A Divertissement by Koechlin -- in particular, one for two flutes and clarinet -- will amuse one rather differently than any other pieces bearing a like title, diverting one into a strange country where the usual boundaries and markers shift as you attempt to grasp them, or disappear completely. In this context, Koechlin's oft-quoted mot -- "The spirit of my work -- and that of my whole life -- is above all a spirit of freedom, with the motto: Spiritus fiat ubi vult" -- is particularly apt, though the Latin tag is often carelessly dropped. But it is just here that we glimpse the nexus of individual originality, Zeitgeist, and the incalculable leaven of creativity in the ancient conceit by which spirit and the wind, which "bloweth where it listeth," are cognate phenomena subsuming the notion of breath or prana as the palpable manifestation of the life force. To an essentially intuitive artist such as Koechlin, freedom and spontaneity are sine qua non, for only by this path can one follow the spirit. Thus, the parts given to wind instruments, for which Koechlin had an especial predilection, are harbingers. While many Koechlin works evoke the féerique world of German Romanticism, fairytale, or art nouveau, others open upon a spiritual prehension whose events are subtle shifts in gradations of luminosity that have left past associations behind. For Liszt, the Church father, at the end of his life, presentiments of "the other side" were baleful and threatening: Koechlin found in them a second home to which he returned often, as in the Divertissement. Composed over 1923-1924, the flute's strange opening melody is a lure drawing one over a constantly receding horizon glowingly woven of polyphonic involvement with the other instruments. A very brief burbling, percolating central movement looms -- the apparition of a ghostly dance -- and is gone before one has caught its gist. The final Allegro's capricious bien décidé chirping and trilling summons creatures of air, though the chordal fadeout is droopingly triste. The overall impression of nonchalant weirdness is affected largely by melodies bopping about the interval of a fourth and lacing into quartal harmonies, technical oddments the Divertissement shares with many penumbral pages of the piano suite Les Heures persanes (1913-1919) -- both works, Koechlin tells us, inspired by Islam and suffused with "a very lively sense of Nature, free from man's interpretation." The premiere was given on May 24, 1937, by Marcel Moyse, Cortet, and Masson at Concerts Triton at the Salle de l'École Normale, Paris.
Description by Adrian Corleonis
- Très calme
- Allegretto quasi andante (sans lenteur)
- Final: Allegro, bien décidé
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