Over to Paris this week for a portion of the Memorial Concert for Charles Koechlin, who died in December of 1950 and whose memorial concert was a virtual who’s who of French classical music in mid-century.
Tonight it’s a performance of his Primavera op. 156 for Fute, Harp and String Trio, featuring the Pierre Jamet String Quartet. Written in 1936, it wasn’t premiered until many years later, and this performance it’s guessed is most likely it’s first broadcast.
Koechlin was a complex individual. A political radical, he also had a passion for Medieval Music, Bach, movies (especially musicals starring Ginger Rogers), stereoscopic photography and Socialism. He was once quoted as saying “an artist really needed an ivory tower, not as an escape from the world, but rather as a place where he can view the world and be himself. This tower is for the artist like a lighthouse shining out across the world.”
At the time of his death in 1950, Koechlin was one of the most respected and admired composers of his generation, even though he achieved very little success from it. Sadly, over the years his status has slipped a bit – his works aren’t performed as much, although recordings of his works are available. Oddly enough, he was best known in the U.S. as a frequent lecturer some five times, between 1919 and 1937 and most of his papers have been archived at UC Berkeley. He did win a competition at The Hollywood Bowl in 1929 for his composition, the symphonic poem La Joie païenne, which was performed by the L.A. Philharmonic, conducted by Eugene Goosens.
This performance comes from the Memorial concert and was preserved by the ORTF. The discs are pretty damaged, and there are ticks and pops – but it is an enjoyable performance and most likely a first one. So bear that in mind.
Enjoy either way.