This old Erato disc features three orchestral works from French-speaking composers that rather typify the French tendency to colourful timbres and rich orchestration. Charles Munch conducts the Orchestre National de l'ORTF and the Orchestre de Concerts Lamoreux.
Henri Dutilleux's Symphony No. 2 (1959) bears the title "Le Double", for it pairs the orchestra with a smaller ensemble that holds up a (distorted) mirror. Unfortunately, this confrontation doesn't come across at all on disc. While no doubt a brilliant work, by missing what is essentially the symphony's key aspect, one will only hear three movements of generic Dutilleux soundscapes. That's not entirely a bad thing, as this is mature Dutilleux, It's a rich, captivating soundworld of winds and strings, peppered by mysterious harpsichord and aggressive drums. It's nocturnal in mood, somehow combining total transparency with a sense of mystery. But it's not quite what the composer intended.
Dutilleux's next orchestral piece, the rather shorter "Métaboles" (1959-64), is a tour de force. A study in development, this piece brings the material organically through different moods, progressing without breaks over 5 movements titled "Incantatoire", "Linéaire", "Obsessionnel", "Torpide", "Flamboyant". Each of the movements features a different grouping of instrumentation, giving the piece the feel of a concerto for orchestra. This 1960s recording is the place to hear the piece; Munch conducts at a much tighter pace and the sound quality is superior to the EMI recording with Michel Plasson and the Orchestre National du Capitole de Toulouse.
Arthur Honneger's Symphony No. 4 "Deliciae Basiliensis" (1947) features traditional tunes from Basel and environs. The first movement's juxtaposition of various sections and use of a glockenspiel, to my ears at least, evokes the score to a Christmas-themed film. Honneger's late (or sometimes downright mid) Romanticism in this symphony is not really my thing, as I'm more a fan of modernism. I'll have to leave it to other reviews to judge the merits of this piece for listeners who prefer this kind of repertoire.
All in all, one is probably better off getting the Honneger symphony and Dutilleux's "Métaboles" on a budget reissue in Warner's Apex line. Dutilleux's Symphony No. 2 is problematic, but a two-disc EMI set combines a recording of this work with some other, more worthwhile Dutilleux.