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S & H International Concert Review

Dutilleux, Orchestre de Paris, Salle Pleyel, May 29,2002 (FC)



It was like a combination of an 1860s 'Academic Festival' and a 1960s 'love-in" when the Orchestre de Paris, under Music Director Christroph Eschenbach, devoted an entire evening in celebration of the music of Henri Dutilleux. There has been recent upsurge in his music in the major music halls, including an April world premiere of his new violin concerto by Anne-Sophie Mutter and the London Philharmonic. The capacity audience at Salle Pleyel gave Dutilleux, considered one of the top contemporary composers, a standing ovation at the conclusion of this evening of rare emotion and pleasure.

Looking surprisingly fit for someone in his mid-80s (does he dye his hair?), he has always followed his own path and, as this program illustrated, has composed an impressive body of work with a distinctive stamp. Unlike Boulez and others, he avoided the atonal 'international school' of contemporary composition and his roots in - and debts to - early Twentieth Century French music are unmistakable. This is not to say that his music is in any way "easy." The always-complex rhythms and melodies that appear for a few seconds and then leave only memories are a challenge to any modern orchestra or audience. But the rewards of familiarity with his music are manifold and the works presented here are a fine sample of his unique genius.

To assist in this celebration, Eschenbach invited two important young virtuoso stars to present concertos for cello and violin. Norwegian Cellist Truls Mork gave an impassioned and introspective reading of "Tout un monde lointain..." Composed in the late 1960s and premiered by Rostropovitch, it is a wide-scale and passionate cello concerto which makes considerable musical challenges on the soloist. The equally vital Violin Concerto of 1979-85, "L'arbre des songes," was given vivid expression and meaning in the hands of the very gifted 26-year-old Renaud Capuáon. A recording by the same artists of these concertos was recently released on Virgin Classics with the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France and Myung-Whun Chung.

The concert began with the atmospheric 1978 work, "Timbres, espace, movement" scored for an orchestra with an augmented percussion section, but with only the cellos and double bass compliment of the strings. The final work was the magisterial "Métaboles" of 1961-64. One of his great works for orchestra, it was played with special intensity by Eschenbach and the orchestra. It was a tribute to the recent advances of this ensemble that all the works were played with splendid polish and élan.

Frank Cadenhead

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