. 31 - No. 2: Le cortège d'Amphitrite; Six Mélodies, Op. 31 - No. 6: Amphise et Melitta (1906)

Poèmes d'automne, Op. 13 - No. 1: Déclin d'amour; (1894)

Quatre Poèmes d'Haraucourt, Op. 7 - No. 4: Aux temps des fées (1895)

Six Mélodies, Op. 31 - No. 5: Le repas préparé; (1906)

Quatre Mélodies, Op. 22 - No. 1: La chanson des Ingénues (1901)

Quatre Mélodies, Op. 35 - No. 2: Améthyste (1905-1908)

Deux Mélodies, Op. 68 - No. 1: Hymne a Vénus (1918)

Sept Rondels, Op. 8 - No. 2: L'Hiver (1891-1895)

Cinq Rondels, Op. 1 Nos. 2-6 - No. 1: La Nuit; Cinq Rondels, Op. 1 Nos. 2-6 - No. 4: L'Eté (1890-1895)

Sept Rondels, Op. 8 - No. 5: L'Air; Sept Rondels, Op. 8 - No. 4: La Lune (1891-1895)

Cinq Rondels, Op. 1 Nos. 2-6 - No. 3: Le Printemps; Cinq Rondels, Op. 1 Nos. 2-6 - No. 2: Le Th é (1890-1895)

Claudette Leblanc - soprano
Boaz Sharon - piano