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Inventory of the Charles Koechlin manuscripts, 1905-1945
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  • Descriptive Summary
  • Administrative Information
  • Inventory:
  • Introduction
  • Scope and Content
  • Related Collections

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: Charles Koechlin Manuscripts
    Date (inclusive): 1905-1945
    Collection number: ARCHIVES KOECHLIN 1
    Creator: Koechlin, Charles, 1867-1950
    Extent: Number of containers: 6 boxes
    Repository: The Music Library
    Berkeley, California 94720-6000
    Shelf location: For current information on the location of these materials, please consult the Library's online catalog.
    Language: English.

    Administrative Information


    From the estate of Charles Shatto, received in the spring of 1983. See also the collections in this catalog under Charles Shatto and Catherine Urner.


    Collection is open for research.

    Publication Rights

    All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Head of the Music Library.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], Charles Koechlin manuscripts, ARCHIVES KOECHLIN 1, The Music Library, University of California, Berkeley.


    This inventory was compiled by Professor Robert Orledge, Department of Music,University of Liverpool, Liverpool, England. This inventory forms part of an unpublished article by Professor Orledge, and he retains full rights to this inventory. If publication of data from this inventory is contemplated, permisssion must be received directly from Professor Orledge. John A. Emerson, September 26, 1986.


    Following the death of Charles Shatto on New Year's Day 1983, the UCB inherited a large collection of manuscripts by Shatto himself, his wife Catherine Urner (1891-1942), and their principal composition teacher, Charles Koechlin (1867-1950). The manuscripts by Shatto and Urner were catalogued by David Zea in 1977, and it has been my privelege to be entrusted with the preparation of a full inventory of the Koechlin manuscripts, in which task I was greatly assisted by the preliminary classification made by John Emerson of the UCB Music Library.
    Catherine Urner was recommended to Koechlin by her harmony teacher at Berkeley, William MacCoy, at a Christmas dinner in San Francisco on 19 December 1918 during Koechlin's first American tour (as the musical representative on a French cultural mission headed by Théodore Reinach). 1. During her postgraduate studies at UCB, Catherine had shown considerable promise as a composer, and she was the first person to win the coveted George Ladd Prix de Paris for 1920-1 which enabled her to travel to France and receive regular lessons from Koechlin. She returned to Paris to study with Koechlin for four futher periods: December 1922 to July 1923, June 1924 to June 1925, November 1928 to April 1929, and from August 1929 to June 1933, when she lived en famille as part of the Koechlin household. In the interim periods the lessons continued by post and Koechlin began sending Catherine examples of his work in progress (all hand-copied) which form the basis of this important archive.
    In return, Catherine was instrumental in arranging Koechlin's three teaching visits to the USA: May to October 1928 (Berkeley), June to August 1929 (when Koechlin won the Hollywood Bowl prize for his symphonic poem La joie païenne (Op. 46 no. 5)), and late July to late September 1937 (when Koechlin gave lessons at Urner's studio in San Diego,wrote a great deal of music, and gave lectures in Montreal and Quebec on his way back to France). Shortly after this, with Koechlin's encouragement, Catherine married the young organist and composer Charles Shatto on 10 October 1937, both of them sharing a love of their teacher's music. However, their happiness was cut tragically short when Catherine was killed in a car crash in San Diego on 30 April 1942. Due to the vagaries of the wartime mail service, Koechlin only learnt the sad news in a letter from Darius Milhaud written on 21 March 1945, 2. and as a touching tribute to his favourite American pupil he orchestrated her Esquisses Normandes for piano (1929) in early November 1945 (see MSS ii and 134-5).
    Koechlin and Catherine Urner were kindred spirits in their undogmatic approach to music, and their belief that true artisitic independence could only be acchieved in composition by maintaining the delicate balance between liberty and discipline. They shared a total devotion to their art in the face of a general lack of recognition and its concomitant state of financial hardship. Koechlin's solution to this situation after 1925 was to turn increasingly towards pedagogic and teaching activities, which accounts for the large numbers of chorale realisations in the UCB collection (see MSS 93-120), though he placed these on a par with ostensibly more significant compositions like the contemporaray symphonic poem La course de printemps (Op. 95). The overall direction taken by Koechlin's music in this period was towards textural clarification, order and increased contrapuntal strength, ultimately leading to the concentration of his musical thought into a single melodic line (or monody) in the 1940s. In this process Catherine Urner acted as a catalyst, for Koechlin recognised her melodic gift from the start and saw his role as developing her harmonic and contraptual skills. But what began as a teacher-pupil relationship, with Koechlin writing themes for Urner to harmonise (as well as doing so himself), soon developed into a beneficial artisitic cross-fertilisation founded in deep mutual respect. Indeed, between the summer of 1928 and February 1934, no less than 14 of Koechlin's compositions between Opp. 102 and 137 included themes by Catherine, and the process only ended with the fourth movement of Koechlin's Second Symphony, a Fugue modale (sur un sujet de Catherine Urner) in 1943-4 (op. 196). Whilst there are, surprisingly, no manuscripts of their first major collaboration, a symphonic poem based on a Hindu legend entitled The Bride of a God (Op. 106, 1929), both short and full scores of Sur les flots lointains (op. 130) of 1933 figure as important items in the UCB collection (MSS 12-13). As always, Catherine provided the thematic outline; Koechlin the remainder.


