Monday, October 31, 2016

Charles Koechlin - Piano Quintet; String Quartet No. 3 (Sarah Lavaud; Antigone Quartet)


Information

Composer: Charles Koechlin
  1. Piano Quintet, Op. 80: 1. The obscure wait of what shall be ... (Andante très calme presque adagio)
  2. Piano Quintet, Op. 80: 2. The enemy attack - The wound (Allegro con moto)
  3. Piano Quintet, Op. 80: 3. Consoling nature (Andante)
  4. Piano Quintet, Op. 80: 4. Finale. The joy (Allegro moderato)
  5. String Quartet No. 3, Op. 72: 1. Très calme
  6. String Quartet No. 3, Op. 72: 2. Scherzo
  7. String Quartet No. 3, Op. 72: 3. Adagio
  8. String Quartet No. 3, Op. 72: 4. Final

Sarah Lavaud, piano (1-4)
Antigone Quartet
Floriane Bonanni, violin
Saori Furukawa, violin
Aurélia Souvignet-Kowalski, viola
Pauline Bartisol, cello

Date: 2008
Label: AR Re-Se
http://www.arre-se.com/disk_koechlin2.html




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Review

It would be difficult to name another composer so little beholden to the attitudes, gestures, and expectations of Western music—archaic, religious, operatic, elegant, heroic, lyric, “daringly Modern”—than Charles Koechlin, though he was deeply versed in them all. Instead, his most ambitiously characteristic music hovers on the brink between the psychic and the somatic—inscapes preoccupied with sickness and healing. The movements of the Piano Quintet, for instance, follow a program familiar from other Koechlin works (e.g., Le Buisson ardent, Le Docteur Fabricius —see Fanfare 28:2) outlined in their titles—“The Obscure Wait of What Shall Be ... The Enemy Attack—The Wound ... Consoling Nature ... Joy.” Notions of dissonance, expanded tonality, chains of fifths—all the tropes of analysis, in fact—seem irrelevant in the face of a music so strangely accomplished, though one may turn to them for aural orientation. Which is to say that this aspect of Koechlin is far from surefire—an acquired taste. A taste worth acquiring? When Les Préludes, Ein Heldenleben, La Mer, Alborada del gracioso, etc., and all those works derived from them, provoke only a jaded smile one may discover a novel and rewarding, if attenuated, refreshment in Koechlin. The string quartets, on the other hand, are Koechlin at his most accessible, charm-rife and chaste through the First, wizened yet affirmative in the Second (recording premieres by the Ardeo Quartet, AR RE-SE 20063, Fanfare 31;6), and melodically generous, confidingly effusive in the Third—a manner reminiscent of Fauré’s String Quartet. The movements are very brief, the magical Scherzo, at 4:10, being the longest, and over far too soon. Allusions to reveille in the Adagio loom as distant “real”-world intrusions into an enchanted demesne grown apprehensive and elegiac, while the skipping triplets of the Final—Koechlin’s formula for joy—for once, are inspired and gratifyingly persuasive. Lightweight yet pithy, smiling but fraught, in the manner of the piano sonatinas, the Third Quartet is uniquely, radiantly satisfying and, in its offhand way, clues the ear for the altogether stranger world of the Piano Quintet. Performances are delving through the former and deftly singing in the latter. Sound is close yet open, vibrant yet detailed. Both works are disc premieres— de rigueur for Koechlin mavens, and enthusiastically recommended. 

-- Adrian Corleonis, FANFARE

More reviews:

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Charles Koechlin (27 November 1867 – 31 December 1950) was a French composer, teacher and writer on music. He was a political radical all his life and a passionate enthusiast for such diverse things as medieval music, The Jungle Book of Rudyard Kipling, Johann Sebastian Bach, film stars (especially Lilian Harvey and Ginger Rogers), traveling, stereoscopic photography and socialism. Koechlin was enormously prolific. Despite his lack of worldly success, Koechlin was apparently a loved and venerated figure in French music.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Koechlin

***

Sarah Lavaud (born 1982 in Lyon) is a French pianist. She studied with Bruno Rigutto, Nicholas Angelich, Christian Ivaldi and Michaël Levinas at CNSM Paris. She also studied with Jean-Claude Pennetier, Maria Curcio, Rena Shereshevskaya, Hüseyin Sermet, György Kurtág, and Franco Scala. Winner of numerous international competitions, she has given recitals in prestigious halls in Lyon, Paris and in festival, both in France and abroad.

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Charles Koechlin - String Quartets Nos. 1 & 2 (Ardeo Quartet)


Information

Composer: Charles Koechlin
  1. String Quartet No. 1 in D major, Op. 51: 1. Allegro moderato
  2. String Quartet No. 1 in D major, Op. 51: 2. Scherzo (Allegro scherzando non troppo vivace)
  3. String Quartet No. 1 in D major, Op. 51: 3. Andante quasi adagio
  4. String Quartet No. 1 in D major, Op. 51: 4. Finale (Allegro con moto)
  5. String Quartet No. 2, Op. 57: 1. Adagio
  6. String Quartet No. 2, Op. 57: 2. Scherzo (Allegro con fuoco)
  7. String Quartet No. 2, Op. 57: 3. Quasi adagio
  8. String Quartet No. 2, Op. 57: 4. Finale (Allegro moderato)

Ardeo Quartet
Carole Petitdemange, violin
Olivia Hughes, violin
Caroline Donin, viola
Joëlle Martinez, cello

Date: 2006
Label: Ar Re-Se


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Review

Having recently reviewed two CDs of the Howells chamber music (Metier and Lyrita) I recognised the style of the first of these two Koechlin works. Touchingly impressionistic, open air and tonal, the Ravel quartet comes to mind.

These are products of a young heart although a cooler wisdom is more obvious in the second. The music of Quartet No. 1 is tender and affecting even amid the Mozartean bustle of the finale. This peters out into a gentle cadence. This longer quartet opens with the same haunting sidling pattern as the first but with harmonics that suggest an autumnal chill. The harmonic complexity of this work suggests links with Berg. Perhaps Zemlinsky would be a better parallel as the textures in the first movement are quite lush - more Vienna than Berlin. The second movement bustles and has some satisfyingly grating touches. The more nuanced emotional world of this later work in terms of its coldness and vulnerable sorrow implies a knowledge of the war raging not far from where Koechlin was writing. The grand finale of op. 57 picks up on that sidling yet quick flowing tolling with which the work began but also echoes with wisps of the chill encountered in the first movement.

The String Quartet No. 2 was orchestrated in 1927 and became Koechlin's First Symphony.

All in all this is well worth your currency if you respond to the quartets of Ravel, Bonnal (superb music) or Howells.

