About Charles Koechlin & Les Chants de Nectaire.


Scattered throughout Koechlin`s vast, labyrinthine catalog, bristling with the most amazingly varied things, are a number of monodies -- unaccompanied melodic works for single instruments. Koechlin was a master melodist, not in the hackneyed sense of strutting fetching tunes, but in the sense that he could rely upon a gift for long, supple, complex, continually unfolding, and expansive melody as a compositional device. In Western music, this is rather rare; hence it is also rarely recognized and received. However, two great nineteenth-century models may give the uninitiated some notion of what Koechlin is about, namely, the long cor anglais melody which opens the third act of Wagner`s Tristan und Isolde, and the less well-known (but closer to Koechlin in spirit) pantomime in Act I of Berlioz`s Les troyens in which Hector`s widow, Andromache, with her son, perform rites to the dead to an expressively long-drawn clarinet solo.

Koechlin`s own Jungle Book, for vast orchestral forces, contains two extensive, grandiosely imposing monodies. But the three collections of Les Chants de Nectaire, each containing 32 monodies, is undoubtedly his largest and most varied essay in monodic art. The first set, Op. 198, from which the title comes, was inspired by Anatole France`s novel, La révolte des anges (1914), in which angels take up residence in Paris disguised as humans. Nectaire, one of their band, "a robust old man with thick grey hair...and a forked beard," enchants his guests with melodies played upon a magic flute --

And the old man presented, ordered and developed his ideas in a musical discourse full of grace and daring. He spoke of love, fear, pointless quarrels, the winning laugh, the tranquil clarity of the intellect, the arrows of the spirit piercing with their golden points the ogres of ignorance and hatred. He also spoke of joy and grief inclining their twin heads towards the earth, and of the desire which created the world --

all of which Koechlin renders into song.

The second collection (Op. 199), subtitled "Dans la forêt antique," draws similarly upon the world of Virgil`s Georgics and Eclogues, with their piping shepherds, nymphs, and satyrs, while the third (Op. 200), Prières, cortèges et danses pour les Dieux familiers -- with titles such as "Épithalame, Hymne du philosophe devant la nuit d`étoiles, Prière aux sages de la forêt," and others more fanciful -- allude to a rich web of private associations. The plethora owes to Koechlin`s uncritical trust in spontaneity. As he wrote to Henri Sauguet on August 17, 1945, "it was only a question of turning on the melodic tap to write monodies like my Chants de Nectaire...Last year at La Canadel I wrote several of them on the same day, as fast as my pen would go...." True, many of them wander, but it is also true that tapping pre-rational, or "unconscious," springs was central to Koechlin`s aesthetic, that he is often good enough to be spontaneous, and that many of these Chants de Nectaire are gracious, delightful, and deeply moving.

Source: ~ All Music Guide

Charles Koechlin    (Paris, 27-11-1867- Le Canadel, 31-12-1950)

Charles Koechlin was born in France and studied at the Paris Conservatoire, where his teachers included Taudou, Massenet, Gédalge, and Fauré. His musical style may be defined as eclectic, as he experimented with a wide variety of structures, styles, and genres. At various times Koechlin used elements of polytonality, serialism, and modality in his works. Koechlin`s output includes an opera, several ballets, some incidental and film music, choral works, orchestral works, band music, concertos, chamber music, sonatas and studies for solo instruments and piano, solo piano music, solo songs, duets and trios.
A pupil of Gabriel Fauré, Koechlin occupies a position of honour among French composers, highly respected as a teacher and counting among his own pupils Poulenc and Tailleferre, while exercising a strong influence on Milhaud and the younger composers associated with Satie. His pre-eminence as a theorist has led to undue neglect of his music.

Orchestral Music

Koechlin`s compositions include symphonies and symphonic poems, some of the latter inspired by Kipling`s Jungle Book, as well as a symphonic poem based on Romain Rolland`s Le buisson ardent, a study of composer`s block, Le Docteur Fabricius op. 202 and Vers la Voûte étoilée op. 129.

Vocal Music

Koechlin made a significant addition to French song, with choral and solo settings of texts by contemporaries and earlier writers.

