Charles Koechlin (1867-1950)



Donald Macleod on Koechlin's early vocal works and the influence of The Jungle Book.

The music of Charles Koechlin (1867-1950) is elegant, witty and immediately engaging and appealing - the 'missing link', musically, between Debussy, Satie and Poulenc (whom he all knew). And's fallen curiously out of favour. This week, Donald Macleod lifts the lid on an extraordinary musician (with an extraordinary beard): a free-thinking pioneer whose array of interests included mountaineering, photography and Kipling's "The Jungle Book", who spent many of his later years obsessively composing works in tribute to a bevy of Hollywood starlets...A composer who began his musical life in the age of Gounod and Bizet...and ended in the age of Boulez and Stockhausen.

In the first episode of the week, Donald Macleod explores Koechlin's early vocal works, including two ravishing songs for soprano and orchestra...He also discusses the huge influence on Koechlin's music of "The Jungle Book", by Rudyard Kipling. Koechlin was fascinated by Kipling's stories, and composed five major works on themes from the book, that spanned his entire musical life. We'll be hearing them throughout the week, beginning today with Koechlin's "Three Poems", Opus 18.


Donald Macleod on Koechlin's visit to America in 1918 and his work The Spring Running.

Donald Macleod discusses Koechlin's visit the New World in 1918. Plus, his symphonic poem based on Rudyard Kipling's "The Jungle Book", "The Spring Running".


Donald Macleod outlines Koechlin's musical obsession with Hollywood starlet Lilian Harvey.

In the 1930s, the sixtysomething Koechlin became besotted with the Hollywood starlet Lilian Harvey, composing over 100 pieces for her. Donald Macleod outlines a musical obsession, and explores Koechlin's unique "Seven Stars" Symphony - a symphony with each movement depicting a different actor of the silver screen. He also looks at Koechlin's relationship with his favourite pupil Catherine Urner - a meeting of musical minds that would blossom into love...and end in tragedy.


Donald Macleod on Koechlin's flirtation with female stars of Hollywood's golden age.

By the 1930s, Koechlin was more famous as an educator than a composer - much to his displeasure. Donald Macleod explores his continuing flirtation with some of the female stars of Hollywood's Golden Age - including Jean Harlow and Ginger Rogers. Plus, as Europe spirals towards war, he looks at Koechlin's radical political and musical beliefs. We end with the composer's last two works based on Kipling's "The Jungle Book".

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Donald Macleod introduces a work by Koechlin for the ondes martenot.

It's fitting that such a fiercely independent, free-thinking musical mind should compose for one of the strangest instruments of the 20th century - the early electronic instrument, the Ondes Martenot. Donald Macleod introduces Koechlin's "Towards The Sun" for solo Ondes - a work that both showcases the instrument's eerie, ethereal sound, and seems to capture the composer's own otherworldly temperament. He ends the week with two attractive late chamber works, plus the composer's last significant work for orchestra, "The Burning Bush".