They gave the music of Charles Koechlin a good try yesterday afternoon in the Renwick Gallery. But it did not add up to anything of any great interest.
Out of a quartet for flute, piano, violin and viola, a quintet for flute, harp and strings, a sonata for horn and piano, a half-dozen songs, and a piece for flute and piano, only a couple of the songs escaped a verdict of "charming blah."
From one point of view you could say that Koechlin simply came along at the wrong time, for a man who had plenty of musical training and technique, because he was an almost precise contemporary of Debussy and Ravel, and they made tough competition. What was heard yesterday was chamber music not as well writeen as that by Ernest Chausson and songs that were easily surpassed at one end by Massenet and at the other by Debussy.
It is not that there were not moments of a certain loveliness. The song, "Si tu le veux," though it should move more rapaidly than it did yesterday, is a minute and a half of exquisite writing. And "Soir Paien" begins with strong reminiscences of Debussy's "Bilitis" songs. But a minute and a half does not a composer make and the reminiscences quickly fade in the memory of the greater man.
From yesterday's performers were heard lots of notes, but little music to compel either lasting attention or the slightest desire to hear any of it again - except for that brief song.
There is still the possibility that the orchestral works will tell a different story. A final judgment should wait for them. But there is no indication at this point that the world, having heard so little of Koechlin, has missed a major or even a valuable minor composer. The concert was well presented by members of the Contemporary Music Forum.