This EMI release from 2001 where Michel Plasson conducts the Orchestre du Capitole de Toulouse in three pieces by Henri Dutilleux can safely be overlooked by classical music fans. For one, the recordings here were later reissued with several other Dutilleux works at budget price. But there are also quality issues with some of the music here.
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, 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. I am also familiar with the recording of the Second by Daniel Barenboim and the Orchestre de Paris on an Elatus reissue, but I find Plasson's reading superior.
"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. Dutilleux's music is lush but somehow transparent, mysterious but simultaneously luminous, and "Métaboles" represents this style without a single unnecessary note. However, Plasson's reading is hard to recommend. "Metaboles" is still best heard in the classic 1960s recording by available on an Apex disc. In spite of its age, that recording has better sound quality and Munch conducts at a much tighter pace.
"The Shadows of Time" for children's voices and orchestra (1995-97) is also cast in five movements, with an interlude between the third and fourth. They bear the evocative titles of "Les Heures", "Ariel maléfique", "Mémoire des ombres", "Vagues de lumière" and "Dominante bleue?" In the interlude, children's voices sing "Why us? Why the star?", an allusion to Anne Frank. While such an overt extramusical reference is something new in Dutilleux's generally abstract work, this is not one of his best pieces. It employs the same compositional structure as earlier pieces, but without the meat on these bones. Seiji Ozawa conducted the premiere of this piece, documented on an Elatus reissue, but I find this piece dull enough to impede comparing recordings.