French composer Henri Dutilleux has had impressive creative longevity, continuing to issue new works well into his nineties. The lead item on this release, Correspondances, was composed in 2003, when he was a mere 87. It is an orchestral song cycle, a genre that Dutilleux had not yet taken up until that time. The work was written for soprano Dawn Upshaw, who sang the premiere but was unable to record it. Dutilleux heard a performance of the work by the present forces and suggested to conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen that he make a recording, even writing a new finale for soprano Barbara Hannigan. So you can be reasonably sure you're getting the composer's vision of the music here. Salonen has been a major champion of Dutilleux's free brand of serialism, which may prove a tough slog for general listeners even though his work is more linked to extramusical content than is the case for most other composers in the serial orbit. The Shadows of Time (1997) includes three boy soloists in a chilling third movement dedicated to the memory of Anne Frank. The title of Correspondances refers both to a Baudelaire poem about synaesthesia and to the fact that two of the songs are settings of letters, one from Vincent van Gogh to his long-suffering brother Theo, and the other from Alexander Solzhenitsyn to cellist Mstislav Rostropovich and his wife, singer Galina Vishnevskaya. These works, and the central and much earlier "Tout un monde lointain," a sort of cello concerto forged from Dutilleux's subtle style, contain unique effects of texture and line that emerge on repeated hearings, and in all, this is probably a good place to start in sampling Dutilleux's difficult late style.
AllMusic Review by James Manheim
|Correspondances, for soprano and orchestra|
|"Tout Un Monde Lointain...", for cello and orchestra|
|The Shadows of Time, five episodes for orchestra (with three children's voices)|