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Henri DUTILLEUX (born 1916)
Tout un monde lointain (Cello Concerto) (1968-70) [29'01]
Witold LUTOSŁAWSKI (1913-1994)

Cello Concerto (1969/70) [23'14]
Mstislav Rostropovich (cello)
Orchestre de Paris/Serge Baudo (Dutilleux), Witold Lutosławski (Lutosławski).
Rec in the Salle Wagram, Paris, on November 5th-6th, 1974 (Dutilleux) and December 22nd-24th, 1974 (Lutosławski). [ADD]



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Mstislav Rostropovich has inspired a veritable treasure-trove of compositions for cello. This excellent disc presents two pieces by two vital but very different twentieth-century composers: Henri Dutilleux and Witold Lutosławski.

Henri Dutilleux is the author of a small but highly concentrated corpus of works. The idea of a Cello Concerto was originally suggested by Igor Markevitch in about 1960. Composition actually started late in the ’sixties, when the commission officially came from Rostropovich. Each of the concerto's five movements is headed by a quotation from Baudelaire. It was premiered in July 1970 by the artists on this recording.

Dutilleux has stated that the inspiration came from 'Un hémisphère dans une chevelure'. Each of the five movements has its own title: Enigme (Enigma); Regard (Gaze); Houles (Surges); Miroirs (Mirrors); Hymne (Hymn). Each is prefaced by a short quote which helps to suggest a mood. The actual title of the piece, 'Tout un monde lointain .' ('A whole distant world .') comes from the second stanza of the poem which 'generated' the central third movement.

The piece brings out Rostropovich's greatest qualities: the opening cadenza his lyrical side; the second movement his beautiful high register; the third movement his unparalleled virtuosity. Neither does he disappoint. Along with the enthusiastic and often sensuous support of the Orchestre de Paris under Baudo, there is a sense of discovery and responsibility here. The dynamic fifth movement (which recalls ideas from the previous four) suffers from some loss of orchestral detail because of occasional muffling of textures, but this is hardly enough to withhold a recommendation. In contrast, Boris Pergamenschikov with the BBC Philharmonic under Yan Pascal Tortelier on Chandos (CHAN9565) sits firmly on the surface, technically expert but no more. Pergamenschikov cannot draw the listener into Dutilleux's personal world like the ever-hypnotic Rostropovich can, and the complexities of the score coupled with a recording schedule that meant that the entire disc was recorded in two days (including 'Métaboles' and 'Mystère de l'instant') means that the whole has the aura of a run-through.

Rostropovich's coupling is inspired. Lutosławski's Cello Concerto dates from the same period. It was commissioned by the Royal Philharmonic Society and the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, and first performed at the Royal Festival Hall on October 14th, 1970, played by Rostropovich accompanied by the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra under Edward Downes. Rostropovich captures the work's often capricious and elusive nature perfectly. The opening cadenza is spell-binding (it is nearly four minutes before the orchestra enters). Rostropovich finds every opportunity for lyricism (and not only in the third part, 'Cantilena'). The orchestra revels in Lutosławski's compositional technique of controlled aleatorism (watching the conductor must be akin to watching a musical traffic warden). The meeting of the talents of Lutosławski and Rostropovich is a fortuitous one which must be heard.

This is an invaluable release.

Colin Clarke


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