Koechlin: 15 Études, Op. 188; Pièces, Op. 180 (excerpts)

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

LABELS: Chandos
WORKS: 15 Études, Op. 188; Pièces, Op. 180 (excerpts)
PERFORMER: Federico Mondelci (saxophone); Kathryn Stott (piano)
The two works here are both offered as premiere recordings, though the Pieces of Op. 180 are also known in a longer original version for horn. Koechlin was an exceptionally prolific composer but never fully appreciated in his own lifetime, and earned his living from other branches of the music profession. His work is unmistakably French in style and, despite the clear influence of both his teacher Fauré and other celebrated fellow countrymen, Koechlin developed a highly individual voice through his unique blend of tonality, atonality and modality. The 15 Études, the more substantial of the two works, contain some hauntingly beautiful passages, with long flowing lines and delicious harmonies, but was surely not intended to be heard as a complete composition and, whereas a shorter suite would emphasise the beauty, this full version rather outstays its welcome. The Seven Pieces introduce a new colour by employing a tenor saxophone in place of the more usual alto for some sections and, since all the movements are similar in both mood and tempo the change of timbre and tessitura is most effective. Federico Mondelci has a warm, mellifluous tone which suits the predominantly lyrical nature of this repertoire perfectly and, partnered by the sensitive playing of Kathryn Stott, makes clear his obvious passion for these pieces. Tim Payne