DUTILLEUX: Tout un Monde Lointain (Cello Concerto). 3
Strophes Sur Le Nom De Sacher. L'Arbre Des Songs (Violin Concerto).
Truis Mork, cello; Renaud Capuçon, violin; French National Radio
Orch/Myung-Whun Chung, cond.
VIRGIN CLASSICS 55022 TT: 60:24
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ATTERBERG: Sinfonia per archi, Op. 53. Adagio amoroso for violin
and strings. Intermezzo. Prelude & Fugue. Suite No. 7, Op. 29.
Camerata Nordica/Ulf Wallin, violin and conductor
cpo 777 156 TT: 62:38
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Along with the late Olivier Messiaen, Henri Dutilleux kept alive a tradition
in French music dating back to Debussy (and to a lesser extent Ravel) that
seemed lost after WW2 when Pierre Boulez and his coterie – Gilbert
Amy and the Intercontemporain crowd – declared tonality, consonance
and three centuries of structural coherence dead. Or worse yet, irrelevant.
Since the death of Messiaen, dedicated to Roman Catholicism, bird calls,
and erotic splashes of sound, however, Dutilleux has been the doyen of
French composers: no matter that Boulez, as of this writing, is even older
and still active – conducting, however, rather than composing a mere
handful of pieces he keeps working on but no longer seems content (or should
the word be “able”?) to finish.
Dutilleux is both a fastidious and painstaking craftsman whose music does
not yield its beauties to casual listening. His catalog, while not large,
is invariably distinguished. The two concertos on this disc from Virgin
Classics – recorded in 2001 and available abroad heretofore – were
written 15 years apart: “Tout un Monde Lointain...” for cello
was commissioned by Mstislav Rostropovich, composed in 1968-70 and recorded
by EMI in 1974 with Serge Baudo conducting Orchestre de Paris. “L’Arbre
des Songes” for violin was commisioned by Isaac Stern and recorded
by him for Sony in 1985 (the year of its completion) with Loren Maazel
and the French National Orchestra. The three short solo pieces for cello
from 1976 and 1982 were a tribute to Paul Sacher, the Swiss Maecenas, on
the occasion of his 70th birthday – one of 12 works commissioned
by Rostropovich (even Boulez complied, but wrote for seven cellos, and
like Dutilleux added to his original at a later date).
The cello concerto in five movements takes its title (“A whole world,
far-off, absent, almost dead”) from Baudelaire’s Les Fleurs
de mal, and indubitably echoes Debussy despite a recurring main theme that
could have been an uncodified tone-row by Schoenberg, with outbursts of
orchestral violence in what is otherwise a tranquil “world.” Truls
M?rk’s performance is elegantly as well as eloquently refined without
sacrifice of tensile strength, preferable to Rostropovich’s typically
coarser playing on an a “Great Performances” CD from EMI that
couples Witold Lutoslawski’s concerto, also written for Rostropovich.
M?rk has the benefit of Myung-Whun Chung’s exquisite accompaniment
with the French Radio Philharmonic, gorgeously recorded by Radio France
in the Salle Messiaen. The violin concerto (its title in English is “The
Tree of Dreams”) has four movements separated by “Interludes” that
required nearly a decade to complete but is more explosively orchestrated
and markedly more muscular, full of tintinnabulation that ultimately recalls
the idiom of Takemitsu, likewise derived from Debussy. It can sound fiendishly
intricate yet exhilaratingly so, and is superbly played by Renaud Capuçon,
again with Chung’s hand-in-glove cooperation. I confess that the
disc needed several playings (the violin concerto eight in fact) to yield
a full quota of treasures, but remains a release of uncommon persuasion
and deep-rooted eloquence.
Comparatively, despite recorded sound that sustains cpo’s world-class
reputation, the disc of Atterberg’s (1887-1974) string music is not
in a class creatively with the best of his nine symphonies on that label.
Griegish in spirit, it is simple to the extent, almost, of trivia – this
despite first-class playing by the Camerata Nordica under violinist Ulf
Wallin’s direction. Swedish elevator music, one might say, strictly
for Atterberg completists.
R.D. (March 2006)