The Chants de Nectaire were inspired by the wise old flute player Nectaire, who appears in “La Révolte des Anges” by Anatole France (1914). La Révolte des Anges is often considered the author’s most profound novel. It tells the story of the angels who rebelled against God and came down to earth, descending upon Paris disguised as people, to prepare a coup d’état which would re-establish Satan (aka the Angel of Light, the symbol of liberating knowledge…) on the throne of heaven. The tribulations of the angels in the Paris of the Third Republic are a fierce social criticism and mock the Catholic Church. Eventually, Lucifer will give up dethroning God, for had he continued, Lucifer would become God, and lose his influence over liberated thought.
“Nectaire raised the flute to his lips. Wielded by dextrous fingers and filled with the breath of creation, the rustic pipe resonated like a silver flute. The music told of Love, Fear, vain Quarrels, triumphant Laughter, the serene clarity of Intelligence and the arrows that pierce the monsters of Ignorance and Hatred. The music also spoke of Joy and Pain bending their twin heads over the Earth and of the desire that creates worlds….” Translated from La Révolte des Anges by Anatole France (1914)
The ninety-six songs , all gems in their own right, are grouped in three books (Op. 198-200) and were composed over four months in 1944. Despite the speed of creation, the quality is incredible, with great attention to detail. Each piece is its own unique sound world, imaginative, sensitive, beautiful and, above all, sincere.
This second set is based on the Ancient Forest as seen in the writings of Virgil. We experience the richness and diversity of the natural world, but the journey also brings joy and sadness, terror and elation. These impressions of diverse life forces are carried through the air by the purity of melody alone.
Charles Koechlin (1867 – 1950) studied at the prestigious Ecole Polytechnique in Paris, but tuberculosis prevented him from following the military career that was expected of him. Fortunately, he turned to music, studying composition with Fauré and Massenet at the Paris Conservatoire. He worked incredibly quickly when inspired, and his output of 219 opus numbers covers all genres: from the vast orchestral work, ‘Le Livre de la Jungle’, inspired by Kipling; to choral, chamber and solo works. He loved the flute and seemed to understand the subtleties as if he played himself.
According to Koechlin, his personality was dominated by characteristics from his Alsatian roots; there is an energy, naivety and an absolute sincerity at the heart of all his music. I see him as a fascinating and eccentric genius with a twinkle in his eye: inquisitive, fiercely intelligent, and obsessive. He was passionate about the sciences, astronomy, literature, film, and film stars, in particular Lilian Harvey and Ginger Rogers, all of which inspired his musical creativity. Recognition of his genius has grown since his death and as an orchestral ‘magician’, he is now seen as on a par with Debussy and Ravel.