Chamber Music

Koechlin`s works include a quantity of chamber music for various instruments, notably a flute sonata, a wind septet and a piano quintet, with a series of compositions, Les Chants de Nectaire, for solo flute.
All the diverse aspects of Koechlin`s monodic art combine in this composition of 96 titles. The first series of 32 was inspired by La révolte des anges of Anatole France, in which a number of angels, weary of Heaven, decide to live as ordinary mortals in Paris, where their adventures provide opportunities for sharp social satire. The second collection of 32, Koechlin uses favourite subjects like fauns and naiads, and extracts from Virgil`s Eclogues and Georgics in his titles. The third collection of 32 titles continuos along the same lines (without quotations from Virgil).
Generally speaking, the pieces meld virtuosity with serene reflection, transparent diatonicism with sinuous chromatism, and rhythmic freedom with modal inflections.
The sheer delight in the free flow of spontaneous melody is everywhere apparent in the Chants de Nectaire and Koechlin had been inspired by `the living and varied beauty one can attain with modal monodies...`

Piano Music

Much of Koechlin`s piano music was written before 1920. There are sets of easy pieces and exercises, five Sonatinas and sets of pieces under the title Esquisses (Sketches) and Paysages et marines (Land- and Sea-scapes).

The need for total recovery after his 1889 illness had led Koechlin increasingly to adopt outdoor activities, and he became a skilled mountaineer, swimmer and tennis-player, as well as an avid gardiner. A keen photographer and a lifelong traveller, he carried his bulky `Verascope` camera on his summer expeditions to Spain, North Africa, Turkey or Marocco, being especially drawn to the remains of ancient Greece. In colloboration with Daniel Biot and Jean de Morène, Koechlin published in 1933 a collection of photographs entitled Ports, which was intended to be one of a series of fifteen simular volumes. These beautifully composed pictures suggest that, had he be so inclined, Koechlin could easily have become a first-rate professional photographer.

While Koechlin`s music is not as distinctive in its dramatic, structural, or formal profile as that of contemporaries like Debussy or Ravel, it nonetheless bears the stamp of an unusual personality. Many of his works are conspicuously sectional and almost improvisatory in the manner in which they unfold; his melodies in particular tend toward unrestricted, continual motion. Harmony and instrumental color are generally at the fore in Koechlin`s music, which is perhaps most effective in the way it creates exquisitely shaded atmospheres. The composer wrote prolifically and for nearly every medium -- except, tellingly, for the operatic stage -- but carved out a quirky compositional niche that remains unique. Prefiguring multi-work "literary" cycles like American composer David Del Tredici`s Alice in Wonderland series, Koechlin produced seven interrelated works based on Kipling`s The Jungle Book. Perhaps unexpectedly, given his sober, messianic appearance, he also harbored a virtual mania for the cinema, which he translated into a number of works inspired by various silver-screen personalities. He celebrated the icons of Hollywood`s Golden Age in works like Five Dances for Ginger [Rogers] (1937) and Epitaphe de Jean Harlow (1937), but his most stimulating muse was apparently English-German actress Lilian Harvey (1906 - 1968). Initially flattered by Koechlin`s hommages, which included more than a hundred works, including two "Lilian Albums," Harvey eventually grew uneasy with his seeming obsession. She also enjoys a place of honor in what is likely the most famous (if not generally familiar) of Koechlin`s works, the Seven Stars Symphony (1933). Neither astrological nor astronomical in inspiration, the symphony is instead a suite of tone poems, each an evocative portrait of a leading screen figure of the day: Douglas Fairbanks, Harvey, Greta Garbo, Clara Bow, Marlene Dietrich, Emil Jannings, and Charlie Chaplin.

“Koechlin should found a school of pure and simple melody, without accompaniment. I have thought a lot about this, since I keep in touch with Indian art. You know at what point of refinement their melodic art has remained for centuries. I have often discussed this with Hindu musicians, who are very proud of their treasure and have little regard for our own...Our harmonic art has control of me at present, but I can still profoundly sense the charm of purely melodic art...So why not cultivate monody in our Gardens?”

Romain Rolland in a letter to Charles Koechlin, 19 March 1926.

