I was saddened by the news that Henri Dutilleux passed away recently. Henri Dutilleux (1916-2013) was a French composer, who despite his age, was not a very prolific composer. His work is challenging and won't appeal to all listeners, I have therefore categorised this post as "Expert". Those with an interest in 20th century classical music will be rewarded with sound worlds that are strangely intriguing and appealing (may require a bit of effort and repeated hearings). Guaranteed to have you asking "how did he do that?"
This post is intended as a celebration of one of my favourite Dutilleux compositions. The cello concerto 'Tout un monde lointain" (A whole distant world) from 1970, is one of Dutilleux's best loved works. It was commissioned by the great Russian cellist, Mstislav Rostropovich, and ranks among the great cello concertos of the 20th century. The concerto consists of five movements as follows:
1. Enigme (Très libre et flexible)
2. Regard (Extremement calme)
3. Houles (Large et ample)
4. Miroirs (Lent et extatique)
5. Hymne (Allegro)
Rostropovich gave the first performance of the concerto and recorded it thereafter. This recording, with Rostropovich and Orchestre de Paris, conducted by Serge Baudo, is and remains the benchmark against which other performances are and will be measured. Rostropovich plays with conviction and command. These days, it is a rare and wonderful treat to hear a piece of music played by a performer who has interacted/collaborated with the composer. Rostropovich, who commissioned and premiered approximately 117 new works, gives this concerto a compelling performance, which is endlessly rewarding.
Links to the recording:
Below is a performance of the first movement, with Xavier Phillips on the cello.