La Méditation de Purun Baghat Op. 159, symphonic poem
Charles Koechlin – La Méditation de Purun Baghat Op. 159, symphonic poem
(b. Paris, November 27, 1867 — d. Le Canadel, Var, France, December 31, 1950)
Op. 159 (1936)
Koechlin’s symphonic poem Meditation of Purun Baghat is part of a loose cycle of works based on stories from Kipling’s Jungle Book (1894) and written under five opus numbers (Three Poems Op. 18, The Spring Running Op. 95 (in four parts), The Meditation of Purun Bhagat, Op.159, The Law of the Jungle, Op.175, Les Bandar-Log, Op.176). The nature of Koechlin’s engagement with Kipling’s Jungle Book is unparalleled in the history of western music. No other composer wrote this type of music while engaging with this kind of literary work over such a long period of time. The composition of symphonic works based on Kipling’s Jungle Book occupied Koechlin on and off for a period of over 40 years, that is, from 1899, when he first discovered the work in French translation, until 1940 when he completed the cycle. This project was fruitful bringing forth what is arguably Koechlin’s magnum opus. The premier of the work finally took place in 1946, having been postponed from the original date in 1940 on account of the second world war. It was thus heard for the first time only a few years before the composer’s death in 1950.
Koechlin was attracted to Kipling’s Jungle Book because, as he explained, “There is in it a sense of nature, youthfulness, health, an astonishing form of life which illuminates the soul of one who reads (and understands) this book” (Commentaires sur mes compositions, 1916). Koechlin, a great lover of film (and film stars), was no doubt drawn to the Jungle Book for the same reasons that generations of filmmakers have been charmed by its delightful and often didactic stories (films based on the book have been released at an ever-increasing tempo since 1942). Mowgli’s friendships with animals and the liberty of his life in the jungle efface human alienation from nature and explore possibilities of life beyond the mores of decadent society. Moreover, the vital curiosity of youth engaged in adventure is inherently dramatic. It is as if Koechlin’s dramatic sensibilities inspired him to pre-emptively write scores for films not yet made. …
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