When the French composer Charles Koechlin (Paris, November, 27, 1867 - Le Canadel, December 31, 1950) reaches his 77th year, he decides to write only monodies: independent melodies without accompaniment. His thoughts turn to Nectaire, the flute-playing gardener in Anatole France’s novel La révolte des Anges [The Revolt of the Angels, Chapter XIV] http://www.litrix.com/revolt/revol001.htm, who entertains his guests during a summer night. After a searching beginning, he develops a musical dis-course, a true musical dissertation. In the course of his improvisation he conjures up personages dwelling both in Nature and in man. During his dissertation Nectaire is both engaging and repellent, gracious but challenging. He has the ability to express human feelings in musical form and the guests are silent, as though bewitched. They feel they are listening to the muses, or else a nightingale. During that summer night Nectaire calls for emotions such as love, fear, or futile arguments (whatever for?). Of course he also plays melodies which simultaneously express both joy and sadness, for he knows the hypocrisy of the world, yet desires to make it more beautiful.
Charles Koechlin wrote the music for these imaginary melodies. The result is Les Chants de Nectaire, Opus 198, 199 and 200 for solo flute. Koechlin was not only a composer, but also a classical scholar, philosopher, architect, photographer, and above all an astronomer. The latter occupation is perhaps the reason for the sometimes extreme length of the musical lines of suspense. For to look in the universe is to look into time.
The melodies in his Chants de Nectaire are timeless; now reminiscent of Georgian chant, then of Satie, Debussy, Bach or Messiaen.
Although written for a single flute, Les Chants de Nectaire is an all-encompassing composition and a landmark in the musical world.

The Recording
In 1994, Leendert de Jonge (flute, 04-06-1956) and Floris van Manen (sonologist) decided to make a complete recording of Charles Koechlin’s last major work (among other outstanding orchestral compositions as Le buisson ardent, Opus 171, 203 and Le Docteur Fabricius, Opus 202). The cycle Les Chants de Nectaire explores the furthest limits of what can be achieved; length, dynamic range, simplicity, complexity and sound quantity per unit of time. The work demands extreme concentration from performer and listener alike.
In their approach to this recording, similar points of departure were employed. The watchwords were simplicity and refinement, resulting in a portrait both tranquil and clear.
Leendert de Jonge played from Koechlin’s original, unpublished manuscript. The individual recording sessions covered a period of nearly 18 months, during which time only complete movements were recorded. Just two people a few yards from one another in the little barn-church ‘De Vermaning’ (The Admonition) in Edam, Netherlands. From late at night to daybreak the concentration, the silence, and the subtle interplay of sound and space were all that mattered. Nothing fancy; two omni-directional microphones (Bruel & Kjaer 4006) and a simple DAT recorder were all that were used. No dynamic compression was applied.
When the recordings were completed, Leendert de Jonge worldpremièred Les Chants de Nectaire on 19 November 1995 at the Beauforthuis in Austerlitz, Netherlands.
One of Holland’s leading newspapers, NRC Handelsblad, wrote about the concert:

How Koechlin, a true nature-lover, would have enjoyed this performance, for during the intervals one was free to wander near the “Utrechtse Heuvelrug” hills. Their serene majesty was fully captured by Leendert de Jonge, whose subtle pianissimos and soft tonal shades, evocative as the rustling leaves and gently falling rain, were nectar to his listeners.

Six months later De Jonge and Van Manen decided to record the 96 monodies once again. All titles were consecutively played in only two marathon-like sessions. The earlier, composite version was consigned to the archives.
The result forms a unique document, true to the spirit of the work itself.
In order to avoid any impression of haste, the pieces are suitably interspersed by adequate space and silence. The result will be no disappointment to those in search of Time in Space.

