Notes and Editorial Reviews
KOECHLIN: Magicien orchestrateur
Heinz Holliger, cond; Sarah Wegener (sop);
Florian Hoelscher (pn);
HÄNSSLER CD 93.286 (77:22)
Sur les Flots lointains.
Pelléas et Mélisande.
The intent to show Charles Koechlin’s prowess as an “orchestral magician” is undercut by the circumstances of his two best-known collaborations. Debussy had orchestrated the first 10 pages of
when he turned his piano score over to Koechlin, obliging him to continue in like manner. And while Fauré gave Koechlin a free hand in the orchestration of his incidental music for a London production of Maeterlinck’s
Pelléas and Mélisande
, the small theater orchestra and the restrained nature of the music dictated a deft touch, which Koechlin lavished in plenty. The
Suite usually heard contains Fauré’s additions to the scoring to accommodate a larger orchestra; the present offering appears to be the disc premiere of Koechlin’s original version. Similarly, the contemplative conspectus of Koechlin’s own brief tone poem
Sur les Flots lointains
proscribes overt brilliance. Only when we come to Schubert’s
, scored for the Ballets Russes, do we hear what a cascade of piquantly glowing aural delights Koechlin was capable of. Purists may complain that Schubert becomes, in this orchestral guise, a 1930s
, but chances are that the fellow whose friends called him Tubby would not have demurred but admired the gussying-up. And that goes all the more for the exuberant playfulness and glowing color visited upon Chabrier’s
. Hearing this after the frequently performed rule-of-thumb orchestration by Felix Mottl is to grasp the distance between workmanlike utility and genius. I doubt that you’ll be able to repress a broad grin, or outright laughter, after the initial astonishment. In this vein, one will want to hear how Koechlin’s aural sorcery perks up Cole Porter’s clever—rather than inspired—ballet
Within the Quota
(John McGlinn leading the London Sinfonietta, EMI CDC 54300). Hänssler’s sound is slightly recessed to prevent congestion in riotous passages, yet close enough to bring the poetry of quieter passages home. Extensive annotations by Otfrid Nies, of the Koechlin Archive at Kassel, provide historical background and even a minute-by-minute précis of
’s unfolding. Superb on all counts and enthusiastically recommended.
FANFARE: Adrian Corleonis