The only constant about the music of Charles Koechlin (1867-1950) is Charles Koechlin himself. Charles Koechlin, the original. He is not a romantic. He is not a modernist. He does not really sound like Debussy or Ravel, not precisely. Perhaps one can only say that he is a composer that has his own version of being French, like Satie. He does not sound Teutonic at any rate.
So when listening to the four-work Oeuvres pour Ensembles (Timpani 1C1193), one must prepare to hear Koechlin. Koechlin the chamber work composer of excellence. Koechlin the lyricist. The weaver of colored tapestries.
Ensemble Initium and Ensemble Contraste share the performance assignments, and both ensembles sparkle with brilliance in realizing the works at hand. The compositions span most of Koechlin's career, dating from 1916 to 1949. The instrumentation varies with each work; the size of the ensembles keeps to 6-8 players throughout. Winds and strings are the primary carriers of his music on these works. One work adds a piano.
I have to my knowledge not had the pleasure of hearing any of the works previously. I will be certainly hearing them many times more via this marvelous disk. This would make a great introduction to the composer for those who are not familiar. It is most certainly a welcome addition to any Koechlin enthusiast's library, or anyone wishing to explore some excellent examples of 20th century French chamber music.
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