To order this first integral recording from the composer`s manuscript by Leendert de Jonge:

Charles Koechlin
Les Chants de Nectaire Opp. 198-200

by Marc Lerique

For our generation of grandchildren of Charles Koechlin, Les Chants de Nectaire have long remained merely a title. For almost 50 years, we have heard them talked about occasionally, like the other unpublished works, so that they became for us merely words heard from our parents, our uncles and aunts, and some renowned musicologists. Enthusiastic as their evocations were, they fell far short in preparing me for the most profound impression that enveloped me when I had the chance to hear them for the first time on 19 November 1995.
That afternoon, Leendert de Jonge played all three sets of [32] pieces (a world premiere of the complete cycle) before a small audience in an ancient chapel at the edge of a wood, in the heart of the Netherlands. There, little by little, after the initial secret enthusiasm felt at the re-emergence of a work by my grandfather, time became progressively expanded, space gradually disappeared, the day melted by degrees into a limitless halo, and the free and limpid music of the solo flute carried me away on the wonderful curved threads of its long, supple phrases, towards distant lands bathed in antique perfumes and delicate colours that evoked the strange titles brought together by the far-ranging imagination and exotic curiosity of Charles Koechlin.
In July 1996, Leendert de Jonge made these 96 exceptional pieces live again during a Festival that reunited most of Charles Koechlin’s descendants. The house where we found ourselves was situated in a village, and certain neighbourhood sounds managed to enter the room where Leendert was playing. However, his interpretation was, as on each occasion, so intensely expressive and so much in tune with the true freshness of each piece that the world around vanished as subtly as on the first occasion, taking with it its echoes of real life. Each one of us could then venture along the secret paths and byways already explored by the rebellious angels of Anatole France since Nectaire, the gardener, welcomed them into the lower room of his little house, in the woods of Montmorency:
Against the lime-washed wall, on a deal shelf, among the bulbs and seeds, lay a flute, ready for his lips. On a round walnut table lay a stoneware tobacco jar, a pipe, a wine bottle and some glasses. The gardener offered a wicker chair to each of his guests and seated himself on a stool near the table.

…The gardener offered his guests wine. And, when they had drunk and exchanged remarks, Zita said to Nectaire:

“I beg you to play to us on the flute. You will give pleasure to the friend I have brought to see you.”

The old man immediately agreed. He brought to his lips a wooden tube so thick and crude that it seemed to have been made by the gardener himself, and began with several strange phrases. Then he developed rich melodies in which the trills shone like diamonds and pearls on velvet. Beneath his skilful fingers, and inspired by the breath of creation, the rustic instrument sounded like a silver flute. It produced no shrill notes: the timbre was always equal and pure. One believed one was hearing the nightingale and the Muses at the same time, all the forces of nature and man combined. And the old man presented, ordered, and developed his ideas in a musical discourse full of grace and daring. He spoke of Love [Op. 198 no. 16], Fear [no. 22], pointless Quarrels [no. 10], the winning Laugh [no. 8], the tranquil enlightenments of the Intellect [nos. 4, 6], the arrows of the Spirit piercing the ogres of Ignorance and Hatred with their golden tips [no. 7]. He spoke also of Joy [nos. 9, 25, 31] and Grief [nos. 12, 18, 32] inclining their twin heads towards the earth, and of the Desire which creates worlds [no. 26].
(from Anatole France: La Révolte des Anges, ch. 14)

This recording, patiently brought to perfection by Leendert de Jonge, with the help of Floris van Manen, over more than two years, does indeed invite us on a miraculously intimate series of unexpected and renewed journeys. At each stage, we can regain the expansive atmosphere of boundless peace, however foreign it might have been to that Spring of 1944 when Nectaire’s Songs were composed.
‘The spirit of my work (and that of my whole life) is above all a spirit of liberty,’ Charles Koechlin said. Take the time to savour this liberty here in the rhythm of these monodies that can lead us to discover a new dimension in each change of direction during the musical voyage.

© 31 July 1997
(translated by Robert Orledge, 8 May 2005)

English translation of French titles:

32 pieces for flute, Opus 198

Total time 45:42
01 Préambule
02 Birth of life
03 Patterns of light
04 Clarity of mind
05 Youth of the world
06 Insights of calm intelligence....
07 ....pierce with bolts Error and Stupidity
08 Mocking laughter
09 Fun with light
10 Vain quarrels - what’s the point?
11 Tenderness
12 The lament of mankind
13 Night
14 Breaths of spring on the sea
15 Light - moderation - equilibrium
16 Love

Total time 44:39
17 Pity
18 For suffering souls
19 The garden of the muses
20 The tendrils of the vine
21 Happy hours
22 Fear
23 Idylle
24 Moonlight on the sea
25 Bursting into life
26 The desire which all worlds are born of
27 Human effort
28 Thoughts in defeat
29 Evening
30 The sage’s calm
31 Funny on a sunny morning
32 Meditation on human sorrow

