Henri Dutilleux (1916-2013) studied with Jean (1878-1959) and Noël (1891-1966) Gallon, Henri Büsser (1872-1973) and Maurice Emmanual (1862-1938) at the Paris Conservatoire where he was later appointed professor. From early influences of Debussy, Ravel, Roussel and Honegger he developed his own style in a relatively small output of works that include two symphonies, orchestral pieces, piano music, a string quartet and songs.
It is a number of early orchestral works and song cycles by Dutilleux that appear on a new release from BIS Records www.bis.se featuring Pascal Rophé www.kajimotomusic.com/en/artists/k=150/ and the Orchestre National des Pays de la Loire www.onpl.fr with baritone Vincent Le Texier www.vincentletexier.com The works on this new disc all date from the 1940s and 1950s and include some premiere recordings.
Le Loup (The Wolf) complete ballet score (1953) was composed between Dutilleux’s two symphonies and was first performed at the Théâtre de l’Empire in Paris in March1953. A variation on the theme of Beauty and the Beast, Premier Tableau open with percussion before the orchestra rises in a vibrant fast moving rhythmic theme with a rather 1930s French feel. Woodwind have their moments and a piano is heard in an often swirling orchestral sound. Soon the music falls quieter and slower to a little passage for woodwind before moving forward through ever changing, always vividly orchestrated, fresh ideas. This music is sometimes rhythmic, sometimes flowing often with moments of drama. Later deep brass appear in a wonderfully conceived passage. Dutilleux finds some really fine instrumental colours.
Deuxième Tableau is a beautifully soft, textured section, flowing forward with a wonderful weaving of instrumental ideas. The music rises up but soon falls to a quieter, rather mysterious flowing passage, always keeping a fine narrative line, an ever changing and developing flow of ideas. The music moves through passages of more incisive drama with a steady rhythmic drum beat over which wind rise. There is a faster rhythmic section with dynamic brass, rising to a gong stroke which leads us into the final tableau.
Troisième Tableau brings a flowing romantic melody, rather wistful in nature, Pascal Rophé and the orchestra finding a lovely flowing lilt before a bounding rhythmic pulse to lead forward in some rather Stravinskian passages. The more flowing theme re-appears but with a rhythmic pulse, soon building even faster until the gong cuts the music off with a rather sinister passage emerging. However, the music finds its gentle poise to move slowly to the coda which picks up a rhythm to end more dynamically on a drum beat.
It is difficult not to get drawn along by Dutilleux’s ever changing ideas and colourful orchestration.
Baritone Vincent Le Texier joins Pascal Rophé and the Orchestre National des Pays de la Loire for Dutilleux’s Trois Sonnets de Jean Cassou (1954) beginning with a first recording of the orchestral version of Éloignez vous (Stay away). There is a dramatic, striding opening as this rich baritone enters bringing a strong delivery to this setting, the orchestra again providing many colours in the flowing, atmospheric orchestration. Brass and woodwind in a rhythmic theme open Il n'y avait que Des troncs déchirés… (There were only torn trunks…) to which Le Texier adds a finely shaped text, full of carefully controlled emotion, adding much drama as he rises to an intense peak. This is very finely sung. J'ai rêvé que je vous portais entre mes bras… (I dreamed that I carried you in my arms…) is a subdued, often dark song that slowly weaves its way forward with some particularly fine instrumental moments and this baritone bringing the most lovely control and emotion, often conjuring a haunting atmosphere.
These are very distinctive songs, beautifully scored and wonderfully performed.
The extracts from Dutilleux’s score for the film, La Fille du Diable (The Daughter of the Devil) (1945-46) released in April 1946, receive their premiere recording on CD. A crime story by Henri Decoin, the lively Prélude rises up with the sound of the Ondes Martinot as the music sweeps forward before finding a rhythmic pulse soon overtaken by a romantic flowing melody. It rises to a peak before falling at the end.