-- Rob Barnett, MusicWeb International

More reviews:
http://www.theguardian.com/music/2007/nov/23/classicalmusicandopera.shopping6
http://www.allmusic.com/album/koechlin-string-quartets-nos-1-2-mw0001863336

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Charles Koechlin (27 November 1867 – 31 December 1950) was a French composer, teacher and writer on music. He was a political radical all his life and a passionate enthusiast for such diverse things as medieval music, The Jungle Book of Rudyard Kipling, Johann Sebastian Bach, film stars (especially Lilian Harvey and Ginger Rogers), traveling, stereoscopic photography and socialism. Koechlin was enormously prolific. Despite his lack of worldly success, Koechlin was apparently a loved and venerated figure in French music.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Koechlin

***

The Ardeo Quartet was founded in 2001. Supported by Mécénat Musical Société Générale, the quartet has been in residence at the Singer- Polignac Foundation since 2008 and with Pro-Quartet since 2010. In Paris, the Ardeo Quartet has played at the Cité de la Musique, the Orsay Museum, the Théâtre du Chatelet and the Centre Georges Pompidou and has played in the most important festivals in France and abroad. Current members included: Carole Petitdemange (violin I), Mi-sa Yang (violin II), Yuko Hara (viola) & Joëlle Martinez (cello)

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Sunday, October 30, 2016

Charles Koechlin - Music for Clarinet (Dirk Altmann)


Information

Composer: Charles Koechlin
  • (01-03) Clarinet Sonata No. 1, Op. 85
  • (04-13) The Confessions of a Clarinet Player, Op. 141
  • (14-16) Clarinet Sonata No. 2, Op. 86
  • (17) Idyll for 2 clarinets, Op. 155
  • (18-31) 14 pieces for clarinet & piano, Op. 178
  • (32-36) Monodies for clarinet solo, Op. 216

Dirk Altmann, clarinet
Florian Henschel, piano (01-03, 14-16, 18-31)
Sibylle Mahni-Haas, horn (5, 6-10, 13)
Gunter Teuffel, viola (12)
Johanna Busch, cello (12)
Rudolf König, 2nd clarinet (17)

Dates: 1999 (01-03, 14-16), 2003
Label: Hänssler


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Review

If there’s a composer more difficult to pigeonhole than Charles Koechlin (1867–1950), I don’t know who that composer might be. A late starter who compensated by being notably prolific in a wide range of genres beyond the age of 80, Koechlin was also protean in style. Conservatory woodwind professors are fond of him as a composer of sets of accessible miniatures that are useful as recital novelties; connoisseurs of 20th-century orchestral music know him, especially through the Kipling-inspired cycle Le livre de la jungle, as a radical and unique post-Impressionistic voice. In his informative if somewhat ingenuously written notes, clarinetist Altmann cites recent thinking according to which Koechlin is an important link between Debussy andMessiaen, a perspective I find particularly insightful.

The present collection, incorporating most of the music for clarinet solo and with piano, naturally reflects the former musical persona more than the latter, although Koechlin the radical is often perceptible just beneath the surface. The two brief sonatas have a certain folklike quality, and are rich with Koechlin’s favored modal harmonies tinged with his unique form of chromaticism, also displaying the predilection for chords with open fifths that permeates much of his music. The clarinet-writing is not difficult except for an occasional, unexpected excursion into the altissimo register of the instrument.

The suite from Les confidences d’un joueur de clarinette (“The Confessions of a Clarinet Player”) is a set of vignettes intended for a film project that was never realized. (Koechlin was intensely interested in this new medium; as many readers will know, his Seven Stars’ Symphony has nothing to do with things cosmic, but rather portrays early Hollywood celebrities.) Many are for clarinet unaccompanied; since the protagonist’s friend is named Waldhorn, several other movements are for clarinet and horn. The music, accordingly, has a pastoral quality, and much of it is completely diatonic. The very brief Idylle and the op. 178 pieces are also rather harmonically and technically conservative, posing no great challenges for the clarinetist.

The musical high point of the disc comes with the Monodies, written in 1948; it is unfortunate that Altmann has given us only half of them. These unaccompanied pieces feature the widest range of expression and of musical language on this recital; all told, half of the Monodies are unmetered, and since harmony, not rhythm, was Koechlin’s greatest talent, some of the slower pieces can bog down rhythmically. But others, such as No. 3, “La mer aux bruits innombrables,” a tour-de-force involving rapid arpeggios in fourths, extensive use of the altissimo register, and other formidable technical challenges, are first-rate, uncompromising music clearly intended for masters of the instrument.

Fortunately, that is precisely what Altmann proves to be. Principal clarinet of the Stuttgart Radio Symphony since 1985, he is a former student of the superb Karl Leister, for decades virtually the only German clarinetist whose sound American clarinetists have widely admired; Altmann, who plays French Buffet clarinets—unusual, I believe, in Germany—has a dark, beautifully controlled tone that I think mavens on both sides of the Atlantic will find pleasing. He also has a monster technique, polishing off the handful of technically difficult pieces cleanly and accurately, and negotiating the high notes without showing any hint of intonation problems or sign of strain.

Virtually all of the music on this disc seems to be unavailable elsewhere, meaning it would be self-recommending even if it were not so well played. As it is, it is a must for clarinetists and for Koechlin fans.

-- Richard A. Kaplan, FANFARE

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Charles Koechlin (27 November 1867 – 31 December 1950) was a French composer, teacher and writer on music. He was a political radical all his life and a passionate enthusiast for such diverse things as medieval music, The Jungle Book of Rudyard Kipling, Johann Sebastian Bach, film stars (especially Lilian Harvey and Ginger Rogers), traveling, stereoscopic photography and socialism. Koechlin was enormously prolific. Despite his lack of worldly success, Koechlin was apparently a loved and venerated figure in French music.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Koechlin

***

Dirk Altmann (born 1965 in Hannover) is German clarinetist. Altmann was born in Hannover and studied there at the Academy for Music and Theatre under Professor Hellmut Pallushek. He is and has been since 1985 the Principal Clarinet of the Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra of the Südwestrundfunk (SWR). Altmann has taught at the Academy for Music in Stuttgart and Karlsruhe. plays instruments of the Japanese instrument maker Josef.

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Charles Koechlin - Music for Flute (Fenwick Smith)


Information

Composer: Charles Koechlin
  • (01-14) 14 pieces for flute & piano, Op. 157b
  • (15-17) Sonata for 2 flutes, Op. 75
  • (18-20) Sonata for flute & piano, Op 52
  • (21-33) L'album de Lilian, 1st serie, Op. 139
  • (34) Morceau de lecture, Op. 218: Adagio

Fenwick Smith, flute
Martin Amlin, piano
Leone Buyse, flute (15-17)
Jayne West, soprano (21-29)

Date: 1989
Label: Hyperion
http://www.hyperion-records.co.uk/dc.asp?dc=D_CDA66414

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Review

I have been waiting for years for someone to record both volumes of Koechlin's Album de Lilian. The first, I knew, begins with a song in which he uses the advertising slogan for Palmolive soap (''Keep that schoolgirl complexion'') as a text for one of his chastely adoring and idealizing homages to the silent film star Lilian Harvey (silent in two senses: she ignored his letters and refused even to acknowledge any of the 93 works that he consecrated to his chimerique Princesse). That song turns out to be even better than I had hoped, both its poem, by Koechlin himself (''Palmolive soap is derived from palm oil and olive oil; one could use it on salad... better though to use it on the skin, on ladies' skin, to which it gives a velvetiness so marvellous that even the most demanding of lovers...'') and its innocently charming music, a hymn to beauty that is both earnest and very pretty.

