Charles Koechlin's string quartets are extremely fine and it's hard to believe that they remain obscure even today.
Koechlin's compositions grab and enchant the listener (certainly for me anyhow!) from the very opening bars; his musical voice was so fresh and varied that the mind and ears simply cannot resist the aural perfumes and beguiling sounds :)
Admirers (and who isn't?) of the quartets of Gabriel Fauré, Claude Debussy, and Maurice Ravel will be pretty happy to discover these refined string quartets. They were entirely and unduly neglected until the Ardeo Quartet chose to record them for its debut CD on Ar Re-Se. The String Quartet No. 1 in D major, Op. 51, is dated 1911-1913, though it appears to have gestated since 1902, and the String Quartet No. 2, Op. 57, was mostly composed between 1911 and 1916, though its sketches show some material going back to 1909; both works therefore partake of musical styles developed between fin de siècle Impressionism and the later innovations of Erik Satie and Les Six, but these works reveal a stronger emphasis on the former. In 1927 the 2nd quartet was orchestrated and became apparently Koechlin's First Symphony; the quartet too remained in the shadows as nothing more than an experiment at the time. The sweet, placid music that flows in both quartets is balanced by some jaunty, folk-like elements and occasional flirtations with changing time signatures and polytonality, but the calm atmosphere of these quartets is largely undisturbed by the encroachments of modernism. The Ardeo Quartet demonstrates great technical control and coolness of expression in these lucid performances, which conceal many challenges behind appearances of simplicity. Indeed, Koechlin was a skilled orchestrator, and his special string effects are actually quite demanding, even though they may seem effortless for the Quartet. Enjoy!