Reviews and occasional notes on classical music

Reviews and occasional notes on classical music

For the past five years or so I've posted reviews of classical music CDs, DVDs and Blu-rays, in various places on the web: Amazon.com, iTunes and other sites. I'll collect those earlier reviews, and add four or five new ones every month.

"Music, both vocall and instrumental, so good, so delectable, so rare, so admirable, so super excellent, that it did even ravish and stupifie all those strangers that never heard the like." - Thomas Coryat, after hearing 3 hours of music at the Scuola di San Rocco in Venice, 1608.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Great release from a new label

From May 19, 2014:


The 31-year old Henri Dutilleux renounced all of his music written before his Op. 1 piano sonata in 1947-48. His 1st Symphony followed in 1951, so it can be considered a piece of his early maturity. His writing for orchestra is, however, completely assured. There is a feeling that not a single note is out of place, and that the Symphony is unfolding in the real world exactly as Dutilleux imagined it.

The work has a simple and logical structure, slowly fading in to a Passaglia in the first movement, quickly gaining momentum in a Scherzo, extending this forward momentum in the 3rd movement Intermezzo, and fading out at the end of the Finale with variations. The orchestration is meticulous, and the sound world seems French to me - Ravel and Messiaen come to mind. Dutilleux’s symphonies are well represented on disc, with excellent versions from Tortelier/BBC and Graf/Bordeaux. Ludovic Morlot and the Seattle Symphony don’t let down the composer at all in the first symphony; I hope they’ll follow up with the second soon!

A cello concerto in all but name, Tout un monde lointain from 1970 has even more excellent versions on CD, including recordings by Lynn Harrell, Martyn Hill, and the cellist who inspired the work, Mstislav Rostropovich. Xavier Phillips has the measure of the piece in this performance; his playing is controlled but not too careful, and the orchestral support from the Seattle players is excellent.

Conductor Ludovic Morlot completes an outstanding recording by leading the orchestra through a dramatic and inspired live recording of the 1997 piece for orchestra and children’s voices, The Shadows of Time. The excitement of this work is enhanced by the lifelike, transparent sound provided by the engineers of the new Seattle Orchestra Media label. This Dutilleux disc is one of three discs in the inaugural release from the label. I look forward to listening to the other two (Ravel/Saint-Saens and American composers), and future recordings as well.

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