Opus 52 is Koechlin’s most extended and ambitious work for the flute. His designation ‘Sonata for piano and flute’ acknowledges the substantial role of the piano—much of the first movement requires three staves for Koechlin’s far-reaching chordal progressions. He perhaps felt that his writing taxed the expressive and coloristic resources of the piano, for he briefly contemplated an arrangement of Op 52 for flute and orchestra. In the first two movements, Jan Merry’s ‘restrained emotion’ prevails—each rises only briefly to mezzoforte, and numerous performance indications encourage both players to a maximum of expressive variety within a prevailingly soft dynamic range. The improvisatory yet shapely melodic line, and the luminous harmonies with which the piano supports them, combine in a voice distinctively Koechlin’s own. In the Finale, restraint yields to an exuberant contrapuntal romp which grows out of the interval of a falling fourth. After an interlude recalling the mood of the first movements, the triplet motion steals back in, building this time to a brilliant conclusion. Koechlin dedicated the sonata to the pianist Jeanne Herscher-Clément, who premiered the work with Adolphe Hennebains, professor at the Paris Conservatory.
from notes by Fenwick Smith © 1990