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Charles KOECHLIN (1867–1950)
Les Chants de Nectaire, Op. 200 - Third Series
Nicola Woodward (flute)
rec. Clifton Cathedral, Bristol, England, no date given
HOXA HS190207 [72:09]

The first and second series of the Les Chants de Nectaire having already been reviewed (review ~ review) by Glyn Pursglove and Dominy Clements, it falls to me to review the third and final series of these wonderfully evocative little works. Koechlin composed these three sets of thirty-two pieces, ninety-six in total, over four months in 1945, giving them successive opus numbers, Opp. 198, 199 and 200. Lasting over three hours, they were obviously never intended to be listened to consecutively, although the great variety of these characterful little pieces will delight any fan of the flute, and French flute music in particular. Sadly, the booklet nots are not very helpful here, as their brevity leaves a lot to be desired; only the briefest introduction is given to the composer and his music, which is hardly helpful.

Koechlin seems to have had a particular fondness for the flute, as he composed around thirty works for the instrument. However, his Les Chants de Nectaire is by far the longest. The composer took his lead from the old flute player, Nectaire, in Anatole France’s novel La Révolte des Anges, where Nectaire is portrayed as a sage shepherd who would impart his knowledge to his friends and fellow shepherds whilst entertaining them on his old wooden flute. The pieces have a pastoral quality which summons up thoughts of a bygone age; they are almost folksy at times but are, in fact, original compositions which allude to a forgotten France.

The third series has a more religious context whilst still retaining the character of what has gone before, in music which ranges from to the languorous to the playful or even nostalgic. Through all of these pieces, Nicola Woodward is excellent, as she was in the first volume. The brief texts do not mention what kind of flute Woodward uses, although she is pictured with a standard modern instrument. Whatever it is, she uses its full range, starting with the lower end in the first of these tracks Prière dans le mode dorien, giving it a mellifluous, almost wooden, sound, whereas in the short Danse au soleil du matin dans la campagne and the following Cortège d’éphèbes, for example, the higher register comes to the fore. These discs, whether you have one disc or all three, form an ideal accompaniment to the SWR set of Koechlin’s chamber music (SWR19047CD) or the Accord set (465 894-2), and are indispensable for any serious collection of the composer’s music. It is therefore all the more of a shame that the booklet notes are so poor.

Stuart Sillitoe

Prières, cortèges et danses pour les Dieux familiers, Op. 200
Prayers, dances and processions for the familiar gods, Op. 200
I Prière dans le mode dorien [3:33]
 Prayer in the Dorien mode
II Réponse de la divinité tutélaire [3:11]
 Response of the guardian deity
III Prière d’un malade [4:58]
 Prayer of someone sick
IV Cortège de jeunes filles [1:25]
 Cortege of young girls 
V Danse au soleil du matin dans la campagne [0:54]
 Country dance in the morning sun
VI Cortège d’éphèbes [1:18]
 Procession of Ephebos
VII Prière des enfants [2:53]
 Child’s prayer
VIII Danses pour saluer le retour du printemps [1:33]
 Dances to welcome the return of spring
IX Epithalame [2:39]
 Wedding song
X Prière de l’épouse dont le mari est parti à la guerre [2:19]
 Prayer of the wife whose husband has left for war
XI Danses pour célébrer le retour du Père [1:02]
 Dances to celebrate Father’s return
XII Prière funéraire [3:36]
 Funeral prayer
XIII Danses pour célébrer d’heureuses fiançailles [1:06]
 Dances to celebrate a joyful engagement
XIV Prière des orphelins [1:45]
 Orphan’s prayer
XV Incantation pour guérir un cerveau malade [2:40]
 Incantation to cure a sick brain
XVI Tityre remercie les Dieux [1:14]
 Tityre thanks the Gods
XVII Hymne du philosophe devant la nuit d’étoiles [2:03]
 Philosopher’s hymn on a starry night
XVIII Danses d’adolescents devant la maison heureuse [1:29]
 Adolescent’s dance before the house of joy
XIX Le maître enseigne à ses élèves la vie harmonieuse des Sages antiques [2:17]
 The teacher shows pupils the harmonious life of ancient Sages
XX Ronde joyeuse dans les prés fleuris [1:01]
 Joyful round dance in the flowering meadow
XXI Prière aux Sages de la forêt [1:41]
 Prayer of the Sages of the forest
XXII Prière aux Dieux protecteurs du foyer [2:04]
 Prayer to the Gods who protect the home
XXIII Prière de l’aieul [3:57]
 Elder’s prayer
XXIV Autre prière de l’aïeul [2:08]
 Another elder’s prayer
XXV Danse [1:31]
XXVI Cortège [2:37]
XXVII Incantation pour écarter les mauvais esprits [1:28]
 Incantation to ward off evil spirits
XXVIII Danse des Faunes familiers [1:13]
 Dance of the familiar Faunes
XXIX Cortège [3:15]
XXX Prière pour guérir un malade [3:49]
 Prayer to cure the sick
XXXI Autre prière pour la guérison [2:37]
 Another prayer for a cure
XXXII Cortège d’actions de grâce [2:48]
 Thanksgiving procession

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