How thoughtful of Fenwick Smith to have roped in a soprano (and a good one) as well as a pianist to give the nine numbers of Book 1 in their entirety. I suppose it would have been a bit unreasonable to expect him to engage a harpsichordist and an ondes martenot player to do the complete Book 2. He does include the four flute-and-piano numbers from it, though, so we have a pretty comprehensive mapping of Koechlin's gravely ecstatic obsession: two blissful waltz-songs, two bursts of almost atonal frustration, a hieratic hymn to Harvey's eyes, a sparkling snapshot of her as bathing beauty and a fantasy journey in search of her (by train, which flies through the air and crosses the Atlantic under water, arriving in the dream world of California to a heat-haze-distorted blare of The Star-spangled Banner) ending with a touching image of Koechlin waking from his dream: a still and lonely piccolo fading into silence.

Philippe Racine earns the Koechlin enthusiast's gratitude, too, for recording the exquisitely fresh and lyrical Primavera, Koechlin's expression of gratitude for the warmth of returning spring and his homage to the classical chamber music tradition. Both players include the serenely lucid Sonata (''for piano and flute'', as the title-page has it); I enjoyed Racine's coolly Gallic tone and athletic zest in the finale no less than Smith's more overt warmth and long line (though Racine, by a short head, has the better pianist), and both Claves and Hyperion know to a nicety how the flute should be balanced.
Smith (you will have gathered that I am not in the business of choosing between these two collections) makes his disc imperatively desirable by adding not only the 14 pieces of Op. 157/2 (the '2' signifies the piano-accompanied version, though they go very well also as solos; several of them are models of the art of writing a complete and satisfying piece of music that lasts under a minute) andthe unpublished sight-reading exercise but also the beautiful Sonata for two flutes. Its opening and closing pages are archetypal Koechlin, poised and haunting, neo-classical in the sense that one would apply that word to late Braque.

The same name sprang to mind when listening to the two substantial Jolivet pieces with which Philippe Racine book-ends his Koechlin. An elusive talent (pupil of Varese, much-admired friend of Messiaen: you can hear both affinities, but he is not 'school of' either, really) and an awkward one: his music has a tough, even an aggressive quality that one hardly associates with the soft complaining flute; a jagged expressiveness and a way of obsessively circling a sort of 'home note' without ever confirming a home key. Interesting: I am glad to have encountered both pieces.

-- Michael Oliver, Gramophone

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Charles Koechlin (27 November 1867 – 31 December 1950) was a French composer, teacher and writer on music. He was a political radical all his life and a passionate enthusiast for such diverse things as medieval music, The Jungle Book of Rudyard Kipling, Johann Sebastian Bach, film stars (especially Lilian Harvey and Ginger Rogers), traveling, stereoscopic photography and socialism. Koechlin was enormously prolific. Despite his lack of worldly success, Koechlin was apparently a loved and venerated figure in French music.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Koechlin

***

Fenwick Smith (born 1949) is an American flutist. He studied under Joseph Mariano at the Eastman School of Music, graduating from there in 1972. He became the assistant principal flutist of the Boston Symphony Orchestra in 1978, serving in that position until September 2006. During this time he was also principal flutist of the Boston Pops Orchestra. Smith has also been a member of the Boston Chamber Music Society since 1984, and since 1983 has given annual recitals at Jordan Hall.

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Saturday, October 29, 2016

Charles Koechlin - The Spring Running; The Burning Bush (Heinz Holliger)


Information

Composer: Charles Koechlin
  1. La course de printemps, symphonic poem after R. Kipling's "The Jungle Book", Op. 95
  2. Le bouisson ardent, symphonic poem after R. Rolland's "Jean Christopher": Part 1, Op. 203
  3. Le bouisson ardent, symphonic poem after R. Rolland's "Jean Christopher": Part 2, Op. 171

Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra
Heinz Holliger, conductor
Date: 2000-2002
Label: Hänssler


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Review

The influence of Rudyard Kipling’s Jungle Book on Koechlin was profound and Le course de printemps, which gestated over a very long period, was the finest of the tone poems which he gathered together under the composite title, Le livre de la jungle. Although the events depicted are certainly connected with the character and life of Mowgli, the music itself is above all evocative of the jungle itself, its exotically humid atmosphere and unpredictable bursts of violence and animal energy. The underlying sinister ambience is balanced by a Ravelian sensuality (there is even is a hint of Daphnis in the dawn evocation of the opening), while the mysteriously gentle but lustrous string monody which closes the work is other-worldly in its vision of a voluptuous moonlit spring night. Koechlin’s scoring is headily brilliant and one is engulfed in its rich panoply, so that for all the music’s ecclecticism, it has a life and individuality of its own. 

Le buisson ardent makes an ideal coupling. An evocation of rebirth – at times passionately intense in the strings (9'50"-11'43), but with the ondes martenot later used to represent the ethereal voice of the reborn spirit. The shimmering gentle ecstasy then gives way to the animation and potency of life itself, first with the jollity of a country dance, but soon becoming much more complex. The work climaxes with a lusciously positive affirmation, but closes gently and rapturously. 

Heinz Holliger, justly famous as oboist, shows himself equally sensitive with the baton, inspiring a splendid orchestral response from the Stuttgart players (especially the strings). They in turn are served by a first-class recording, with a tangible ambient warmth, wide dynamic range and a natural concert hall perspective. I cannot think of another CD which would make a better introduction to Koechlin’s exotic sound-world.

-- Ivan MarchGramophone

More reviews:
ClassicsToday ARTISTIC QUALITY:  9 / SOUND QUALITY: 9
http://www.musicweb-international.com/classRev/2003/May03/koechlin_ludwig.htm
http://www.theguardian.com/music/2003/jan/17/classicalmusicandopera.artsfeatures2

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Charles Koechlin (27 November 1867 – 31 December 1950) was a French composer, teacher and writer on music. He was a political radical all his life and a passionate enthusiast for such diverse things as medieval music, The Jungle Book of Rudyard Kipling, Johann Sebastian Bach, film stars (especially Lilian Harvey and Ginger Rogers), traveling, stereoscopic photography and socialism. Koechlin was enormously prolific. Despite his lack of worldly success, Koechlin was apparently a loved and venerated figure in French music.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Koechlin

***

Heinz Holliger (born 21 May 1939 in Langenthal, Switzerland) is a Swiss oboist, composer and conductor. Holliger began his musical education at the conservatories of Bern and Basel. He studied composition with Sándor Veress and Pierre Boulez. He is one of the world's most celebrated oboists, and many composers have written works for him. Holliger has also composed many works in a variety of media. Many of his works have been recorded for the ECM label.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heinz_Holliger

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Charles Koechlin - The Jungle Book (David Zinman)


