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.