Koechlin Seven Stars’ Symphony Still Shines

French composer Charles Koechlin was, among other things, an avid film buff. So it’s not surprising that he would draw inspiration from movie stars to create a symphony. The resulting Seven Stars’ Symphony proved to be his best-known work. 

Koechlin wrote the symphony in 1933. Each of the seven movements presents an impression of a famous movie star of the silent era. Some, such as Marlene Dietrich, Greta Garbo, and Charlie Chaplin retained their popularity. Lilian Harvey, Emil Jannings, Douglas Fairbanks, and Clara Bow have not.

Koechlin’s portrayals are impressionistic. This, I think, helps the work transcend its origins. I don’t need to know who Lilian Harvey was to be charmed by Koechlin’s minuet fugue. 

Each movement represents a different star, so there’s very little thematic continuity between them. This makes the work episodic. But since Koechlin was such a fine orchestrator, it doesn’t matter. His music beguiles the ear, as it moves from star to star. 

The Sinfonieorchester Basel is directed by Ariane Matiakh. The recorded sound is quite good. Koechlin has some very subtle orchestral effects that are captured in this recording. 

It doesn’t matter if you’re well-versed in Silent Era films or not. The Seven Stars’ Symphony stands on its own musical merits. 

Charles Koechlin: The Seven Stars’ Symphony, Op. 132
Vers la voûte étoilée, Op. 129
Sinfonieorchester Basel; Ariane Matiakh, conductor
Capriccio C5449

Tags: , , , , , , ,


Become a Sponsor

Underwriting WTJU is a way to broadly share information about your business. It’s also a way for your business or organization to gain community-wide recognition for your support of WTJU’s community mission.

Underwrite a Program


Your gift nourishes our community and helps bring people together through music.

Underwrite a Program