“At the evening of my life, I realize that the fulfillment of my artistic dreams, however incomplete, has given me the intimate satisfaction of not having wasted my time here on earth.”
Charles Koechlin (1867 – 1950) was a French composer, teacher and writer on music. He was a political radical all his life and a passionate enthusiast for such diverse things as medieval music, The Jungle Book of Rudyard Kipling, Johann Sebastian Bach, Hollywood film stars, traveling, swimming, mountain climbing, stereoscopic photography and socialism.
Having to spend half a year in Algeria to cure his tuberculosis as a young man made him leave his studies to become an engineer and turn to a career as a musician. He studied with teachers such as Massenet and later with Fauré, who impressed him greatly.
He freelanced as a composer and wrote books on music theory and the first biography on Fauré, taught briefly at the Scola Cantorum in Paris and at the U.C. Berkeley College in California, but never taught for long in one place. Students of his were among others: Francis Poulenc, Cole Porter and Germaine Tailleferre.
Koechlin was a prolific composer. His music reflects his many interests as he uses all styles including fugues, poly- and atonality, and even twelve-tone-techninque. He was famous for the use of different colors in the orchestra, and orchestrated pieces for composers as Fauré and Debussy.
His songs are often very long and written in a wide vocal range. They are sometimes very difficult but seldom uncomfortable to sing. As Koechlin had a beautiful baryton voice, he could probably have sung them all himself.
In the 1930’s he discovered Hollywood movies and became obsessed with Lilian Harvey: more on this and his writing for the (imagined) cinema here.
He married at the age of 46 and had five children.
If you wonder how to pronounce his name, go here to find out!