No one disputes that Henri Dutilleux is one of the great figures in twentieth century French music, a composer whose distinctive voice resonates with the heritage of Ravel, but has no direct, discernable connection to that style, nor that of his contemporary Messiaen or anyone else for that matter -- he is his own man. One thing Dutilleux does not care to reveal much about, however, is his early compositions, mainly those dating from before the groundbreaking Sonate pour piano, Op. 1 (1948), written when he was 32; rather late considering Dutilleux won the Prix de Rome with a cantata he composed at age 21. No one living, other than Dutilleux himself, has heard that cantata, but a few of his chamber compositions of early years are collected on Indesens' Henri Dutilleux: Pages de Jeunesse (Youthful Pages). Some of these pieces will prove familiar to devotees of the instruments for which they are written, as they have often been combined in multicomposer recitals devoted to said instruments -- the Sonatine for flute and piano (1943) can easily be considered as part of the major repertoire for the flute. However, what makes this Indesens collection unusual is to see all of these works on the same disc together. They are played, in all cases, expertly well by soloists drawn from the L'Orchestre de Paris, particularly the Choral, Cadence et Fugato for trombone and piano (1950) as played by Daniel Breszynski -- it is not easy to make a trombone solo sound light, buoyant, and colorful, and he does so. The piano accompaniment is provided throughout by Pascal Godart, who is tactful, restrained, and supportive in the company of other soloists, reserving the fireworks for his interpretation of the Sonate pour piano itself.
All of the music here has an authentic ring to it, and as a whole, Indesens' Henri Dutilleux: Pages de Jeunesse (Youthful Pages) is a very satisfying program in giving a clear indication of what kind of composer Henri Dutilleux was in the 1940s. A good deal of this time he spent serving in the resistance and, after the war, working as a radio producer; Dutilleux was only able to assume music composition as a full-time activity in the 1950s, and clearly the later work is what he would be preferred to be remembered for. Nevertheless, his early efforts as heard here are all top drawer, and these performances show them off to their best aspect.