In the ancient forest, Opus 199

Total time 58:03
01 In the shade, on a cool spring morning
02 The clear forest
03 Games in the clearing
04 The sacred wood
05 The fluttering of the leaves
06 Drinking in the shade, in summer
07 Nymph dance, in the sun
08 Water nymph games
09 Chill of fine mornings in the mountains
10 The goatherd
11 Faun dance
12 “Mollesque sub arbore somni....”
13 The sea whose unnumbered noises
14 Endymion the shepherd
15 The Satyre
16 “Majoresque cadunt altis de montibus umbrae”
17 The faun’s caprice
18 On the death of a cat
19 Purity of morning on the shore
20 The “happy shepherd boy”
21 Calm of evening
22 Cool morning breeze on the sea
23 “O fortunatos nimium...agricolas”
24 Bright evening
25 Spring fun in the forest
26 “Tityre, tu patulae recubans sub temine fagi”
27 Dances in the forest
28 “At secura quies...”
29 “Formosi pecoris custos, formosior ipse”
30 The birds are drunk....
31 Silenus
32 For the procession of Dionysos

Prayers, dances and processions for the familiar gods, Opus 200

Total time 44:14
01 Prayer in the Dorian mode
02 Reply to the tutelary divinity
03 Prayer of someone sick
04 Procession of maidens
05 Dance in the morning sun in the countryside
06 Procession of the youths
07 Children`s prayer
08 Dances to greet the return of spring
09 Epithalames
10 Prayer of the wife whose husband has gone to war
11 Dance to greet the return of the father
12 Funeral prayer
13 Dances to celebrate happy betrothals
14 Orphan’s prayer
15 Spell to cure a sick brain
16 Tityrus thanks the Gods

Total time 47:06
17 Canticle of the philosopher gazing at the night stars
18 Dances of youths in front of the happy home
19 The master teaches his pupils the harmonious lives of the ancient sages
20 Joyful ring dance in the flowery meadows
21 Prayer to the forest sages
22 Prayer to the heath gods
23 Grandmother’s prayer
24 Grandmother’s second prayer
25 “Dance”
26 Cortège
27 Spell to drive of evil spirits
28 Dances of the familiar fauns
29 Cortège
30 Prayer to cure someone sick
31 Second prayer for cure
32 “Thanksgiving” procession
Anatole France – Banquet Speech

Anatole France`s speech at the Nobel Banquet at Grand Hôtel, Stockholm, December 10, 1921


I have cherished the prospect of visiting in the evening of my life your beautiful country which has brought forth brave men and beautiful women. With gratitude I receive the prize that crowns my literary career. I consider it an incomparable honour to have received this Prize established by a man of noble sentiment and awarded to me by judges so just and competent. Invited by you as a member of the French Academy to give advice on the Nobel Prize in Literature, I have several times had the pleasure of directing your choice. It happened in the case of Maeterlinck, who combines a brilliant style with thought of great independence; it also happened in the case of Romain Rolland, in whom you have acknowledged a lover of justice and peace and who has been able to defy unpopularity in order to remain a good man.

Perhaps I am overstepping the limits of my competence, if I now talk about the peace Prize of the Norwegian Storting. If I do it, nonetheless, it is to praise the choice that the Storting has made. I may perhaps be permitted to say that in my view you have honoured in Branting a statesman impassioned for justice. Would that the destinies of peoples could be guided by such men! The most horrible of wars has been followed by a peace treaty that is not a treaty of peace but a continuation of war. Unless common sense finally finds its place in the council chambers of ministers, Europe will perish. If one cannot with good reason hope for the triumph of union and harmony, among the countries of Europe, I wish at least to believe, gentlemen, that I under the influence of brave, just, and loyal men like you the good will sometimes prevail.

