Koechlin, Charles (Louis Eugène)

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Koechlin, Charles (Louis Eugène)

Koechlin, Charles (Louis Eugène), noted French composer, pedagogue, and writer on music; b. Paris, Nov. 27, 1867; d. Le Canadel, Var, Dec. 31, 1950. He studied for a military career, but was compelled to change his plans when stricken with tuberculosis. While recuperating in Algeria, he took up serious music studies. He then entered the Paris Cons. (1890), where he studied with Gédalge, Massenet, Tadou, and Fauré, graduating in 1897. He lived mostly in Paris, where he was active as a composer, teacher, and lecturer. With Ravel and Schmitt, he organized the Société Musicale Indépendante (1909) to advance the cause of contemporary music, and with Satie, Roussel, Milhaud, and others, he was a member of the group Les Nouveaux Jeunes (1918–20), a precursor to Les Six. Although he composed prolificacy in all genres, he became best known as a writer on music and as a lecturer. He made 3 lecture tours of the U.S. (1918, 1928, 1937). He became president of the Fédération Musicale Populaire (1937). His pro-Communist leanings caused him to promote music for the proletariat during the 1930s; he wrote a number of works “for the people” and also film scores. In spite of the fact that such works as his Symphonie d’hymnes (Prix Cressent, 1936) and Sym. No. 1 (Prix Halphan, 1937) won honors, his music made no real impact. Taking Fauré as his model, he strove to preserve the best elements in the French Classical tradition. A skillful craftsman, he produced works of clarity and taste, marked by advanced harmonic and polyphonic attributes.


Étude sur les notes de passage (Paris, 1922); Précis des règles du contrepoint (Paris, 1926; Eng. tr., 1927); Gabriel Fauré (Paris, 1927; Eng. tr., 1946); Claude Debussy (Paris, 1927); Traité de l’harmonie (3 vols., Paris, 1927-30); Étude sur le choral d’école (Paris, 1929); Théorie de la musique (Paris, 1934); Étude sur l’écriture de la fugue d’école (Paris, 1934); Pierre Maurice, musicien (Geneva, 1938); Les instruments à vent (Paris, 1948); Traité de l’orchestration (4 vols., Paris, 1954-59).


(Koechlin orchestrated many of his works well after their original completion. Dates given are those of original, often unorchestrated, versions): dramatic: Pasto-ralebiblique: Jacob chez Laban for Soprano, Tenor, Chorus, and Orch. (1896-1908; Paris, May 19, 1925).ballet:La Forêt païenne (1911-16; Paris, June 17, 1925); La Divine Vesprée (1917); L’Âme heureuse (1945–47); Voyages: Film danse (1947).orch.: Sym. (1895-1900; unfinished); L’Automne, symphonic suite (1896–1906); La Forêt, symphonic poem in 2 parts: No. 1, LeJour (1897–1904) and No. 2, La Nuit (1896–1907); 2 symphonic poems: Soleil et danses dans la forêt and Vers la plage lointaine (1898–1909); En mer, la nuit, symphonie poem, after Heine (1899–1904); Nuit de walpurgis classique (Ronde nocturne), symphonie poem, after Verlaine (1901-07; rev. 1915-16); 2 symphonie poems: (L’Été): Nuit de juin and Midi en août (1908–11); Suite légendaire (La Nuit féerique) (1901–15); Études antiques (Suite païenne; Poèmes antiques), symphonie suite (1908–14); La Course de printemps, symphonie poem, after Kipling (1908–25); 2 symphonie poems: Le Printemps and L’Hiver (1908–16); Ballade for Piano and Orch. (1911–15); 2 syms: No. 1 (1911-16; arranged from the String Quartet No. 2) and No. 2 (1943-4; arranged from several other works); Rapsodie sur des chansons françaises (1911–16); The Bride of a God, symphonic poem (1929; in collaboration with C. Urner); Symphonic Fugue (1932); Choral fugué (1933); Choral fugué du style modal for Organ and Orch. (1933); Sur les flots lointaines, symphonie poem (1933); Hymne à la jeunesse, after Gide (1934); Symphonie d’hymnes (1936; arranged from several other works); La Méditation de Purun Bhagat, symphonic poem, after Kipling (1936); La Cité nouvelle, rêve d’avenir, symphonie poem, after Wells (1938); Le Buisson ardent, symphonie poem, after Rolland (1938); La Loi de la jungle, symphonie poem, after Kipling (1939); Les Bandar- log, symphonie poem, after Kipling (1939); Le Docteur Fabricius, symphonie poem, after C. Dollfus (1941–44); Offrande musical sur le nom de BACH (1942); Silhouettes de comédie for Bassoon and Orch. (1942–43); Partita for Chamber Orch. (1945); Introduction et 4 interludes de style atonal-sériel (1947). chamber: Viola Sonata (1902–15); Piano Quintet (1908; 1911; 1917-21); 3 string quartets (1911-13; 1911-16; 1917-21); Flute Sonata (1911–13); Suite en quatuor for Flute, Violin, Viola, and Piano (1911–15); Oboe Sonata (1911–16); Violin Sonata (1915–16); Cello Sonata (1917); Bassoon Sonata (1918-19; also for Horn and Piano); Sonata for 2 Flutes (1918–20); 2 clarinet sonatas (1923, 1923); Trio for Strings or Woodwinds (1924); Quintet Primavera for Flute, Harp, Violin, Viola, and Cello (1936); Wind Septet (1937); Trio for Oboe, Clarinet, and Bassoon (1945); Quintet for Flute, Harp, Violin, Viola, and Cello (1949); also many works for piano, including Paysages et marines (12 pieces; 1915-16), Les Heures persanes (16 pieces; 1916-19), and L’Ancienne Maison de campagne (12 pieces; 1932-33). other: Choral works, music for band, film scores, organ music, and songs.


R. Orledge, A Study of the Composer C. K. (1867–1950) (diss., Univ. of Cambridge, 1973); J. Woodward, The Theoretical Writings ofC. K. (diss., Univ. of Rochester, 1974); H. Sauget, ed., Oeuvres de C. K. (Paris, 1975; a catalog); E. Kirk, The Chamber Music of C. K .(diss., Catholic Univ. of America, Washington, D.C., 1977); R. Orledge, C. K. (1867–1950): His Life and Works (Vol. I, N.Y., 1989).

—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire

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