Charles KOECHLIN (1867-1950)
Le cortège d'Amphitrite - Songs by Koechlin
Cinq Mélodies, Op. 5 - No. 5: Si tu le veux; 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 naïade; No. 5: Le cyclone; No. 6: La colombe; No. 7: Fatum); Six Mélodies, Op. 31 - No. 2: Le cortège d'Amphitrite; Six Mélodies, Op. 31 - No. 6: Amphise et Melitta; Poèmes d'automne, Op. 13 - No. 1: Déclin d'amour; Quatre Poèmes d'Haraucourt, Op. 7 - No. 4: Aux temps des fées; Six Mélodies, Op. 31 - No. 5: Le repas préparé; Quatre Mélodies, Op. 22 - No. 1: La chanson des Ingénues; Quatre Mélodies, Op. 35 - No. 2: Améthyste; Deux Mélodies, Op. 68 - No. 1: Hymne à Vénus; Sept Rondels, Op. 8 - No. 2: L'Hiver; Cinq Rondels, Op. 1 Nos. 2-6 - No. 1: La Nuit; Cinq Rondels, Op. 1 Nos. 2-6 - No. 4: L'Été; Sept Rondels, Op. 8 - No. 5: L'Air; Sept Rondels, Op. 8 - No. 4: La Lune; Cinq Rondels, Op. 1 Nos. 2-6 - No. 3: Le Printemps; Cinq Rondels, Op. 1 Nos. 2-6 - No. 2: Le Thé
Claudette Leblanc (soprano); Boaz Sharon (piano)
rec. October 1985, Toronto, Canada
Originally issued on CDA66243
If we know Koechlin at all it is because he orchestrated Fauré’s Pelléas et Mélisande Suite and Debussy’s ballet Khamma. In that very superficial sense his standing is akin to that of Caplet.
Rather like Chandos, Hyperion can be relied on for exalted artistic and production standards. It’s completely consistent with these exemplary principles that they have chosen Robert Orledge to document this disc and that full sung texts and sensibly lad-out side-by-side translations into English are set out in the booklet. Probably Hyperion never felt even the temptation to omit these features in the migration from a full price disc issued two years after the launch of the audio CD to their bargain price Helios line. Nor is this the sole Koechlin representation in their catalogue: there’s Fenwick Smith in the flute music on CDA66414 and Mats Lidström and Bengt Forsberg on CDA67244 and CDA66979 in the Cello Sonata – available now only on the Hyperion archive service. Hänssler have a splendid Koechlin roster much of it due to one-time oboist Heinz Holliger, now conducting, but do not overlook Hyperion.
If you know a little more than the basics about Koechlin it is likely that you will be familiar with the obsession he developed for the now forgotten film star Lilian Harvey (1906-1968). The op. 51 cycle is another product of that phenomenon. Gladys was the character portrayed by Harvey in Anatol Litvak's film Calais-Douvres (1931). The seven songs of this 10 minute cycle are dreamy, lulling delights often with a subtly gently minimalist piano part. The most subtle of them all is the tranced La Naiade (tr 5). Le Cortege the title track as well as Amphise and Hymne à Vénus are similarly starry and Klimtian with a sweetly lyrical and gentle vocal line. More urgently paced among much that is dreamy is Aux temps des fées. La Chanson des Ingénues is less hood-eyed - more carefree and easygoing. The orient ocean deep is suggested by Améthyste - a powerful song you need to hear. It is at times suggestive of slowly tolling giant bells in the abyssal fathoms of the sea. A group of eight songs from the 1890s and taken from opp. 8 and 1 set words by Theodore de Banville. These touch on the soft-focus dreaminess mentioned earlier but they do not sink quite so deeply into a tranced state. Note the mesmerising harp-repetitive motif in L'Hiver and the positive strong female line projected by L'Été. The final song of the sequence is Le Thé. This is passionate, bringing us - through its mellifluously-flowing babbling piano line - full circle to Si tu le veux (tr. 1).
The only real criticism is the short timing of the disc which looks to have been planned with LP limitations in mind.
Leblanc has a most beautiful voice in this testingly stratospheric yet fragile repertoire and she is matched in skill and insight by Boaz Sharon.
Rob Barnett
Short timing but superb readings of these testingly stratospheric and fragile blooms ... see Full Review