In the official record, the following event is reported: After Anatole France had received his Prize from the hands of the King, there occurred an incident which left a strong impression on all present. When the venerable had gone up to the rostrum again, he turned to Professor Walther Nernst, Prize winner in Chemistry, and exchanged a long and cordial handshake with him. The Frenchman, the «last classic», and the German, the great scientist and representative of intellectual sobriety, the citizens of two countries which had for a long time been enemies, were united in a handshake - a profoundly symbolic gesture. The audience applauded, feeling that the two nations, which for years had fought against one another, had just met in reconciliation.

Source: From Nobel Lectures, Literature 1901-1967, Editor Horst Frenz, Elsevier Publishing Company, Amsterdam, 1969

fragment from CHAPTER XXXII. Which describes how Nectaire`s flute was heard in the tavern of Clodomir.
<...It was a beautiful starlight night. The gardener was silent.
"Nectaire," said the beautiful archangel, "play to us on your flute, if you are not afraid that the Earth and Heaven will be stirred to their depths thereby."
Nectaire took up his flute. Young Maurice lighted a cigarette. The flame burnt brightly for a moment, casting back the sky and its stars into the shadows, and then died out. And Nectaire sang of the flame on his divine flute. The silvery voice soared aloft and sang:
"That flame was a whole universe which fulfilled its destiny in less than a minute. Suns and planets were formed therein. Venus Urania apportioned the orbits of the wandering spheres in those infinite spaces. Beneath the breath of Eros--the first of the gods,--plants, animals, and thoughts sprang into being. In the twenty seconds which hurried by betwixt the life and death of those worlds, civilizations were unfolded, and empires sank in long decline. Mothers shed tears, and songs of love, cries of hatred, and sighs of victims rose upward to the silent skies.
"In proportion to its minuteness, that universe lasted as long as this one--whereof we see a few atoms glittering above our heads--has lasted or will last. They are, one no less than the other, but a gleam in the Infinite."
As the clear, pure notes welled up into the charmed air, the earth melted into a soft mist, the stars revolved rapidly in their orbits, the Great Bear fell asunder, its parts flew far and wide. Orion`s belt was shattered; the Pole Star forsook its magnetic axis. Sirius, whose incandescent flame had lit up the far horizon, grew blue, then red, flickered, and suddenly died out. The shaken constellations formed new signs which were extinguished in their turn. By its incantations the magic flute had compressed into one brief moment the life and the movement of this universe which seems unchanging and eternal both to men and angels. It ceased, and the heavens resumed their immemorial aspect. Nectaire had vanished. Clodomir asked his guests if they were pleased with the cabbage soup which, in order that it might be strong, had been kept simmering for twenty-four hours on the fire, and he sang the praises of the Beaujolais which they had drunk.
The night was mild. Arcade, accompanied by his guardian angel, Théophile, Prince Istar, and the Japanese angel, escorted Zita home...>

(Anatole France - The revolt of the angels)

Some information about Virgil.

Virgil was born on October 15, 70 B.C.E., in Northern Italy in a small village near Mantua - probably but not certainly the modern Pietole. Virgil was no Roman but a Gaul - the village was situated in what was then called Gallia Cisalpina - Gaul this side of the Alps. Publius Vergilius Maro, or Virgil, grew up to be hailed as the greatest Roman poet. And although his work has influenced Western literature for two millennia, little is known about the man himself. His father was a prosperous landowner, described variously as a "potter" and a "courier", who could afford a thorough education for the future poet. This Virgil received. He attended school at Cremona and Mediolanum (Milan), then went to Rome, where he studied mathematics, medicine and rhetoric, and finally completed his studies in Naples. He entered literary circles as an "Alexandrian," the name given to a group of poets who sought inspiration in the sophisticated work of third-century Greek poets, also known as Alexandrians. In 49 BC Virgil became a Roman citizen. Lucretius influenced his way of thinking, but his early poems were written in the tradition of Theocritus.

After the battle of Philippi in 42 B.C.E., Virgil’s property in Cisalpine Gaul, or else his father`s, was confiscated for veterans. "I leave my father`s fields and my sweet ploughlands, / an exile from my native soil," wrote Virgil later in ECLOGUES. According to some sources the property was afterwards restored at the command of Octavian (later styled Augustus). In the following years Virgil spent most of his time in Campania and Sicily, but he also had a house in Rome. During the reign of emperor Augustus, Virgil became a member of his court circle and was advanced by a minister, Maecenas, patron of the arts and close friend to the poet Horace. Maecenas was twice left in virtual control of Rome when the emperor was away. He gave Virgil a house near Naples.

