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Dutilleux: Concertos - Orchestral Works CD

5.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review

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  • Audio CD (2 Jun. 2008)
  • SPARS Code: ADD
  • Number of Discs: 2
  • Format: CD
  • Label: EMI
  • ASIN: B0018OAP52
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 51,850 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)
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Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Dutilleux is a much-neglected composer: lovers of Ravel and Debussy should immediately warm to his music; others who are less sure about dipping a toe into contemporary music will find much to delight them. Although he will occasionally confront you with challenging dissonance, it's the wonderful tranquility and calmness that draws me back time after time.

This should be the go-to compilation for anyone starting out. The recordings of Metaboles and the Shadows of Time are, in my view, the best on the market at the time of writing. The 2013 Henri Dutilleux Retrospective is also worth considering (but is twice the price) and I particularly recommend the Lausanne Chamber Orchestra version of Mystere de l'Instant: Works for Piano - Denes Varjon, piano.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: HASH(0x91d90084) out of 5 stars 5 reviews
25 of 25 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x91bc1b28) out of 5 stars Dutilleux: Our greatest contemporary composer? 30 July 2008
By Kirk Falconer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
Is Henri Dutilleux the greatest classical composer of the late 20th and early 21st centuries? If such matters were subject to a poll, I suspect he'd get my vote.

Difficult to categorize, the comparatively few works of this French composer draw from several schools of modern music. Yet, at the same time, they seem to pick up where Debussy and Ravel left off. Dutilleux's music is richly sonorous, full of subtle colours and diaphanous textures. But it can also uniquely challenge the ear.

Perhaps an indication of Dutilleux's rising stock is this latest collection of major works, EMI's, which is the third, to my knowledge. The larger and highly polished Chandos collection with Yan Pascal Tortellier is, overall, tough to beat. However, EMI features other great conductors and orchestras, plus a few entries that are, in my view, also tough to beat.

First and foremost is the performance of Tout un monde lointain by cellist Mstislav Rostropovich, supported by Serge Baudo and the Paris Orchestra. Issued previously under EMI's "Great Recordings of the Century", this performance is remarkable for its power and insight. Over five movements, it emerges like a force of nature. While the concerto has been well recorded elsewhere, this version is like none other.

Another standout is The Shadows of Time performance of Michel Plasson and the Toulouse Orchestra. I have heard other recordings of this piece, including a renowned version conducted by Seiji Ozawa (on Erato). However, prior to Plasson, I never fully appreciated the special poetry of this work. The quality of the recording certainly helped.

Other strong performances include the violin concerto, L'Arbe des songes (Capucon and Chung) and Le Loup (Pretre), an interesting orchestral amalgam of pieces taken from an early ballet by Dutilleux.

Less impressive to me is the performance of Metaboles (Plasson again). It should be said, however, that I haven't heard many good recordings of this work, as most sound wooden and ungainly when compared against the standard set by Charles Munch (Apex).

No one collection can fully satisfy. While I wouldn't want to go without Chandos-Tortellier, the new EMI set is well worth the price for a few performances alone, and acts as a terrific introduction to a composer that lovers of music should know better.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x91bc1c30) out of 5 stars Great concerto recordings, but not "The Only Dutilleux You Need" 4 Sept. 2011
By Autonomeus - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Henri Dutilleux (1916-2013) was not prolific, but the quality of his small body of works is very high. He is a quintessentially French composer, obviously continuing in the vein of Debussy and Ravel with luscious orchestral textures and recurrent nocturnes with gauzy, oblique, fluid, drifting constructions. Dutilleux is a moderate modernist, maintaining continuity with the early 20th century and always maintaining a flowing, lyrical quality, reflecting his mystic vision of nature, even as he moves outside standard tonality.

This 2-disc EMI 20th Century Classics set certainly gives you a lot of music for not much money. And given that Dutilleux has not composed a huge body of work, you're actually getting a substantial chunk of everything he has written, so it makes a great introduction to a fine contemporary composer. However, given the omissions and other problems, it does not serve as The Only Dutilleux You Need, as one might hope.

The real strength of the set is the concertos, which are both among the finest available recordings. This is the original 1974 recording of the cello concerto, "Tout un Monde Lontain" (A Whole World Distant), played by Mstislav Rostropovich, for whom it was written, with Serge Baudo leading the Orchestre de Paris. There have been fine recordings since, but none have definitively surpassed Slava's original. The violin concerto "L'arbre des songes" (Tree of Songs), which was finished in 1985, is here given a terrific performance by Renaud Capucon, with Myung-Whun Chung leading the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France in 2001. This is one of Dutilleux's best pieces in my view, featuring a totally atonal score, more radical than the cello concerto, which nonetheless conveys his distinctive sensibility and is totally compelling. Capucon and Chung's recording is clearly a contender for best performance. (It is also still available on this Virgin disc.)

This set is missing Dutilleux's masterpiece, "Timbres, espace, mouvement," a 20-minute work completed in 1978, based on Van Gogh's "Starry Night." I recommend Tortelier's recording on Chandos. We do have a rarity, which some collectors might be interested in, "Le Loup -- fragments symphoniques," (15'53), an orchestral suite from Dutilleux's early ballet "The Wolf" in a 1961 performance. Quite rousing, it reflects the influence of Ravel and Roussel, but sounds nothing like the mature Dutilleux. In fact Dutilleux disowned the work, which explains why it is not included in the complete orchestral works recorded for either Chandos or Arte Nova.

