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Henri DUTILLEUX (b.1916)
Symphony No. 2 (1959)
Métaboles * (1965)
Arthur HONEGGER (1892-1956)

Symphony No. 4 (1947)
Orchestre des Concerts Lamoureux
* Orchestre National de l’ORTF
conducted by Charles Münch
Recorded in Paris in 1967
WARNER ERATO 2564 60575-2 [72:20]


Charles Münch conducted the first performance of Dutilleux’s Second Symphony in December 1959 with the Boston Symphony Orchestra who had commissioned the work. Münch considered that his life’s mission was to champion new music. He remakred that: "the music of our century is an expression of the preoccupations, anxieties and trends of the world we live in and we ought to listen to it ... and become acquainted with new harmonies and forms." He valued the colourful and kaleidoscopic music of Dutilleux highly. From this reviewer’s point of view, his music is very approachable, there is always something to interest and hold my ear.

In his Second Symphony, Dutilleux divides the orchestra into two unequal groups to experiment with sonorities and their spatial distribution, in something of a game of mirrors. The music constantly shifts in focus and substance, moods changing constantly and spontaneously, at once gloomy, then bright, then classical then grotesquely cartoon-like, then jazz-inflected and, in the third movement, remote and celestial. You sense parodies of the styles of Richard Strauss and over-blown late Romanticism in general, of Bernard Herrmann, of George Gershwin, and of Stravinsky to name but a few.

Dutilleux’s Métaboles is a kind of concerto for orchestra in which a different section of instruments comes under the spotlight in each section. There are five movements ‘Incantatoire’, ‘Linéaire’, ‘Obsessionnel’ ‘Torpide’ and ‘Flamboyant’, each title giving a clue as to the general mood. ‘Torpide’ for instance with its brushed cymbal strokes, languid brass and ascending chattering woodwinds suggesting swarms of insects, might be a sultry portrait of the tropics.

Honegger’s Second and Third Symphonies had been premiered by Münch but he did not feel much drawn to the Fourth. This more serene Symphony with the Latin subtitle "Deliciae basilienses" (The Delights of Basel) was commissioned for the 20th anniversary of the foundation of Paul Sacher’s Basel Chamber Orchestra. It is a fitting companion to the Dutilleux works in this compilation. Again the textures and colours hold the ear. There is something oriental about the work as well as French-pastoral atmospheric - snatches of birdsong and vigorous folksong - plus Swiss melody associated with the city of Basel. The skilfully crafted orchestral texture is extremely transparent and the polyphony joyous.

Fine committed performances of very approachable modern music. The Dutilleux especially is very colourful, kaleidoscopic and quite addictive.

Ian Lace

 

 



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