Concert Review

Dutilleux The Shadows of Time & Bruckner 7th Symphony
LPO cond. Kurt Masur at the Royal Festival Hall, 4 December 1999.

This concert was part of a Regeneration series which aims to look beyond the apocalyptic catastrophes of the century now ending, towards future redemption. Dutilleux is the LPO's 1999/2000 Composer in Focus and will be featured in future concerts. This mini-festival, spread over a long period, includes such events as the Rudolf Valentino film Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse!

The programme for this concert includes a lengthy examination of The Apocalypse by Michael Haas, discussing "how music has tried to come to terms with the unimaginable". Henri Dutilleux's 5 Episodes for Orchestra (1995-97) uses a large orchestra with his characteristic refinement and allude to the Anne Frank diaries. Dutilleux is a slow composer, not prolific, and each of his works is fastidiously worked upon until he is fully satisfied.

At the centre of The Shadows of Time a child (Charlotte Faux in thiss performance) intones the words Why us? Why the star? Dutilleux seeks in this work to portray our turbulent century and reaches a pessimistic conclusion that man may not be succeeding in improving his lot on Earth. It runs continuously for about 25 minutes and made a positive impression as an expertly composed substantial orchestral work, though not necessarily in the above terms. Elusive perhaps, and needing to be heard more than once. There is a CD but it was unavailable at the Festival Hall or on request for critical purposes.

Bruckner's 7th received an engrossing performance, the LPO on fine form with the brass balanced expertly so as never to overwhelm the strings. Rhythms were lithe and Kurt Masur maintained scrupulous clarity. Burnished Wagner tubas with their bells raised, placed immediately behind the French horns, made a fine sight and an inspiriting sound.

Peter Grahame Woolf

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