The second disc, still available in its original form, includes three orchestral works performed by the Orchestre Naional du Capitole Toulouse, led by Michel Plasson, recorded in 1998 and 2001. The performance of "Metaboles" is good, though not the best available. "The Shadows of Time" is an interesting alternative to the excellent first recording by Ozawa and the Boston Symphony Orchestra, for whom it was written. Plasson's reading is more introspective and atmospheric, while Ozawa's conveys more energy and anger. Finally, another problem with this set is Plasson's "Symphony No. 2 "Le Double," finished in 1959, which I consider to be one of Dutilleux's finest works. This reading drags in many passages, is disjointed in others, and is generally quite inferior to either the Tortelier recording on Chandos or the Graf recording on Arte Nova.

If you begin to explore Dutilleux with this set my advice is simply don't stop here!
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x91bca6c0) out of 5 stars Entering the Rare Atmosphere of Henri Dutilleux 6 May 2011
By Grady Harp - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
Turning to resources who define the life and works of this strange but gifted composer results in the following statements: 'Henri Dutilleux (born 22 January 1916 in Angers, Maine-et-Loire) is one of the most important French composers of the second half of the 20th century, producing work in the tradition of Maurice Ravel, Claude Debussy, and Albert Roussel, but in a style distinctly his own. Although his output is relatively small, its quality and originality have won international acclaim.' It may take just a bit more time and exposure before this composer's idiosyncratic works attract the audience attention they so justly deserve. His primary concern is orchestral color and of that he is a master. This hefty 2 CD recording should be taken piece by piece as the lack of intervals in his pieces does not allow the gestation time in the mind to respond appropriately.

Dutilleux sound best in live performances in concert halls where the visual aspects of his massive orchestral resources play a major role in the appreciation of the spectrum of color and sound he can achieve. In a recent performance a the Los Angeles Philharmonic with Gustavo Dudamel and Leonidas Kavakos performing the 'L'arbre des donges' (the Tree of Dreams) the massive orchestra included a large percussion section including piano, celeste, harp, cimbalom, timpani, bongos, crotales, tubular bells, glockenspiel, suspended small cymbals, vibraphone, snare drum, tam-tams, and tom-toms in addition to the full orchestral complement of strings , woodwinds, brass etc etc. Astonishing to hear, and equally astonishing to experience. By far the most convincing performance on this recording is that of Renaud Capuçon wth the Orchestre Philharmonique De Radio France, Myung-Whun Chung conducting. This set would be worth the investment for this work alone as repeated exposure to this work will doubtless heighten appreciation for the work composed for Isaac Stern. Dutileux manages to make every instrument in the orchestra percussive (pointillistic) at times: strings are pizzicato, all percussive instruments dance, and out of the core of this plucked sound emerges a chorale for lush cellos. It is amazing to hear. Capuçon and Myung-Whun Chung capture it brilliantly! Grady Harp, May 11
HASH(0x91bcabe8) out of 5 stars Showcases Dutilleux's distinct style, but the recordings and/or works gathered here are not the best 21 Mar. 2015
By Christopher Culver - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
As EMI Classics was going belly up, they raided their enormous vaults and issued several budget-price collections dedicated to various composers. This particular Henri Dutilleux set is a decent showcase of the composer, as it has several of the composer's most well-known pieces. The only problem is that the recordings are not all the best, nor are some of the pieces.

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 Michel Plasson's reading here superior. He leads the Orchestre du Capitole de Toulouse. So, that's one point in favour of this set.

"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.

Dutilleux's 1969 cello concerto bears the title "Tout un monde lontain..." and is cast in five thematically interlocked movements: "Enigme", "Regard", "Houle", "Miroirs" and "Hymne". There is the continual reappearance in different guises of a basic theme, and well-placed orchestral tuttis. The soloist is not led through many extended techniques, but the part is nonetheless challenging (with huge glissandi) and there is a constant shift between arco and pizzicato. While this recording by Mstislav Rostropovich and the Orchestre de Paris conducted by Serge Baudo was long the reference recording (as was the Lutoslawski concerto with which it was originally issued), the sound is frustratingly cramped. The later BIS disc where Christian Poltéra performs the Dutilleux and Lutoslawski is my new reference recording for its fantastic sound (it's a hybrid SACD) and musicianship.

Dutilleux's 1985 violin concerto "L'Arbre des Songes" is performed here by soloist Renard Capuçon and the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France and Myung-whun Chung. I enjoy this piece. It is similar to Stravinsky's violin concerto in avoiding the long sweeping melodies of Romantic-era concertos, treating the instrument in a slightly more fractured way. Between the main movements are spooky interludes of pitched percussion, a very engaging form. This is, in my opinion, the best recording of the piece out there.

"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.

This disc will interest Dutilleux completists for "Le Loup", a 1953 ballet that is rarely performed. Georges Pretes leads the Orchestre de la Société des Concerts du Conservatoire. This is not a great work, however as it could have come from any number of French composers of the time and lacks Dutilleux's distinctive voice.

All in all, while this budget set may suffice as an introduction to Dutilleux, as you can readily hear what sets him apart from other 20th-century composers, listeners who come to enjoy his music will want to then move on to competing recordings and some other, sometimes better pieces.
1 of 6 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x91bcac00) out of 5 stars Good performances of bla music 8 July 2013
By Books n' music fan - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
I was hoping that this music would sound better to my ears 25 years later. It doesn't. Good playing on these discs. Good price too.
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