Information

Composer: Charles Koechlin

CD1:
  1. 3 Poems of "The Jungle Book", Op. 18: 1. Seal Lullaby
  2. 3 Poems of "The Jungle Book", Op. 18: 2. Night song of the Jungle
  3. 3 Poems of "The Jungle Book", Op. 18: 3. Song of Kala Nag
  4. The Spring Running, Op. 95: Spring in the Forest -
  5. The Spring Running, Op. 95: Mowgli -
  6. The Spring Running, Op. 95: The Running -
  7. The Spring Running, Op. 95: Night
CD2:
  1. The Meditation of Purun Bhagat, Op. 159
  2. The Law of the Jungle, Op. 175
  3. The Bandar-log, Op. 176

Iris Vermillion, mezzo-soprano (Op. 18)
Johan Botha, tenor (Op. 18)
Ralf Lukas, bass-baritone (Op. 18)
RIAS Kammerchor (Op. 18)
Radio-Symphonie-Orchester Berlin
David Zinman, conductor

Date: 1993
Label: RCA


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Review

ARTISTIC QUALITY: 10 / SOUND QUALITY: 10

Believe it or not, this set seems to be kicking around still, either as a domestic release or as a reasonably priced Japanese import. If you missed it the first time around, grab it now, because heaven only knows how long it will remain available. Koechlin’s series of works based on Kipling’s The Jungle Book consists of five evocative and remarkable pieces: Three Poems, Op. 18, The Spring Running, The Meditation of Purun Bhagat, The Law of the Jungle, and Les Bandar-log. This last is the best known of the group, and the entire series has been recorded at least three times. 

This is far and away the best version of the lot: extremely well played, incisively conducted, and very wellrecorded. It also includes the Three Poems of Op. 18, which are absolutely, ridiculously, insanely gorgeous and you won’t believe that they almost never get performed. They are very well sung by mezzo-soprano Iris Vermillion, tenor Johan Botha, and bass Ralf Lukas. Today, you can also get them on the two-disc set of Koechlin’s complete orchestral songs issued by Hänssler Classic, but it’s particularly good to have them paired with the other Jungle Book pieces. 

The opening Seal Lullaby (Berceuse phoque) offers a good idea of what to expect. Now admit it–you want it. You have to own it. You can’t live without it. Go for it. 

-- David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday


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Charles Koechlin (27 November 1867 – 31 December 1950) was a French composer, teacher and writer on music. He was a political radical all his life and a passionate enthusiast for such diverse things as medieval music, The Jungle Book of Rudyard Kipling, Johann Sebastian Bach, film stars (especially Lilian Harvey and Ginger Rogers), traveling, stereoscopic photography and socialism. Koechlin was enormously prolific. Despite his lack of worldly success, Koechlin was apparently a loved and venerated figure in French music.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Koechlin

***

David Zinman (born 9 July 1936 in New York City, United States) is an American conductor and violinist. He worked in Maine with Pierre Monteux from 1958 to 1962, serving as his assistant from 1961 to 1964. Zinman has been Music Director of the Rotterdam Philharmonic, Rochester Philharmonic, Baltimore Symphony and Tonhalle Orchester Zürich, and Principal Conductor of the Netherlands Chamber Orchestra and was Artistic Director of the Aspen Music Festival, where he created the International Conducting Academy.

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Friday, October 28, 2016

Charles Koechlin - The Persian Hours (Ralph van Raat)


Information

Composer: Charles Koechlin
  1. Les heures persanes, Op. 65: No. 1. Sieste, avant le départ: Lent
  2. Les heures persanes, Op. 65: No. 2. La caravane (rêve, pendant la sieste): Pas vite
  3. Les heures persanes, Op. 65: No. 3. L'escalade obscure: Adagio (non troppo)
  4. Les heures persanes, Op. 65: No. 4. Matin frais, dans la haute vallée: Pas trop lent
  5. Les heures persanes, Op. 65: No. 5. En vue de la ville: Moderato
  6. Les heures persanes, Op. 65: No. 6. A travers les rues: Allegro vivo
  7. Les heures persanes, Op. 65: No. 7. Chant du soir: Très calme
  8. Les heures persanes, Op. 65: No. 8. Clair de lune sur les terrasses: Andante moderato
  9. Les heures persanes, Op. 65: No. 9. Aubade: Moderato
  10. Les heures persanes, Op. 65: No. 10. Roses au soleil de midi: Presque adagio
  11. Les heures persanes, Op. 65: No. 11. A l'ombre, près de la fontaine de marbre: Moderato
  12. Les heures persanes, Op. 65: No. 12. Arabesques: Allegro (non troppo)
  13. Les heures persanes, Op. 65: No. 13. Les collines au coucher du soleil: Très calme
  14. Les heures persanes, Op. 65: No. 14. Le conteur: Assez lent - Le pêcheur et le genni - Le palais enchanté - Danse d’adolescents - Clair de lune sur les jardins
  15. Les heures persanes, Op. 65: No. 15. La paix du soir, au cimetière: Assez lent
  16. Les heures persanes, Op. 65: No. 16. Derviches dans la nuit - Clair de lune sur la place déserte

Ralph van Raat, piano
Date: 2010
Label: Naxos
http://www.naxos.com/catalogue/item.asp?item_code=8.572473

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Review

Neither composer Charles Koechlin nor his masterpiece, translated as The Persian Hours, is nearly as well known or popular as Granados’s Goyescas or Albéniz’s Iberia, let alone the music of Debussy, so they have fallen into the category of musical oddities. (Other recordings include Kathryn Stott on Chandos 9974 and Michael Korstick on Hänssler 93246, also an orchestral version by Heinz Holliger and the Stuttgart Radio Orchestra on Hänssler 93125.) Part of the problem is that nearly all of the pieces in the suite are slow-moving, meaning that the pianist (or conductor in an orchestral version) needs to sustain not only the proper mood but also a semblance of forward momentum.

Enter pianist Ralph van Raat to the rescue. His recording of the suite, albeit slow-moving (slower, in fact, than Holliger’s orchestral recording), has such tremendous atmosphere and a sense of presence that one is seduced into Koechlin’s world and his own interpretation within the first three minutes of the recording.

Koechlin’s view of Persia (now Iran) was based on astronomical observations and a travelogue of the time rather than a first-hand trip to the area. Thus he captured a personal impression of Middle Eastern life, particularly nightlife when the stars were out and the world was still. Harmonically, he was at least as advanced as late-period Debussy, if not actually further along. Although most of these pieces tend toward a harmonically identifiable key, they skew away from it constantly; by the middle of each piece, the unobservant listener will be completely lost in regards to a harmonic base or balance. Some of them have an ostinato bass in one key, but the overlying music is in another. Indeed, it is this constant leaning away from any tonality—and the fact that the music sometimes leans in both directions at once—that gives it its unique flavor. Koechlin somehow manages to set up what sounds like a safe base but gently yet constantly pushes us away from it.

Raat’s performance, as already mentioned, is both musical and fascinating in the extreme. I do, however, question the very long pauses between each piece in the suite. After about the first 10 numbers, you’re not quite sure if each succeeding piece is the last one or not, but that’s probably a post-production decision. If you love this kind of music, this is a CD you simply cannot live without.

