Dutilleux: Symphony No. 2 (Le double); Timbres, espace, mouvement ou ‘La nuit étoilée’; Métaboles

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COMPOSERS: Dutilleux
LABELS: Philips
WORKS: Symphony No. 2 (Le double); Timbres, espace, mouvement ou ‘La nuit étoilée’; Métaboles
PERFORMER: Orchestre de Paris/Semyon Bychkov
CATALOGUE NO: 438 008-2 DDD
Following hard on the heels of Chandos’s outstanding recording of Henri Dutilleux’s two symphonies, featuring the BBC Philharmonic under Yan Pascal Tortelier, comes this equally splendid performance of the Second. Subtitled ‘Le double’ on account of its ingenious textural organisation that intertwines a small group of solo instruments with the full orchestra, the Symphony manifests a wonderfully vivid use of colour inevitably recalling the sound worlds of Debussy and Ravel. Such influences were certainly emphasised in Tortelier’s remarkably sensuous interpretation. Bychkov, on the other hand, opts for a more linear sound, but secures similarly dynamic playing from the Orchestre de Paris.

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Since both approaches strike me as being perfectly valid, much depends on the couplings. Here Bychkov possibly has the edge by offering the 1991 revised version of Timbres, espace, mouvement, which includes a newly composed section of subterranean power scored for 12 solo cellos. This work, inspired by Van Gogh’s powerful painting La nuit étoilée, demonstrates a growing sophistication of harmonic language without sacrificing directness of expression. Like the brilliant Métaboles, it’s a veritable concerto for orchestra that manages to dazzle the ear while always challenging the mind. Erik Levi