Une promenade qui finit mal (A walk that ends badly) has a gentle yet fast moving rhythmic theme around which various instruments weave adding a transparent, light texture. Dutilleux brings some quite unusual ideas, textures and colours.
Pastorale is unexpectedly light and fast moving, bringing some beautifully woven instrumental textures. A beautifully done piece.
With Une fête au château. Valse (A party at the castle. Waltz) Dutilleux provides us with, as its title implies, a gentle waltz, again finely orchestrated.
Une poursuite dans la nuit (A lawsuit in the night) finds the waltz speeding to a point when, with a harp, the music falls to a sinister marching tune underpinned by side drum and ending on a bass drum.
Épilogue opens with a rather funereal slow march that slowly rises up, maintaining a steady rhythm to the coda with the Ondes Martenot heard behind adding a sinister touch.
It is apparent here that even in his film scores Dutilleux always adds some especially fine, unusual ideas, colours and textures.
Quatre Mélodies for voice and orchestra (1941-43) is heard here in the first recording of its orchestral version. Quatre Mélodies brings together settings of four poets beginning with Anna de Noailles’ Regards sur l'infini (Glance infinity) that brings a slow, mellow orchestral opening to which Baritone Vincent Le Texier adds a very fine vocal line. The music slowly rises in its gentle anguish, always retaining its gentle flow, underpinned by a pulse in the basses. After rising to a peak it falls to a lovely orchestral coda.
Féerie au clair de lune (Fairyland moonlight) is a setting of Raymond Genty. It has a playful orchestral opening before this baritone shows his versatility by bringing an equally spry playfulness. At times the orchestra find some rather jazzy inflections with Pascal Rophé, the orchestra and Vincent Le Texier responding together perfectly. This is an exquisite setting.
Le Texier brings a deeply felt account of Dutilleux’s setting of Edmond Borsent’s Pour une amie perdue (For a lost friend) rising in passion through its short duration, the orchestra bringing a sense of desolation.
Funérailles de Fantasio (Funeral of Fantasio) lighten the mood with both orchestra and soloist finding a buoyant, light-hearted quality to the humorous text ‘Snatched by death while in fancy dress, Poor Fantasio…buried on a carnival night’ a setting of a poem by André Bellessort. A terrific end to this set.
Trois Tableaux Symphoniques (1944-46) are drawn from Dutilleux’s music for a stage adaptation of Emily Brontë’s novel Wuthering Heights staged at the Théâtre Hérbertot in Paris in 1945. Receiving is premiere recording on CD it opens with Dans la lande (On the moor) rises in a pensive theme through which the cries of the Ondes Martenot are heard, the orchestra weaving a drama until a cymbal crash. The Ondes Martenot is then revealed more clearly bringing its strange melancholy aura through passages of increasing drama. An oboe joins in a slower, sad passage, Dutilleux achieving some wonderful textures and colours as he leads us to the coda.
La marche du destin (The march of fate) open with a slow plodding march out of which there are orchestral flourishes and wild cries from the Ondes Martenot. At times the Ondes Martenot almost imitates a live creature in this quite extraordinary piece. All the while the lower strings maintain a steady beat over which the rest of the orchestra weave their drama with the cries of the Ondes Martenot, until just the plodding lower strings are left to fade away.
Épilogue (Mort de Cathy) (Epilogue - Death of Cathy) also has a rhythmic pulse but gains a faster tempo with orchestral swirls and an increasing feeling of tension. As the music builds on dynamics the Ondes Martenot is heard again bringing a strange flowing motif. A flute takes over to lead ahead, soon joined by a solo violin. Low strings and piano remind us of the darker pulse, over which woodwind weave their theme before finding a gentle coda as the Ondes Martenot rises up.
Pascal Rophé and the Orchestre National des Pays de la Loire provide first rate performances with baritone Vincent Le Texier proving to be a terrific soloist in this rewarding disc of Dutilleux works.
The recording from the Auditorium Brigitte Engerer, Lycée Mandela, Nantes, France on SACD is excellent. There are excellent booklet notes as well as full French texts and English translations.