-- Lynn René Bayley, FANFARE

More reviews:
http://www.gramophone.co.uk/review/koechlin-les-heures-persanes-op-65
http://www.classical-music.com/review/koechlin-les-heures
http://www.musicweb-international.com/classrev/2012/July12/Koechlin_Heures_8572473.htm
http://www.allmusic.com/album/charles-koechlin-les-heures-persanes-mw0002278545
https://www.amazon.com/Koechlin-Persanes-Ralph-Van-Raat/dp/B006BBVLN2

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Charles Koechlin (27 November 1867 – 31 December 1950) was a French composer, teacher and writer on music. He was a political radical all his life and a passionate enthusiast for such diverse things as medieval music, The Jungle Book of Rudyard Kipling, Johann Sebastian Bach, film stars (especially Lilian Harvey and Ginger Rogers), traveling, stereoscopic photography and socialism. Koechlin was enormously prolific. Despite his lack of worldly success, Koechlin was apparently a loved and venerated figure in French music.

***

Ralph van Raat (born 1978) is a Dutch classical pianist. He studied music at the Conservatory of Amsterdam and musicology at the University of Amsterdam. Van Raat then studied with Claude Helffer, Ursula Oppens, Liisa Pohjola and Pierre-Laurent Aimard. Van Raat has performed as a recitalist and soloist in Europe and around the world, and has a special interest in contemporary classical music. He has recorded a number of CDs as an exclusive artist for the Naxos label.

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Charles Koechlin - The Persian Hours (Heinz Holliger)


Information

Composer: Charles Koechlin
  1. Les heures persanes, Op. 65bis: 1. Sieste, avant le départ
  2. Les heures persanes, Op. 65bis: 2. La caravane (rêve pendant la seste)
  3. Les heures persanes, Op. 65bis: 3. L'escalade obscure
  4. Les heures persanes, Op. 65bis: 4. Matin frais, dans la haute vallée
  5. Les heures persanes, Op. 65bis: 5. En vue de la ville
  6. Les heures persanes, Op. 65bis: 6. À travers les rues
  7. Les heures persanes, Op. 65bis: 7. Chant du soir
  8. Les heures persanes, Op. 65bis: 8. Clair de lune sur les terrasses
  9. Les heures persanes, Op. 65bis: 9. Aubade
  10. Les heures persanes, Op. 65bis: 10. Roses au soleil de midi
  11. Les heures persanes, Op. 65bis: 11. À l'ombre, près de la fontaine de marbre
  12. Les heures persanes, Op. 65bis: 12. Arabesques
  13. Les heures persanes, Op. 65bis: 13. Les collines, au coucher du soleil
  14. Les heures persanes, Op. 65bis: 14. Le conteur
  15. Les heures persanes, Op. 65bis: 15. La paix du soir, au cimetière
  16. Les heures persanes, Op. 65bis: 16. Derviches dans la nuit - Clair de lune sur la place deserte

Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra
Heinz Holliger, conductor
Date: 2006
Label: Hänssler


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Review

ARTISTIC QUALITY: 9 / SOUND QUALITY: 8

The Persian Hours is a suite of 16 short movements that exists both as a piano cycle and in this orchestral guise. It's a very special, atmospheric work, mostly very slow and dreamy, and except for three or four movements (À travers les rues; the mini-tone-poem Le Conteur; and the final Dervishes dans la nuit) is often extremely quiet. The orchestration is incredibly delicate and subtle, and it's entirely typical of Koechlin that although the piece is harmonically extremely audacious for its time (1913-19), the music is so subdued that you might not be aware of its frequent polytonal or atonal basis. In short, this is a very remarkable piece, but not one for casual listening.

It's also a terribly difficult work to record, and on the whole Heinz Holliger does a much better job than Leif Segerstam for Marco Polo. In the first place, Holliger has the better orchestra, but more importantly he knocks about 10 minutes off the timing of the entire cycle. Segerstam is entirely too static; Holliger manages to convey stillness without stasis, and that is the key that makes listening to the whole thing at a sitting possible (should you be so inclined). Pity the engineers, though. The dynamic range here is almost too wide, with soft bits incredibly quiet, making the few loud outbursts a bit too noisy. It's very good sound, as might be expected from the SWR team, but not quite ideal for the work. Still, if you're in the market for The Persian Hours, this is the way to go.

-- David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday

More reviews:

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Charles Koechlin (27 November 1867 – 31 December 1950) was a French composer, teacher and writer on music. He was a political radical all his life and a passionate enthusiast for such diverse things as medieval music, The Jungle Book of Rudyard Kipling, Johann Sebastian Bach, film stars (especially Lilian Harvey and Ginger Rogers), traveling, stereoscopic photography and socialism. Koechlin was enormously prolific. Despite his lack of worldly success, Koechlin was apparently a loved and venerated figure in French music.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Koechlin

***

Heinz Holliger (born 21 May 1939 in Langenthal, Switzerland) is a Swiss oboist, composer and conductor. Holliger began his musical education at the conservatories of Bern and Basel. He studied composition with Sándor Veress and Pierre Boulez. He is one of the world's most celebrated oboists, and many composers have written works for him. Holliger has also composed many works in a variety of media. Many of his works have been recorded for the ECM label.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heinz_Holliger

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Thursday, October 27, 2016

Charles Koechlin - Music for Vocal & Orchestra (Juliane Banse; Heinz Holliger)


Information

Composer: Charles Koechlin

CD1:
  1. 4 Poèmes d'Edmont Haraucourt, Op. 7: 1. Clair de lune
  2. 4 Poèmes d'Edmont Haraucourt, Op. 7: 2. Pleine Eau
  3. 4 Poèmes d'Edmont Haraucourt, Op. 7: 3. Dame du ciel
  4. 4 Poèmes d'Edmont Haraucourt, Op. 7: 4. Au Temps des Fées
  5. 2 Poèmes symphoniques, Op. 43: 2. Vers la Plage lointaine (Nocturne)
  6. Poèmes d'Automne, Op. 13: 1. Déclin d'amour ( Sully Prudhomme)
  7. Poèmes d'Automne, Op. 13: 2. Les Rêves morts (Leconte de Lisle)
  8. 2 Poèmes d'André Chénier, Op.23: 1. La Jeune Tarentine
  9. Chanson de Mélisande (from Fauré's "Pelléas et Mélisande", orch. Koechlin)
CD2:
  1. 3 Mélodies, Op. 17: 2. La Prière du mort
  2. 3 Mélodies, Op. 17: 3. Épiphanie (Leconte de Lisle)
  3. Études antiques, Op.46: 2. Soir au bord du lac
  4. Études antiques, Op.46: 3. Le Cortège d'Amphitrite
  5. Études antiques, Op.46: 4. Épitaphe d'une jeune femme
  6. 6 Mélodies sur des poésies d'Albert Samain, Op. 31: 1. Le Sommeil de Canope
  7. Chant funèbre à la mémoire des jeunes femmes défuntes, Op. 37

Juliane Banse, soprano (CD1 1-4, 6-9; CD2 1, 2, 6)
SWR Vokalensemble Stuttgart (CD2 7)
Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra
Heinz Holliger, conductor

Date: 2005
Label: Hänssler


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Review


ARTISTIC QUALITY: 10 / SOUND QUALITY: 10

This is just incredibly beautiful, sensual music. Although billed as “vocal works with orchestra”, conductor Heinz Holliger offers two orchestral works: the dreamy and mysterious nocturne Vers la Plage lointaine (Op. 43 No. 2), and the deliciously archaic but sophisticatedly scored Études antiques Op. 46. The concluding Chant funèbre à la mémoire des jeunes femmes défuntes Op. 37 also is a large tone poem for orchestra, organ, and chorus, in which the words are taken from the Requiem Mass and contribute atmosphere and texture more than any significant verbal meaning. This is a harrowing piece whose grinding harmonies and directness of expression at times seem miles away from the gauzy impressionism of much of Koechlin’s other work.

