Koechlin: Chamber Music for Flute, Clarinet & Piano

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Koechlin
LABELS: Koch Schwann
WORKS: Chamber Music for Flute, Clarinet & Piano
PERFORMER: Irmela Nolte (flute), Deborah Marshall (clarinet), Sabine Liebner (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 3-6729-2
The slow discovery of Charles Koechlin’s vast output proceeds, ineluctably confirming him as one of France’s major creative imaginations of the 20th century. What we really need are more recordings of his major orchestral compositions, which contain his deepest and most original thoughts (roll on, from somewhere, the Second Symphony and Le docteur Fabricius, please). But, after all, he left useful works – dreamy, elegant, or lively – for almost every instrument, even if many are on a miniature scale.

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Most of the flute pieces here were recorded (very well) some years ago by Fenwick Smith on Hyperion; but those with clarinet (including the trim First Sonata for clarinet and piano, and the blithely pastoral Sonatine modale for flute and clarinet) are, I think, first recordings. It’s also good to have the whole of the second Album de Lilian – romantic-fantastical product of Koechlin’s crush on the Hollywood film star Lilian Harvey – where Hyperion gave only extracts: the gorgeous opening Sérénade à l’étoile errante, and the following Habanera créole, are worth the price of the disc, while Le voyage chimérique must be one of the most remarkable display pieces in the piccolo repertoire. But it’s the long-breathed elegiac monody of Stèle funéraire for flute, piccolo and alto flute, almost Koechlin’s last work, that impresses most deeply. Calum MacDonald