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Koechlin: Melodies / Command, Durrant

Koechlin / Command / Durrant
Release Date: 06/25/2013 
Label:  Maguelone   Catalog #: 111113   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Charles Koechlin
Performer:  Michèle CommandChristophe Durrant
Number of Discs: 1 
Length: 0 Hours 58 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews



KOECHLIN Le Printemps. La Nuit. La Lune. Le Jour. L’Été. Le Vin. Chanson d’amour. Pleine eau. Déclin d’amour. La prière du mort. Nox. L’Astre rouge. Les Rêves morts. Villannelle Nos. 1 and 2. Novembre. Accompagnement. Le Repas prepare. Soir païen. Si tu le veux Michèle Command (sop); Christophe Durrant (pn) MAGUELONE 111.113 (74:06 & French only)

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This disc is marked, and being sold, as part of a series of French melodies (Mélodiste Français) issued by Maguelone, yet its history is rather curious. Since soprano Michèle Command must be, by my reckoning, near 70 years old nowadays (her Eurodisc recording of Pelléas et Mélisande is now 35 years old), I found it odd that a new recording would be coming out by her, so I took a closer look at the packaging. Sure enough, in very small print at the bottom right of the CD insert it says “(P) 12/98,” which to me suggested a recording date of 1998, and the liner notes by Michel Flury are dated October 1998—and yet I could find no earlier issue of this disc anywhere online. To the best of my knowledge, then, this is a rare instance of a recording sitting in a “can” (as we used to call it in the old days) for several years (15 in this case!) before finally being issued.


Whatever the case, though, this is one highly impressive CD, and not least among its impressive qualities is Command’s voice. Rich, sumptuous, full-toned and resonant, it reminded me in a way of Régine Crespin’s voice, which was one of the most impressive I’ve ever heard in my life. This may or may not have anything to do with the recorded sound, which is just resonant enough to give some “space” around the voice, but her sound really opens up on top with a rich bloom that is balm to the ears of a critic who has heard more than her share of pathetic singers struggling to get through the simplest phrases of the Lieder and chansons they choose to sing.


Interpretively, she is somewhere between the just-sing-it-straight school of the early-to-mid 20th century and the interpret-it-like-German-Lieder school that came about largely through the influence of Gérard Souzay. The rather fulsome booklet only includes the French text of each song, but annotator Flury happily provides us with synopses of each song. Some apology is made for the “early” songs on here, composed in the early-to-mid 1890s when Koechlin—a late bloomer—was 26-29 years old, but not a single song on this disc is really uninteresting. If Koechlin matured as a composer (and he certainly did), he certainly did not start at a point where his output sounded like student exercises. Even in the earliest songs, his piano accompaniments are much fuller and richer than those of Fauré or Debussy, in fact almost orchestral in concept, which makes me wonder if the composer ever orchestrated any of them or permitted others to do so. In this respect, then, they have a closer affinity to the similar songs of Richard Strauss. This is the kind of song recital you put on, are immediately dazzled by the voice of the interpreter, but then settle into listening to the music and are dazzled by the richness of invention of the composer. Even so early a song as Pleine eau (Open Waters, 1892) has a magnificent feeling and structure about it that captivates the listener, and La Prière du mort (Prayer of the Dead, 1896) is a masterpiece that, one imagines, inspired Debussy’s Prelude La Cathédrale engloutie (The Sunken Cathedral). Command’s rich voice supplies the rest of our pleasure. Thanks partly to the wide sonic range of the recording and partly to the soprano’s own wide range of dynamics and color, nearly everything Command does grabs you and holds your attention—even in those (fortunately) few places where the wide-open high notes are just a tad beyond her interest and begin to tax the capital of her voice, producing a “spread.”


Aside from the two or three songs where Command’s upper range runs into difficulties, I can’t say a bad word about this disc, and considering how little competition there is for a full recital of Koechlin songs, I’d say this is a must-get disc for lovers of French chansons.


FANFARE: Lynn René Bayley
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Works on This Recording

1.
Rondels (7), Op. 8: no 4, La lune by Charles Koechlin
Performer:  Michèle Command (Soprano), Christophe Durrant (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1895; France 
2.
Rondels (5), Op. 1: no 5, L'été by Charles Koechlin
Performer:  Michèle Command (Soprano), Christophe Durrant (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1890; France 
3.
Rondels (5), Op. 1: no 4, Le printemps by Charles Koechlin
Performer:  Michèle Command (Soprano), Christophe Durrant (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1890; France 
4.
Rondels (5), Op. 1: no 3, Le thé by Charles Koechlin
Performer:  Michèle Command (Soprano), Christophe Durrant (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1890; France 
5.
Poèmes d'automne, Op. 13: no 4, L'astre rouge by Charles Koechlin
Performer:  Michèle Command (Soprano), Christophe Durrant (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1894; France 
6.
Poèmes d'automne, Op. 13: no 2, Les rêves morts by Charles Koechlin
Performer:  Michèle Command (Soprano), Christophe Durrant (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1894; France 
7.
Villanelles (2), Op. 21 by Charles Koechlin
Performer:  Michèle Command (Soprano), Christophe Durrant (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
8.
Mélodies (4), Op. 22: no 2, Novembre by Charles Koechlin
Performer:  Michèle Command (Soprano), Christophe Durrant (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
9.
Mélodies (4), Op. 28: no 3, Accompagnement by Charles Koechlin
Performer:  Michèle Command (Soprano), Christophe Durrant (Piano)
10.
Mélodies (4), Op. 35: no 4, Soir paien by Charles Koechlin
Performer:  Michèle Command (Soprano), Christophe Durrant (Piano)
11.
Mélodies (6), Op. 31: no 5, Le repas préparé by Charles Koechlin
Performer:  Michèle Command (Soprano), Christophe Durrant (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1906; France 
12.
Mélodies (5), Op. 5: no 5, Si tu le veux by Charles Koechlin
Performer:  Michèle Command (Soprano), Christophe Durrant (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1894; France 
13.
Rondels (9), Op. 14: no 1, Le jour by Charles Koechlin
Performer:  Michèle Command (Soprano), Christophe Durrant (Piano)
14.
Rondels (9), Op. 14: no 4, Le vin by Charles Koechlin
Performer:  Michèle Command (Soprano), Christophe Durrant (Piano)
15.
Rondels (5), Op. 1: no 1, La nuit by Charles Koechlin
Performer:  Michèle Command (Soprano), Christophe Durrant (Piano)
16.
Poemes (4) d'E. Haraucourt, Op. 7: no 2, Plein eau by Charles Koechlin
Performer:  Michèle Command (Soprano), Christophe Durrant (Piano)
17.
Poèmes d'automne, Op. 13: no 1, Déclin d'amour by Charles Koechlin
Performer:  Michèle Command (Soprano), Christophe Durrant (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1894; France 
18.
Mélodies (3), Op. 17: no 2, La prière du mort by Charles Koechlin
Performer:  Michèle Command (Soprano), Christophe Durrant (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1895–1900; France 
19.
Mélodies (3), Op. 15: no 3, Nox by Charles Koechlin
Performer:  Michèle Command (Soprano), Christophe Durrant (Piano)

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