Karl-Heinz Steffens Conducts Henri Dutilleux

Symphony No. 1; Deux sonnets de Jean Cassou; Métaboles

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COMPOSERS: Dutilleux
LABELS: Capriccio
ALBUM TITLE: Karl-Heinz Steffens Conducts Henri Dutilleux
WORKS: Symphony No. 1; Deux sonnets de Jean Cassou; Métaboles
PERFORMER: Paul Armin Edelmann (baritone); Deutsche Staatsphilharmonie Rheinland-Pfalz/Karl-Heinz Steffens
CATALOGUE NO: C 5242

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While the poet Jean Cassou was imprisoned in Toulouse for Resistance activities, he wrote 33 sonnets, published clandestinely in 1944. Henri Dutilleux, whose brother Paul spent five years in Stalag VIIIC, was attracted to the poems by their ‘contained lyricism, depth and rather abstract qualities’, and set two of them in 1954. The baritone Paul Armin Edelmann here delivers powerful and mostly accurate performances, holding his own in the first of these against some vivid brass writing. Elsewhere, though, the music suffers from rather weak (or weakly recorded) violin lines that are regularly obscured by both brass and woodwind. This partly contributes to a more general lack of bite in the faster or more aggressive passages.

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At the very beginning of Métaboles, the string pizzicatos sound rather limp instead of displaying the required ‘incantatory’ character, possibly inspired by Stravinsky’s Les noces, to which Paul Tortelier had taken Dutilleux when they were both students. Anyone who was ever driven by Dutilleux through Paris will know that he was not averse to speed, and here both ‘Incantoire’ and the scherzo of the First Symphony are too slow – the latter, at 6:30, one whole minute slower than Daniel Barenboim’s version (available now only as part of a four-disc set from Erato), which Dutilleux loved for its headlong pace (though just within the metronome indication). Roger Nichols