    1. For an excellent survey of Koechlin's visits to America, see Elise Kuhl Kirk: A Parisian in America: the lectures and legacies of Charles Koechlin,' Current Musicology, no. 25 (1978), 50-68.


    2. The extensive correspondence between Urner and Koechlin (1919-41), together with Milhaud's letters relating to them, can be consulted by contacting Madeline Li-Koechlin, the composer's daughter, at 121 rue de Chalias, 94240 L'Hay-les-Roses, France.

    Scope and Content

    In the following inventory, I have divided the manuscripts into three sections:
    • 1. 138 autograph manuscripts by Koechlin (1905-1945) plus one letter to Charles Shatto of 15 March 1946 (MS 139). Of these, only MSS 14 & 134-8 are not Koechlin's own compositions.
    • 2. Music by Koechlin copied by Catherine Urner. These compositions (dating form 1895 to 1935) are numbered from I to XII.
    • 3. Manuscripts by other composers (1929-35), notably Catherine Urner, Ernest Le Grand and Jeanne Herscher-Clément. These are numbered from i to xiv.
    The original manuscripts in section 1 are fully representative of Koechlin's musical activities in the 1930s. They include film music compositions (like the Dances for Ginger Rogers (Op. 163, MSS 68-77) and the Épitaphe de Jean Harlow(Op. 164, MSS 78-9)); symphonic poems (like La méditation de Purun Bhagat at a critical stage in its evolution in mid-August 1936 (Op. 159, MS 54)); chamber music (like the Septuor à vent (Opp. 165 and 165bis, MSS 80-92)); as well as choral works (like Liberté (Op. 158, MS 53) and the Requiem des pauvres bougres (Op. 161, MSS 55, 62-6)) and many other smaller pieces. There are compositions that can be found in no other source, as with the complete Pastorale of 15 Dec 1924 (MS 7) - an unused movement intended for Koechlin's Trio d'anches (Op. 92), or the beautiful Chant du matin of 15 August 1939 (MS 124) - inspired by fine weather and the sound of bells from the church of St Étienne du Mont' near Koechlin's Paris home in the rue des Boulangers. This last is one of several important manuscripts (1924-32) from the wartime gap in Koechlin's opus numbers between Op. 176 (August 1939) and Op. 177 (November 1941), which alone would be sufficient to make the UCB collection one which no scholar of Koechlin's music could afford to ignore.
    As well as full scores and piano reductons of major works sent to Catherine Urners in this remarkable display of artistic friendship, there are many final sketches for important compositions which contain unique evidence as to their gestation and intentions. For example, MS 11, thanks to Koechlin's copious dating, traces the evolution of the 12-movement piano suite L'ancienne maison de campagne (Op. 124) over a decade (1923-1933), 3. whilst MSS 23-4 and 29 are the only dated sources of three pieces within Koechlin's 1934 film score Les confidences d'un joueur de clarinette (Op. 141 nos 14-16), with no. 15 (MS 23) containing extra scenic directions found in no other score. The same is true of Le voyage chimérique (Op. 149 no. 5, MS 34), and the dedication to Catherine on the very first of Koechlin's 113 shorter film compositions ( Palmolive, Op. 139 no.1, MS 16) suggests that it was his reminiscences of American life in her company in 1928-9 which again sparked off an important aand fruitful chain of events in his compositional career.
    Of equal importance is the way that one can trace every stage of Koechlin's complex compositional process by means of the UCB collection. Koechlin usually proceeded by what he described as a 'series of successive approximations', working on individual pieces over quite long periods, but keepng several pieces in train simultaneously. In the case of major symphonic works, he would begin with purely rythmic sketches - like those for Les bandar-log (Op. 176) in MS 123. Then, like Berlioz, he would write a complete melodic line (or chant) which remained unaltered as successive layers of the composition were added in various stages. In less complex pieces the process only involved two stages, chant and realisation (which involved the addition of harmonies and a textural accompaniment). The sketches for the 14 chants pour flûte et piano (Op. 157bis, MSS 47-52) show that these separate stages could be separated by as much as 17 months (in this case, April 1936 to September 1937). Then, again for more complex pieces, Koechlin kept recopying his earlier work and adding further details at each stage, often concentrating on the ending, which invariably caused him as much difficulty as the rest of the piece. The advanced sketch, mentioned earlier, for Op. 159 (MS 54) is complete apart from its ending, and the sort of problems he encountered can be seen in La danse sous les étoiles (Op. 163 no. 4, MSS 75-7), inspired by Ginger Rogers' performance in the film Swing Time(1936). Then Koechlin copied out a penultimate version ( dernier brouillon avant le net, or a manuscript which would serve as a piano reduction), to which he added details of the final instrumentation, often note by note, as in MS 4 for the Hymne à la vie (Op. 69). Then (sometimes) he made sketches in full score of difficult orchestral passages, again as in the Hymne à la vie(MS 5). Then finally, he prepared a defininitive orchestral score, as with Sur les flots lointains (Op. 130, MS 13). 4.
    In general, I have classified Koechlin's manuscripts chronologically by their earliest dates, so that, by and large, they also follow a course of consecutive opus numbers. However, this does not mean that the ordering here always follows the dates at which each manuscript was writen out or recopied, as Koechlin meticulously recorded the dates of earlier compositional stages on each manuscript. But the actual dates of writing out can usually be ascertained from the final dates in columns 1 and 3 of the following list. Thus, column 1 gives the range of dates covered by each manuscript; column 2 gives the number of pages of music in each manuscript; 5. whilst column 3 identifies each work and gives a brief description of the contents of the manuscript, together with more detailed dates of composition and any other relevant information. Beause Koechlin worked on several pieces simultaneously, a particular problem arose in the prolific years 1936-7, and for reasons of clarity I have classifed the manuscripts of Opp. 160, 161, 163, 164, 165 and 165bis in groups by opus number (MSS 56-92), though even here (as in Op. 160 or Op. 165) it can easily be seen that Koechlin did not compose his larger works in their final performing orders.
    As this inventory was intended for publication in Notes, I have kept it as succint as possible. For reasons of space, most of the very large number of teaching exercizes (without opus number) in the Shatto-Urner collection will need to be classified separately on a later occasion. As everything associated with Koechlin proliferates and complicates, there will doubtless be some omissions in such a concentrated list; for these I apologise in advance, and, as always, I welcome suggestions or corrections from interested readers.

