WORKS: Violin Concerto (L’arbre des songes); Cello Concerto (Tout un monde lointain…)
PERFORMER: Pierre Amoyal (violin), Lynn Harrell (cello), Orchestre National de France/Charles Dutoit
CATALOGUE NO: 444 398-2 DDD
Dutilleux is an expert dreamer: his deepest debts are to that strain in Debussy which envisaged music as ‘continuous arabesque’. He composes nocturnal mysteries, carrying impressionism into new realms of refinement. In his two string concertos the underlying structures, often elegantly patterned or symmetrical, conceal themselves beneath a ceaseless play of glinting colour and filigree ornamentation, the textures deliquescent and phantasmagorical. The solo parts seek greater stability and definition only so that, like exotic birds in a teeming forest, they can fly faster, perform more prodigious leaps and swoops than the other instruments.
The Cello Concerto has been memorably recorded by its dedicatee, Rostropovich, for EMI: Lynn Harrell’s basic stance is slightly more matter-of-fact, his virtuosity less phosphorescent, but it’s a fine account of this elusive work and if anything Dutoit and Decca bring out the orchestral palette more vibrantly. In the more recent Violin Concerto Dutilleux’s concern with timbre leads him to create a tinkling continuo of tuned percussion which stands in direct contrast to Amoyal’s warm and passionate tone. The work was written for Isaac Stern, whose Sony recording I don’t know, but this new version is certainly impressive, and I can’t imagine any admirer of this lifelong, utterly French individualist being dissatisfied.