Saturday, August 22, 2015

Charles Koechlin - "Les Heures Persanes" (The Persian Hours) - Rheinland-Pfalz Philharmonic, Leif Segerstam Marco Polo 1993

"My dream has remained the same from the very beginning, a dream of imaginary far horizons-of the infinite, the mysteries of the night, and triumphant bursts of light."

So wrote the French composer Charles Koechlin in 1947. He was not another Scriabin however. Koechlin seems to have had his dreams earthed and so avoided the perils of Messianic self-absorption. Nor did these dreams produce cerebral results. As late as 1933 and 1946, he produced major orchestral works such as "Vers La Voûte Etoilée" and "Docteur Fabricius" that pursue these arcana but steer clear of the voluptuary nature of Scriabin’s music.

The exoticism of the orient took a firm hold of European and others cultures throughout the period of 1800-1950. Its forms were myriad from gimcrack salon to exalted inspiration. The best example is Russia, as many were particularly affected through Rimsky-Korsokov, Borodin and Ippolitov-Ivanov. The Americans succumbed as well with examples including Griffes "Pleasure Dome of Kubla Khan" and Farewell’s "The Gods of the Mountains". In Belgium Biarent’s "Contes’ d’Orient" is a classic example, and a very fine piece. In England Granville Bantock (another one of my favorite British composers; indeed with works such as the magnificent "Celtic Symphony" he is at the very top of the list!) wrote many oriental works including his philosophical masterpiece "Omar Khayyam". Contemporary with the Koechlin work recorded here, Delius wrote a magical score for Flecker's play "Hassan" which in its final moonlit camel train departure comes close to Koechlin in Les Heures Persanes. In France there was an even long roster: the obvious Ravel "Sheherazade", Roussel "Padmavati", "Evocations", and works by Cras, Tomasi (some wonderful discoveries yet to be made there) and plenty of others.

"Les heures persons" or "The Persian Hours" is a long and very unusual creation which falls into 16 sections, each bearing a descriptive title. Each section is practically it's own tone-poem. The source of inspiration lay not in Koechlin's own experience of Persia, but in Pierre Loti's written account "Vers Ispahan" of a journey through that country. Koechlin started work on the piece in 1913 and completed the orchestration in 1921. In the days before the First World War Persia must have been a very peaceful land, for only in one episode, ''A travers les rues'', is there any sustained momentum in the music, or a lengthy foray into louder dynamics. In one or two other sections there are brief, lively interruptions, but nearly all the work moves at a sublime, slow pulse and consists of quiet, contemplative musings and gentle, atmospheric evocations of pictures and moods. I have derived the greatest pleasure from this music whilst listening with headphones, or with close concentration in total darkness.

Such a structure could be dull indeed if it were not for the fact that Koechlin employs a large orchestra to produce an infinitely subtle range of delicate sonorities and colourings. His harmonic language is very daring for its day, and not particularly French-there is something almost Webernesque in the way he sometimes conjures a mood from out of a silent background through, say, some imaginative instrumental combination, or an unusual rhythmic device, and then lets it retreat back into oblivion. Each section has its own very distinct character and beauty, and inspiration remains high until the final bars..



Marcelo Lasta said...

Suuuuuuuper Koechlin,¿acaso tienes su Sinfonia para gran orquesta,Master Tazadik? graciay abrazo de Tapirman,super cd!!

Aggelos said...

Tzadik, very nicely done! Keep up the good work with the exoticism "obsession".
We love exoticism when it gets combined with rich, lavish, hyper-coloured, opulent, extravagant and lavish orchestrations!

Tzadik said...

Hola querida Marcello y buen fin de semana (el domingo ..) a usted! Esto es muy interesante y misterioso, como suele ser el caso con la música orquestal de Koechlin especialmente. Tengo la mayor parte de la música de Koechlin, así que voy a mirar a su alrededor por lo que está solicitando :) Espero que estés bien mi amigo,

su TZ

Tzadik said...

Aggelos, how very nice to hear from you comrade-I wish I didn't neglect my email so; I hope to have the time to chat in the near future, I do feel that we are brothers of the same tones ;) -I have a great Miaskovsly/Myaskovsky disc on ASV that I'm going to post, thought of has the Sinfonietta, which is known of course, but the rest of the program is rather obscure, and a delight.



Aggelos said...

Forget about the e-mail....

So you're planning to post this one?
Then go for it!
Actually, I should be getting this one some day. It features Myaskovsky's symphonic poem Silence Op. 9, which expounds and develops in a similar Vein to Gliere's Sirens Op. 33

I was wondering whether the Label Northern Flowers (apart from Naxos) could get any lesser known works by Gliere and record them....

Tzadik said...

Yes Aggelos that's the disc! It's still one of my favorite Miaskovsky releases. Also, it's a nice change from the wonderful, oft darker and substantial realms found within his masterful symphonies. There is more cheerfulness here, or at least a lighter touch; the "Two Pieces" are actually my favs on here, in their simplicity and beauty. The "Theme & Varations" is much more impressive technically, and a great listen too.
"Napeve" is a lovely, poignant little thing that offers plenty-at just under 2 minutes!

The Marco Polo discs are wonderful, and nostalgic for me. I have the one you linked, and the others. If you want me to post that one I will :) And nice reference to the Gliere btw! I'm pretty sure Northern Flowers has access to some of the Melodiya archives actually-but one would think anyway that they would explore Gliere beyond his recorded works-here's hoping. I once emailed them about unpublished Ippolitov-Ivanov actually and the very late response was hopelessly Russian, in other words I could make little sense of it even using a translator!

Too bad we are not wealthy with nothing but free time, eh? The catalog of recorded Russian/Soviet music would never be the same ;-)

-Hope you enjoy the Petrov post, unless you know it already!


Aggelos said...

TZ, thanks a lot for the Myaskovsky offer! But it seems that will work to the rescue. THey have the Myaskovsky-Svetlanov boxset. And moreover, discs 11-16 features various orchestral works by Myaskovsky, so I will get those.

I really don't know whether Northern Flowers has access to the Melodiya archives, but it seems that there is another Gliere Melodiya LP. It features Nathan Rakhlin conducting Zaporozhye Cossacks Op. 64 ; Kirill Kondrashin conducting Holiday at Ferghana Op. 75 ; Eventually Alexander Gauk conducting Sirens Op. 33
Really don't know whether Melodiya would restore such material in a ADD release....
Our hopes now lie with Naxos, Toccata Classics and perhaps Northern Flowers.

So, you're saying that Northern Flowers didn't give a legitimate English answer to the Ippolitov-Ivanov's case.... Shame on them....