Henri DUTILLEUX: Orchestral Works [3 CD set, Tracklist follows] — Seattle Symphony — Media SSM1013, 78:29, 73:02, 60:23 [Distr. by Naxos] *****:
Riveting, magnificent, and superbly played.
Back in 2014 I was very happy with the first volume of this collected complete orchestral works of Henri Dutilleux, saying that “the orchestra sounds as full and technically proficient as it always did, with Maestro Morlot providing dignified and exceptionally educative leadership.” I cannot overplay the splendid nature of the sound here, truly exceptional. Robert Moon was even more elated in 2015, expressing very favorable response to this issue that contains the masterly Second Symphony, opining that “the performances and recording are superior, making this one of the best classical CDs of the year.”
Apparently, we never did receive the third volume of this series, and now we have it as part of the collected orchestral pieces. Dutilleux is a fantastic composer, though his long life belies the number of works composed. He was the expert craftsman, using only the requisite number of notes needed for any composition, no more, no less, and convinced that there is no such thing as merely marking time in music. Everything has purpose, reason, and effect. He has often been cited as having Maurice Ravel, Claude Debussy, Albert Roussel and Olivier Messiaen as influences, but for me, strangely enough, the most apt description is a cross between Debussy and Boulez, as odd as that sounds. The latter certainly becomes more understandable after hearing Dutilleux, that much is certain, even though Dutilleux objected to the more doctrinaire attitudes of the serialists.
Volume 3 is rich in contrast and stylistic quirkiness. Augustin Hadelich, marking his third appearance in this series, handles the nocturn, Sur le meme accord (on the same chord) with great aplomb. This work, far more than a mere nocturn, is more like a short concerto based on a repeated, or “fixed” idea introduced by the violin at the beginning of the piece. Les citations is a stunning work, the scoring for oboe, harpsichord, percussion, and double bass quite effective, and expanded from the original minus double bass that had been created at Benjamin Britten’s Aldeburgh Festival in 1985. Themes from Peter Grimes as well as composer Jehan Alain, who died in the German invasion of France 50 years earlier. The Renaissance to jazz influences add sparkle and brilliant color to the music.
Mystere de l’instant for strings, percussion, and cimbalom, is a work of 10 connected pieces that are each described by a title suggestive of the musical content, a sort of aural character piece. It was composed at the behest of Paul Sacher, in fact one of the last commissions that the famous conductor solicited. Timbres, espace, movement (ou “La nuit etoile”) translates Timbre, space, movement (or “The Starry Night”). It is a lush and highly depictive tone poem based on Van Gogh’s famous opus. Dutilleux makes impressive use of the varied sections of the orchestra to create sometimes curious effects of opposing sonorities that evoke a sense of mystery and indeterminate indefinability. The results of captivating from first to last in this three-movement work.
If you don’t know this composer, this is a great place to begin, and all others may well consider this set to be something of an indispensable issue.
Symphony No. 1
Tout un monde lointain (Cello Concerto)
The Shadows of Time
L’Arbre Des Songes “Tree of Dreams” (Violin Concerto),
Symphony No. 2 “Le Double”
Sur le meme accord
Mystere de l’instant
Timbres, espace, movement (ou “La nuit etoile”)