Dutilleux: Symphony No. 2 (Le double); Métaboles; The Shadows of Time

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COMPOSERS: Dutilleux
LABELS: Arte Nova
WORKS: Symphony No. 2 (Le double); Métaboles; The Shadows of Time
PERFORMER: Bordeaux Aquitaine National Orchestra/Hans Graf
CATALOGUE NO: 74321 80786 2
Henri Dutilleux’s originality doesn’t lie on the surface; it reveals itself as one gets to know the music. On the face of it he seems easy to categorise as a composer who found a happy compromise between postwar modernism and French tradition – between Boulez and Ravel (or the more conservative Albert Roussel), you might say. In fact the combination of luminous, subtly shifting soundscapes and controlled energy in the Second Symphony and Métaboles isn’t like anybody else. There’s a sense of freedom, too, which implies a composer following his own course rather than simply trying to steer a middle way. The fire doesn’t burn quite as brightly in the later, avowedly pessimistic The Shadows of Time – and the lamenting children’s chorus feels like a bit of an intrusion (the singing could be a lot more impassioned); but there are still striking sounds and ideas. The recording brings some details well forward and keeps other distant – a strange aural perspective, but not fatally so. And the performances make up in energy and purpose for what they occasionally lack in refinement. Dutilleux can be more exquisite, but I’ve never heard him more exciting. Stephen Johnson