Charles KOECHLIN (1867-1950)
Choral in F minor, Op. 90b (1924) [5:53]
Deux Vocalises, Op. 212b (1947) [9:03]
Choral Final du Requiem, Op. 161 (1937) [3:52]
Sonatine III, Op. 107 (1929) [3:43]
Quatre Chorals, Op. 98 [10:21]
Pièce pour orgue, Op. 226 [3:53]
Fugue, Op. 133 no 2 [6:40]
Adagio, Op. 201 [7:47]
Sonatine II, Op. 107 (1929) [8:06]
Adagio, Op. 211 (1947) [3:31]
Sonatine I, Op. 107 (1929) [4:48]
Fugue modale Op. 240b [3:30]
Christian Schmitt (organ)
rec. 27-28 June 2009, Marktkirche Hannover
CPO 777 512-2 SACD [67:40]
I’ve been aware of Charles Koechlin for a very long time, having played flute pieces of his for almost as long as I can remember. It’s only relatively recently however that his name seems to have been cropping up more in the CD catalogues, with fascinating and remarkable works such as the piano cycle Les Heures Persanes showing previously little known aspects of the composer. Organist Christian Schmitt has here recorded a representative sample of organ works by Koechlin, and as many of these are première recordings this disc will add considerably to our supply of Koechlinalea.
Koechlin himself was more of a pianist than an organist, and the conventional nature of earlier works such as the Choral in F minor develops into further extremes of contrapuntal extremity as evidenced by the later opus numbered Choral Final du Requiem, which pushes canonic techniques into a labyrinthine elegy. If you like Hindemith’s organ sonatas, then the three Sonatines which Koechlin wrote during 1928-29 occupy comparable melodic and harmonic territory. Koechlin’s fascination and deep study of Bach comes through strongly in the Finale of Sonatine III, and the first and second of these pieces contrast with the rest of the programme in also having lighter Pastorale movements. There is also a good deal of melodic charm in the Quatre Chorals, produced as a by-product of the composer’s own composition classes.
This programme contains what is apparently Koechlin’s last work, the eccentric Pièce pour orgue, Op. 226, which shows the composer exploring the essence of his own expressive palette in what the booklet notes describe as “sketchy textures.” More monumental is the extended Fugue Op.133 II originally written for “a symphonic string apparatus”, and with seemingly impossible chromatic lines. More gentle and improvisatory is the Adagio pour Grand-orgue Op.201, which nonetheless builds a remarkable structure in which one can become totally immersed.
The recently rebuilt 1950s Marktkirche organ is a tremendous instrument, and very well suited to this music. A more nasal French sound might arguably be more appropriate, but whether consciously or not the organ sound here points to the universality of Koechlin’s expressive world and to my ears is both appropriate and highly enjoyable. The CPO recording is very rich and deep even in plain stereo. As an SACD multi-channel experience it really is of demonstration quality. This is one of those inspiring releases which anyone keen on organ music and 20th century repertoire should have around. The organ music of Charles Koechlin should hold no fears for anyone attracted by the romantic worlds of Widor and Duruflé, and indeed it often harks back to more ancient worlds in its sometimes antique style and use of the models of Bach. This organ sound is woodsmoke and nostalgia to me, and has restored my faith in its qualities as a truly expressive instrument. Superbly performed and produced with useful booklet notes, it is one of the nicest organ recordings I’ve heard for a long time.
Dominy Clements
One of the nicest organ recordings I’ve heard.