Between 42 and 37 B.C.E. Virgil composed pastoral poems known as BUCOLIC or Eclogues (`rustic poems` and `selections`), spent years on the GEORGICS (literally, `pertaining to agriculture`), a didactic work on agriculture, and the cultivation of the olive and vine, the rearing of livestock, and beekeeping. The work took as its model Works and Days by the Greek writer Hesiod, who had composed it around 700 BC. Eclogues was a huge success, and in its famous `Messianic Eclogue` he prophesied the new Golden Age. "The great cycle of the ages is renewed. Now Justice returns, returns the Golden Age; a new generation now descends from on high." (this was interpreted in the Middle Ages as a prophecy of the birth of Christ. Dante cites the lines in The Divine Comedy). In the poem, according to some interpretations, the shepherd lad who dies is probably Julius Caesar. Of the two contrasting characters, Tityrus and Meliboeus, the former was long considered Virgil in disguise.

37 BC
by Virgil

ECLOGUE I (fragment)

You, Tityrus, `neath a broad beech-canopy
Reclining, on the slender oat rehearse
Your silvan ditties: I from my sweet fields,
And home`s familiar bounds, even now depart.
Exiled from home am I; while, Tityrus, you
Sit careless in the shade, and, at your call,
"Fair Amaryllis" bid the woods resound.

O Meliboeus, `twas a god vouchsafed
This ease to us, for him a god will I
Deem ever, and from my folds a tender lamb
Oft with its life-blood shall his altar stain.
His gift it is that, as your eyes may see,
My kine may roam at large, and I myself
Play on my shepherd`s pipe what songs I will.

I grudge you not the boon, but marvel more,
Such wide confusion fills the country-side.
See, sick at heart I drive my she-goats on,
And this one, O my Tityrus, scarce can lead:
For `mid the hazel-thicket here but now
She dropped her new-yeaned twins on the bare flint,
Hope of the flock- an ill, I mind me well,
Which many a time, but for my blinded sense,
The thunder-stricken oak foretold, oft too
From hollow trunk the raven`s ominous cry.
But who this god of yours? Come, Tityrus, tell.

The same fragment in the original version by Virgil:
(See Opus 199, 26)


Tityre, tu patulae recubans sub tegmine fagi
silvestrem tenui Musam meditaris avena;
nos patriae finis et dulcia linquimus arva.
nos patriam fugimus; tu, Tityre, lentus in umbra
formosam resonare doces Amaryllida silvas.               


O Meliboee, deus nobis haec otia fecit.
namque erit ille mihi semper deus, illius aram
saepe tener nostris ab ovilibus imbuet agnus.
ille meas errare boves, ut cernis, et ipsum
ludere quae vellem calamo permisit agresti.               


Non equidem invideo, miror magis; undique totis
usque adeo turbatur agris. en ipse capellas
protenus aeger ago; hanc etiam vix, Tityre, duco.
hic inter densas corylos modo namque gemellos,
spem gregis, a, silice in nuda conixa reliquit.               
saepe malum hoc nobis, si mens non laeva fuisset,
de caelo tactas memini praedicere quercus.
sed tamen iste deus qui sit da, Tityre,nobis.

L`église Saint-Sulpice est l`un des lieux de l`action du roman Da Vinci Code, qui fait passer à tort le méridien de Paris par le gnomon et l`obélisque.
L`église Saint-Sulpice est l`un des lieux de l`action du roman la Révolte des anges d`Anatole France.

Further reading:

Charles Koechlin (1867 – 1950)
His Life and Works
Robert Orledge
Harwood Academic Publishers
ISBN 3-7186-0609-7
Liverpool, August 1995

La révolte des anges (1914)
Anatole France
Presses Pocket
ISBN 2-266-04555-5

Michel Fleury
L`impressionisme et la musique
ISBN 2-213-03188-6

Archiv Charles Koechlin
C/o Otfrid Nies
Sängerweg 3
D-34125 Kassel


Portait of Charles Koechlin, 1948.
(by H.Roger-Viollet)

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