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Musical series – part 3 – I’m going to France

Henri Dutilleux


To a distant world

The works of Henri Dutilleux take center stage on this album by French cellist Emanuelle Bertrand. The cello concerto “Tout un Monde Lointain” (A very distant world) was written by Dutilleux between 1967 and 1970. The premiere was played by Mstislav Rostropovitch. Since then, the piece has been on a steady rise, with many recordings appearing in recent years.

In 1970, modern music sounded more modern than ever. It was the time of protest groups like ‘Aktie Tomaat‘ (Action with a ‘k’) in the theater world. An era when everything changed radically and so did the work of contemporary composers. Not so Dutilleux. Highly respected at home, winner of composition awards worldwide, under the radar outside the borders of France.

This is unjustified. A composer of class and teacher of many other composers. Someone who worked on his music at his own pace, detached from any fashion, and left behind a modest catalog of high quality work.

Emanuelle Bertrand gives an energetic performance of two of his works. Her performance of the solo piece “Trois Strophes sur le nom de Sacher” is absolutely spectacular. She lets her cello breathe, sing, whisper and growl. The Harmonia Mundi recording is made close to the cello. You can hear her breathing with it and working hard to conjure the music from under the bow; you can just barely feel the drops of sweat.

And despite the fact that you are sitting very close to the cello, the recording does not feel oppressive. An excellent piece of recording art. I bounce off the couch every time I hear it. Making music is work, audio is energy, and when the energy of that work pops out of the speakers it becomes a physical experience.

The performance and recording of the cello concerto is just as good. Keep the remote handy, because the dynamics of this recording are hefty. Between the works of Dutilleux, a sonata for cello and piano by Debussy can be heard. It emphasizes once again what a world of its own Debussy’s music is.

Dutilleux: Tout un Monde Lointain – James Gaffigan, Luzerner Sinfonieorchester, Emmanuelle Bertrand (cello), Pascal Amoyel (piano), Harmonia Mundi, 2015.

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