Koechlin wrote a large number of songs, many of which he orchestrated. Most date from early in his career–between about 1890-1910–and it’s clear from the size and richness of these settings that he was well on his way to outgrowing the simple song format. For example, the second of the Poèmes d’Automne Op. 13, “Les Rêves morts”, is a dramatic concert aria, while “Le jeune Tarentine”, the first of Deux Poèmes d’André Chénier, also is an extended setting, in this case for voice and chamber ensemble. Both pieces last more than eight minutes, and this tendency culminates in Le Sommeil de Canope Op. 31, from a set of six songs to poems by Albert Samain, a marvelous work lasting nearly a quarter of an hour.

Not all of these settings are oversized, however. Each of the Quatre Poèmes d’Edmond Haraucourt Op. 7 (the opening works in this two-disc set) are modest in length but exquisite in both orchestration and melody. The last two songs in particular, “Dame du ciel” and “Aux temps des Fées”, would bring the house down in concert, and this cycle deserves to enter the repertoire forthwith. The same holds true for the Trois Mélodies Op. 17, only two of which are included here. It’s nice to have Koechlin’s orchestration of Fauré’s Chanson de Mélisande, but his own work is so wonderful that I can only regret not hearing even more of it. Soprano Juliane Banse does a magnificent job encompassing the wide range of expression in this music, while Holliger and his orchestra deliver exceptionally well-recorded accompaniments that are fully up to the exalted standards of this superb series. A sampling of such extraordinary music can only whet the appetite for more–much more.

-- David Hurwitz [12/07/2005], ClassicsToday

More reviews:

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Charles Koechlin (27 November 1867 – 31 December 1950) was a French composer, teacher and writer on music. He was a political radical all his life and a passionate enthusiast for such diverse things as medieval music, The Jungle Book of Rudyard Kipling, Johann Sebastian Bach, film stars (especially Lilian Harvey and Ginger Rogers), traveling, stereoscopic photography and socialism. Koechlin was enormously prolific. Despite his lack of worldly success, Koechlin was apparently a loved and venerated figure in French music.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Koechlin

***

Juliane Banse (born July 10, 1969 in Tettnang, Germany) is a German opera soprano and noted Lieder singer. At 15 she began voice training with Paul Steiner, later to contuinue with Ruth Rohner of the Zurich Opera House. Enrolling in the Munich Musikhochschule, Banse studied with famed mezzo-soprano Brigitte Fassbaender and with Daphne Evangelatos. Banse's programs are noted for their variety, as she has recorded works by composers as diverse as Othmar Schoeck, Robert Schumann, Alban Berg, Johannes Brahms, and Antonin Dvorák, Mendelssohn, Mozart, Mahler, and Debussy.

***

Heinz Holliger (born 21 May 1939 in Langenthal, Switzerland) is a Swiss oboist, composer and conductor. Holliger began his musical education at the conservatories of Bern and Basel. He studied composition with Sándor Veress and Pierre Boulez. He is one of the world's most celebrated oboists, and many composers have written works for him. Holliger has also composed many works in a variety of media. Many of his works have been recorded for the ECM label. 

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Charles Koechlin - Doctor Fabricus; To the Starry Sky (Heinz Holliger)


Information

Composer: Charles Koechlin
  1. Vers la Voûte étoilée, nocturne for orchestra (dedicated to the memory of Camille Flammarion), Op. 129
  2. Le Docteur Fabricius, symphonic poem after Charles Dollfus' novel, Op. 202: 1. Le Manoir
  3. Le Docteur Fabricius, symphonic poem after Charles Dollfus' novel, Op. 202: 2a. La Douleur. Choral I
  4. Le Docteur Fabricius, symphonic poem after Charles Dollfus' novel, Op. 202: 2b. La Douleur. Choral II
  5. Le Docteur Fabricius, symphonic poem after Charles Dollfus' novel, Op. 202: 2c. La Douleur. Choral III
  6. Le Docteur Fabricius, symphonic poem after Charles Dollfus' novel, Op. 202: 3a. La Révolte. Allegro moderato
  7. Le Docteur Fabricius, symphonic poem after Charles Dollfus' novel, Op. 202: 3b. La Révolte. Reprise des thèmes de la Douleur
  8. Le Docteur Fabricius, symphonic poem after Charles Dollfus' novel, Op. 202: 3c. La Révolte. Fugue
  9. Le Docteur Fabricius, symphonic poem after Charles Dollfus' novel, Op. 202: 3d. La Révolte. Rappel des thèmes de la Douleur
  10. Le Docteur Fabricius, symphonic poem after Charles Dollfus' novel, Op. 202: 3e. La Révolte. Stretto de la fugue
  11. Le Docteur Fabricius, symphonic poem after Charles Dollfus' novel, Op. 202: 3f. La Révolte. Choral "Aus tiefer Noth..."
  12. Le Docteur Fabricius, symphonic poem after Charles Dollfus' novel, Op. 202: 4. Le Ciel étoilé
  13. Le Docteur Fabricius, symphonic poem after Charles Dollfus' novel, Op. 202: 5. La Nature, la Vie, l'Espoir
  14. Le Docteur Fabricius, symphonic poem after Charles Dollfus' novel, Op. 202: 6. "Réponse de l'Homme"
  15. Le Docteur Fabricius, symphonic poem after Charles Dollfus' novel, Op. 202: 7. La Joie
  16. Le Docteur Fabricius, symphonic poem after Charles Dollfus' novel, Op. 202: 8. Choral final (on the original monodic chant)

Christine Simonin, ondes martenot
Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra
Heinz Holliger, conductor
Date: 2003
Label: Hänssler


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Review

Much of Koechlin’s highly individual orchestral music remains unexplored: indeed, both works here are premiere recordings. Before he became a composer, Koechlin wanted to be an astronomer and his fascination with the ‘starry firmament’, and the dream world it evoked, is sensuously created in the arch-like structure of Vers la voûte étoilée (‘Towards the vault of stars’). Written in the early 1920s and revised in 1939, this demonstrates the composer’s exotic sound world in a nocturnal piece that does not outstay its welcome.

The stars in the heavens return in Le Docteur Fabricius, written between 1941 and 1944, a more ambitious, large-scale symphonic poem with a philosophical underlay, based on a short story by the composer’s uncle. In the narrative he describes a visit to the mysterious house in which the nihilistic Doctor Fabricius has cut himself off from the world ‘where nature is indifferent, using humans only to maintain life, and doing nothing to reduce human misfortune’. After an austere opening, dolorous chorales symbolise the philosphical disillusion, interrupted by a strident, fugal revolt and interwoven with moments of sadness.

