Debussy, Dutilleux, Ravel: La Mer, L’arbre des songes, La valse

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COMPOSERS: Debussy,Dutilleux,Ravel
LABELS: RCO Live
ALBUM TITLE: Debussy, Dutilleux, Ravel
WORKS: La Mer, L’arbre des songes, La valse
PERFORMER: Dmitry Sitkovetsky (violin); Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra/Mariss Jansons
CATALOGUE NO: RCO 08001

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Henri Dutilleux has explained the title L’arbre des songes by the way in which ideas ramify and are subtly extended. But this is not in any sense a prescriptive pattern and Dmitry Sitkovestsky’s strong masculine approach can in principle be justified by the firm, healthy trunk that any self-respecting tree needs to have. Dutilleux’s tree, though, is remarkable also for the delicacy of much of its foliage. To take one example, the soloist’s staccato triplets in the Vif section can be made to sparkle in the sunlight, as they are on the Chandos recording by Olivier Charlier. By contrast, Sitkovetsky’s rather scratchy tone here comes over as little more than dutiful. Also Jansons leads us less gently and poetically than Tortelier through the ritenuto and into the wonderful Lent third section. Overall this performance scores highly on accuracy, less so on delicacy and variety of colour. In La Mer, storms and spray are particularly vivid on SACD, marred only by a faulty balance at the end of the first movement, where the secondary flute figure overpowers the start of the chorale – a crucial moment. In general, the warmth of the Concertgebouow hall is better captured on Haitink’s 1976 Philips recording; compare too the placing of the work’s initial woodwind figure, where somehow Haitink immediately draws you in. While La Valse is vigorous and exciting, I do question the wisdom of accelerating quite so early and blatantly up to fig.46 (end of track 11), thereby pre-empting the ultimate rhythmic implosion that is the work’s raison d’être.