Aureole etc.

Golden Age singers

Nimbus on-line

Faure songs
Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett


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Henri DUTILLEUX (b. 1916)
Symphony No. 1 (1951) [29.25]
Symphony No. 2 Le Double (1959) [28.27]
Orchestre de Paris cond. Daniel Barenboim
rec. Jan-Feb 1987, Salle Pleyel, Paris. DDD
WARNER CLASSICS ELATUS 2564-60334-2 [58.15]

Dutilleux has not been a prolific producer. Far from it. There have been less than a dozen works to date.

The First Symphony was premiered by the French National Orchestra conducted by Roger Désormière on 7 June 1951. It has an instinctive symmetry with a fast and belligerent scherzo (II) typical of the outburst movements that appear in the Panufnik symphonies (e.g. Elegiaca). This is flanked by a reflective Passacaille and Intermezzo written in a style that seems to develop from the more elysian passages in The Rite of Spring. The apocalyptic brass writing in the fourth movement is surely influenced by the highly original William Schumann in his violin concerto and third symphony. Finally the symphony sings itself, almost sweetly and certainly warmly, back into the shadows from which it emerged. That bathing in comfort can also be heard in the final pages of the Second Symphony.

The Second Symphony was completed on the brink of the 'sixties - a decade of kicking over the traces of conventions and establishing new ones. It was premiered by the Boston Symphony with Charles Munch on 11 December 1959 then again in Besançon on 7 September 1960. The more intimate string and solo wind writing is again linked to the example of Stravinsky in The Rite with added flavour from the harpsichord ... and this idea appears with variant treatment in each of the three movements lending symphonic cohesion. The orchestra is treated as two concertante entities (hence Double) with the two wrestling, competing, holding up distorting mirrors to each other, interacting. The sense of separation is probably more apparent if you are following with a score. Left to your own aural devices you would not pick this up. The finale has a joyous life-affirming dimension which occasionally reminded me of Walton's caustic writing for brass in the Second Symphony. Its sharp rhythmic life is accentuated by the harpsichord and solo voices from the orchestra; Dutilleux scores seethe with detailing and incident. The ending glances towards the misty aubade images of Ravel's Rapsodie Espagnole.

The recordings have plenty of clarity and atmosphere with details emerging pleasingly and demonstrative writing rendered with impact. One minor point: I noticed a burbling noise at the end of track 7 after the symphony had ended. A minor distraction.

I am not familiar with alternative recordings but none with this coupling will be at Elatus's bargain price. In their own right the recordings have a tranced commitment that makes it unlikely they will be bettered elsewhere.

Rob Barnett


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