René Challan. A name probably very familiar with record collectors, but for a completely different reason. From 1945-1975 he was Artistic Director and Manager of artists for the legendary Pathé-Marconi label in Paris. His name was on hundreds of album covers and he was responsible for some of the greatest recordings coming out of Paris in the 1950s and 1960s.
But René Challan was also a composer of substantial note with a large catalog of Symphonies, Concertos, Chamber works and vocal works to his credit. Ironically, he didn’t take advantage of his position and overly record his own works for the label. But he did record several works in the 1950s.
This performance, even though it was recorded and available commercially by an orchestra and soloists led by Fernand Oubradous, it’s not this one, which was a radio studio recording done at the ORTF in Paris around 1953 with their in-house orchestra and soloists, such as the legendary trumpet player Roger Delmotte, playing the solo parts.
Since his death in 1978, his music has dropped off the radar – and aside from his artistic work for Pathé-Marconi, very few, if any of his works have stayed in the catalog.
Although you most likely wouldn’t describe René Challan’s music as revolutionary or cerebral, it is good and workman-like in its delivery and intent. And even though there are parts which bear a strong resemblance to the work of his contemporaries (i.e. Francis Poulenc), he maintains an individuality and point-of-view that puts him a few notches above many of his peers.
So, if you only know the name René Challan from liner notes and credits on hundreds of albums he’s been involved with, here’s an opportunity to experience another side of a very talented and engaging composer, in a broadcast performance most people never got to hear at the time.