    Library sigla used below:

    • F-Pn Paris, Bibliothhque Nationale, Dipartment de la Musique
    • F-Peschig Paris, archives of Max Eschig et Cie, 48 rue de Rome,Paris 8
    • F-Pkoechlin Paris, private collection of Yves Koechlin, 26 rue des Boulangers, Paris 5
    • US-BE Berkeley, University of California, Music Library

    General abbreviations:

    • orch. orchestrated
    • realis. realisation (harmonisation, addition of textural accompaniment)
    • recop. recopied
    • rev. revised
    Other abbreviations are as in The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians (ed. Stanley Sadie), (London, Macmillan, 1980).


    3. This manuscript is especially valuable as the final printer's copy made for Éditions Oiseau-Lyre in 1937 has since disappeared (as far as is known).


    4. It need hardly be said that this process forms a fasciniating study in itself, and is one which I explore in detail in my forthcoming life and works study of Koechlin, due to appear in two volumes with Toccata Press, London in 1985-6. It is particularly interesting to trace the evolution of the Danses pour Ginger [Rogers] (Op. 163) from an idea jotted down in a square in Geneva on 13August 1936 (MS 68) through to the final sketches for each of the five dances nearly a year later (MSS 62, 69-77). Also, see MS 62 for an example of Koechlin's later practice of constructing smaller pieces from a series of numbered musical cells, and MS 67 (Note).


    5. This was the only method I could adopt in working from xerox copies of the original manuscripts in Liverpool, and it also meant that I was unfortunately unable to distinguish between the uses of ink, pencil and crayon in these manuscripts. Most, however seem to have been written in black ink, often with later additions and corrections in pencil.

    Related Collections

    Title: Charles Shatto collection
    Identifier/Call Number: (ARCHIVES SHATTO 1)
    Title: Catherine Murphy Urner collection
    Identifier/Call Number: (ARCHIVES URNER 1)