This leads to a powerfully scored chorale suggesting that human hope always re-emerges. The visitor looks out to the starry firmament (the ondes martenot-rich scoring suggests Messiaen) and then, in a passage of radiant exultation, the spirit of Ravel hovers over the music to evoke the consolation of Nature. After an explosion of joy the music returns to the serene, withdrawn evocation of the opening.Koechlin’s powers as an orchestrator ensure his vision is powerfully communicated. Heinz Holliger is very much at home here, and the Stuttgart Radio orchestra play most responsively. The recording is full and atmospheric if not demonstration-class: one ideally needs a more voluptuous ambience. But this is well worth trying.

-- Ivan March, Gramophone

More reviews:
ClassicsToday ARTISTIC: 10 / SOUND: 10
MusicWeb International RECORDING OF THE MONTH
BBC Music Magazine PERFORMANCE: **** / SOUND: ****

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Charles Koechlin (27 November 1867 – 31 December 1950) was a French composer, teacher and writer on music. He was a political radical all his life and a passionate enthusiast for such diverse things as medieval music, The Jungle Book of Rudyard Kipling, Johann Sebastian Bach, film stars (especially Lilian Harvey and Ginger Rogers), traveling, stereoscopic photography and socialism. Koechlin was enormously prolific. Despite his lack of worldly success, Koechlin was apparently a loved and venerated figure in French music.

***

Heinz Holliger (born 21 May 1939 in Langenthal, Switzerland) is a Swiss oboist, composer and conductor. Holliger began his musical education at the conservatories of Bern and Basel. He studied composition with Sándor Veress and Pierre Boulez. He is one of the world's most celebrated oboists, and many composers have written works for him. Holliger has also composed many works in a variety of media. Many of his works have been recorded for the ECM label. 

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Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Charles Gounod - Requiem; Messe Chorale (Michel Corboz)


Information

Composer: Charles Gounod
  1. Messe de Requiem in C major: I. Introït & Kyrie
  2. Messe de Requiem in C major: II. Dies Irae
  3. Messe de Requiem in C major: III. Sanctus
  4. Messe de Requiem in C major: IV. Benedictus
  5. Messe de Requiem in C major: V. Pie Jesu
  6. Messe de Requiem in C major: VI. Agnus Dei
  7. Messe Chorale in G minor: I. Introït
  8. Messe Chorale in G minor: II. Kyrie
  9. Messe Chorale in G minor: III. Gloria
  10. Messe Chorale in G minor: IV. Credo
  11. Messe Chorale in G minor: V. Sanctus
  12. Messe Chorale in G minor: VI. Benedictus
  13. Messe Chorale in G minor: VII. Agnus Dei

Charlotte Müller Perrier, soprano
Valérie Bonnard, mezzo-soprano
Christophe Einhorn, tenor
Christian Immler, baritone
Ensemble vocal et instrumental de Lausanne
Michel Corboz, conductor

Date: 2011
Label: Mirare
http://www.mirare.fr/album/requiem-messe-chorale-gounod

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Review

At first blush, it seems almost as improbable that Gounod should have written a Requiem as it does that Saint-Saëns should have written one. But Gounod did, and so did Saint-Saëns. On record, at least, both have fared poorly in both number and performance. 

André Charlet, conductor and note author of the only other recording of Gounod’s Requiem I have (Claves 50-9326), paints a melodramatically macabre picture of the composer’s final hours: “On the morning of 15 October 1893, Gounod, although feeling fatigued, went to church with his faithful companion Henri Büsser. After lunch he sat down to put the finishing touches on the piano arrangement of the exquisite Benedictus. His wife found him with his head ‘held up by his pipe resting on the table,’ bent over the open score of the Requiem. Gounod never regained consciousness; he died three days later on the morning of 18 October with a crucifix in his hands.” 

The notes to this new version of Gounod’s Requiem partially contradict Charlet’s notes, and the discrepancy is no small matter. Michel Daudin, who authored the current album’s notes, states that Gounod began work on the Requiem in 1889 in response to the devastating death of his five-year-old grandson, Maurice, and that he put the word “fin” to the foot of his manuscript on Palm Sunday, 1891. That’s two years before Charlet dates the incident of Gounod falling unconscious over his uncompleted score. 

The two accounts do manage to jibe in the end, however, for Daudin notes that Gounod continued revising the Requiem up until the October 15, 1893, date reported by Charlet. But Daudin, with even more melodramatic flair than Charlet, adds his own embellishment to the story: “On October 15, Gounod was playing and singing passages of his Requiem at the piano when he had a fit of apoplexy. Though out of breath, he still tried to continue singing the duet from the Benedictus with his daughter, then he carefully put the manuscript away. In the afternoon he was felled by a stroke and lost consciousness. He never emerged from the ensuing coma and died in the small hours of 18 October.” 

There’s nothing in Daudin’s telling of the story about Gounod’s wife finding him slumped unconscious over his manuscript, his head resting on his pipe. And there’s nothing in Charlet’s story about Gounod having a stroke while duetting with his daughter and rising up to put his manuscript away before slipping into a coma. So I’m inclined to believe that both stories are rather fanciful imaginings of actual events, and that we shall never know the exact details because, as I’m fond of saying, “CNN wasn’t there.” 

Let me say straight away that if you have the Claves recording of the Requiem with Charlet, this new one duplicates it in using the same arrangement of the piece prepared by Henri Büsser for vocal soloists, mixed chorus, and an instrumental ensemble of string quartet, double bass, harp, and organ. Gounod’s original score called for full orchestra, but the composer made a number of his own arrangements for various combinations of singers and instruments. Büsser’s version, chosen by both Charlet and Corboz, seems by general agreement to be the best of the lot. Lest there be any confusion between the two recordings, however, I should also add that each pairs the Requiem with a different Mass. Charlet includes Gounod’s early Mass No. 2 in G Major, op. 1, of 1846; while Corboz gives us the Gregorian chant-based Choral Mass in G Minor, circa 1880, but of firm date uncertain. 

Though Gounod is today linked almost exclusively to opera, thanks mainly to Roméo et Juliette and Faust , he was in fact a deeply religious man who, like Liszt, came very close to joining the priesthood and taking holy orders. He immersed himself in the study of 16th-century polyphony, with special attention paid to the masses of Palestrina; unusual perhaps for a 19th-century French composer, he came to revere the keyboard works of Bach, proclaiming the Well-Tempered Clavier “the law to pianoforte study … the unquestioned textbook of musical composition.” Who has not heard Gounod’s meltingly beautiful Ave Maria , a descant set over the C-Major Prelude from Book 1 of Bach’s WTC ? In fact, it wasn’t an opera but a Mass that brought Gounod his first public acclaim in 1855, the Messe Solennelle , aka Saint Cecilia Mass , and throughout his life, he continued to write music based on religious subjects. 

Today, the extent of Gounod’s sacred works is little appreciated, their having been eclipsed by his operatic efforts. But this was not always the case. Saint-Saëns declared that Gounod would be remembered principally for his religious music; indeed, his masses, sacred oratorios, and motets far outnumber his operas. Daudin’s note even claims that there are three more Requiem masses in addition to the one on this CD. 

Mostly avoiding the theatrical drama of sinners facing their Maker and souls condemned to the eternal fires of Hell—there’s no Berlioz or Verdi here—Gounod’s Requiem is often compared to that of the very popular, almost exactly contemporaneous setting by Fauré in its comforting and non-judgmental tone. No deity could fail to be moved, for example, by Gounod’s exquisitely beautiful Benedictus, which sets a duet for solo soprano and tenor against the chorus. But I’d have to say that in terms of musical style and vocabulary Gounod’s Requiem is closer to Saint-Saëns’s setting of the text, if you’re familiar with that score, than it is to Fauré’s. 

Overall, Corboz is a bit slower than Charlet, and his soloists and choristers sound somewhat more devotional, or perhaps beatific is the word I’m looking for. Corboz also benefits from a more pitch-perfect vocal quartet and a better recording, made at La Ferme de Villefavard, a hall constructed in 2002 in the Limousin region of France. I had occasion to mention the exceptional acoustics of this venue in a review of a Brahms piano recital by Adam Laloum, also on Mirare. 

Before rejecting Charlet in favor of Corboz out of hand, however, I would remind the reader that the coupling is not the same. Charlet leads a Mass in G Major for male chorus and organ; Corboz leads a Mass in G Minor for mixed chorus with organ accompaniment based on plainchants he heard at the Benedictine monastery in Solesmes. It’s an interesting work, if not a very even or consistent one, with some movements transporting one back to the 16th-century Flemish school of sacred polyphony, while other movements alternate between a 17th-century Italian madrigal style and an 18th-century Bach-like motet style. It’s as if Gounod was trying out all of the crayons in his box. 

If you’re a collector of Requiem masses, you will find none more appealing than Gounod’s, and this wonderful new performance and recording of it is most enthusiastically recommended. 

-- Jerry Dubins, FANFARE

More reviews:

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Charles Gounod (17 June 1818 – 17 October or 18 October 1893) was a French composer. Gounod is best known for his operas Faust and Romeo et Juliette and for his Ave Maria (1859). Though his reputation began to fade even before he died, he is still generally regarded as a major figure in nineteenth century French music. Stylistically, he was a conservative whose influence nevertheless extended to Bizet, Saint-Saëns, and Massenet.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Gounod
http://www.allmusic.com/artist/charles-gounod-mn0000153981/biography

***

Michel Corboz (born 14 February 1934) is a Swiss conductor. Corboz founded Ensemble Vocal de Lausanne, a group of chosen singers, in 1961. With this vocal and instrumental ensemble, he has given numerous performances of Baroque vocal and orchestral music. Since 1969, he is a titular head of the Gulbenkian Chorus, in Lisbon, with which he explores the symphonic repertoire. Corboz made more than one hundred recordings, the majority of them were made with these two ensembles. Since 1976, he teaches direction choral music at the Conservatoire Supérieur de Musique of Geneva.

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Charles Gounod - St. Cecilia Mass (Igor Markevitch)


Information

Composer: Charles Gounod
  1. Messe solennelle de Sainte Cécile: 1. Kyrie
  2. Messe solennelle de Sainte Cécile: 2a. Gloria. Larghetto
  3. Messe solennelle de Sainte Cécile: 2b. Gloria. Andante
  4. Messe solennelle de Sainte Cécile: 2c. Gloria. Allegro pomposo
  5. Messe solennelle de Sainte Cécile: 3a. Credo. Moderato molto maestoso
  6. Messe solennelle de Sainte Cécile: 3b. Credo. Adagio
  7. Messe solennelle de Sainte Cécile: 3c. Credo. Moderato molto maestoso
  8. Messe solennelle de Sainte Cécile: 4. Offertorium
  9. Messe solennelle de Sainte Cécile: 5. Sanctus, Sanctus
  10. Messe solennelle de Sainte Cécile: 6. Benedictus
  11. Messe solennelle de Sainte Cécile: 7. Agnus Dei
  12. Messe solennelle de Sainte Cécile: 8a. Domine salvam. largo
  13. Messe solennelle de Sainte Cécile: 8b. Domine salvam. poco animato
  14. Messe solennelle de Sainte Cécile: 8c. Domine salvam. tres large

Irmgard Seefried, soprano
Gerhard Stolze, tenor
Hermann Uhde, bass
Czech Philharmonic Chorus & Orchestra
Igor Markevitch, conductor

Date: 1965
Label: Deutsche Grammophon
http://www.deutschegrammophon.com/en/cat/4777114


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Review

In his History of Music (1886) W. S. Rockstro assured readers that Gounod was a thoroughly earnest composer, and added that with a man of his undoubted artistic aptitude ''earnestness means a great deal''. Whatever the truth about that, there is no doubt that Gounod also wrote a very funny Mass. The humour, which is of a delicate kind in the curtsey-dropping Kyrie, broadens in the Gloria and becomes uproarious in the Credo. The tune of the opening is so good that EG, reviewing the original issue, thought it must have been written by a Beatle. It seems Markevitch enjoys it too, for he makes it last twice as long as usual. There follows the Sanctus which was possibly written by Andrew Lloyd Webber, and in the Agnus Dei the ''Miserere'' swings along with the broadest of smiles reassuring us that there is nothing to worry about really. Still to come is a grand finale consisting of three jolly prayers, one where we have to look solemn because it's for the Church, another where with pipes and drums we intercede on behalf of the Armed Forces, and a third, for the Nation, where everybody can join in a fortissimo unison, while the trumpets sound and the big drum goes diddly-pom. The earnestness is delicious.

So is this performance, with a splendid choir and orchestra, a characterful trio of soloists, and Markevitch, who is earnest too, ensuring that all is done with a straight face, which of course makes it all the better. The recording still sounds remarkably well, but 50 minutes is rather short value for a CD nowadays. Perhaps Gounod's ghost whispered "Follow that!"


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Charles Gounod (17 June 1818 – 17 October or 18 October 1893) was a French composer. Gounod is best known for his operas Faust and Romeo et Juliette and for his Ave Maria (1859). Though his reputation began to fade even before he died, he is still generally regarded as a major figure in nineteenth century French music. Stylistically, he was a conservative whose influence nevertheless extended to Bizet, Saint-Saëns, and Massenet.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Gounod
http://www.allmusic.com/artist/charles-gounod-mn0000153981/biography

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Igor Markevitch (July 27, 1912 – March 7, 1983) was a Ukrainian-born composer and conductor. Markevitch studied in Paris under both Cortot and Nadia Boulanger. Later, he studied conducting with Pierre Monteux and Hermann Scherchen. As a conductor, he was much admired for his interpretations of the French, Russian and Austro-German repertory, and of twentieth-century music. In the late '90s, his recordings came back into demand in re-release, and even his compositions were finding a small but interested market and were praised anew for their originality.

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