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Dutilleux: Tout Un Monde Lointain; Dusapin: Outscape

Dutilleux: Tout Un Monde Lointain; Dusapin: Outscape

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Victor Julien-Laferrière, winner in 2017 of the first Queen Elisabeth International Music Competition of Belgium dedicated to the cello, presents here two French works for cello and orchestra: Outscape by Pascal Dusapin: "The title itself carries the musical project (...) a word rich in meaning that indicates a variety of meanings from the most common to the most philosophical. “Outscape” is the way or opportunity to escape, to invent a path of one's own. I liked this word because it is basically like a summary of the history of my work." Alongside this work composed in 2015 and here recorded in its world premiere (conducted by Kristiina Poska), the French cellist, the Orchestre National de France, this time conducted by David Robertson, celebrate Henri Dutilleux (who died just 10 years ago, on 22 May 2013), with his famous concerto, whose title is taken from a poem in Baudelaire's Les Fleurs du mal, La Chevelure: " A whole far-away world, absent, almost defunct"...


Tout un monde lointain… finds Dutilleux at his stealthiest – not least in the first of its five continuous movements, ‘Énigme’, to whose refractory changes of mood JulienLaferrière is as attentive as he is to the probing inwardness of ‘Regard’ and the plangent dialogue of ‘Houles’. Nor is he afraid of mining a deeper vein of expression than many in the shimmering vistas of ‘Miroirs’, before ‘Hymne’ brings this Baudelaire-inspired sequence to an energetic if ultimately equivocal conclusion.

The numerous possible meanings of Dusapin's Outscape (2015), are reflected in the timbral and textural interplay of music where a corresponding emotional intensity gradually takes precedence. Even in the dramatic final stage, an interiorized quality remains foremost yet, as JulienLaferrière renders it, there is never an absence of immediacy.

With vibrant orchestral playing and sound of real vividness, this disc can be warmly recommended.

-- Gramophone

Among the many composers he commissioned new works from, including Britten and Lutosławski, the cello concerto that Rostropovich commissioned from Henri Dutilleux holds a special place. Rostropovich commissioned new works at the drop of a hat, and it took only a backstage introduction by Igor Markevitch in 1961 (reminiscent of Rostropovich’s first meeting with Britten, the introducer being Shostakovich) for him to prompt Dutilleux to write something for him. Rostropovich added that the famously slow and meticulous composer take his time, which Dutilleux did, producing Tout un monde lointain… , the concerto’s given title, in 1968. This led to the premiere in 1970 and later a famous recording by Rostropovich for EMI, transferred to CD in 1988.

The title, which translates as “An entire world far away,” was a considered choice, taken from the poetry of Baudelaire – in the early 1950s Dutilleux was inspired to write a ballet based on Les fleurs du mal, but it came to nothing. Baudelaire is the source of the one-word titles of the concerto’s five movements, but it is reasonable simply to consider them as indicators of the music’s atmospheric moods. As varied as the score is, Dutilleux focuses on the cello’s lyrical voice.

Dutilleux ascribed much of the work’s immediate success to Rostropovich’s performance, which is likely enough. That poses a formidable challenge for subsequent soloists, in the present case Victor Julien-Laferrière, an admired French cellist born in Paris in 1990. I’ve appreciated him as a member of the outstanding Trio Les Esprits[.]

Therefore, I listened to the present release with faith in Julien-Laferrière’s abilities. He is in every way exemplary, and the absence of Rostropovich’s strong presence isn’t felt unless you do a bar-by-bar comparison. Dutilleux lived long enough – he died at 97 in 2013 – to journey through many stylistic phases, and I’d say that Tout un monde lointain… , despite its modernist harmonies, is richly Romantic. A flair for theatricality infuses the score, which aids in directly communicating with the listener.

David Robertson, a specialist in modern and contemporary music, provides ideal accompaniment, and although Serge Baudo is excellent on the Rostropovich recording, this new version features more precise and colorful orchestral execution from the Orchestre National de France, along with improved, up-to-date recorded sound.

The notion of a distant imagined world is a shared theme with Pascal Dusapin’s Outscape from 2016 – in a free-form composer’s note he rhapsodizes about the connotations of this English word, which frankly I’d never run across before (it’s a synonym for “an escape”).

Outscape is engrossing, underscored by Julien-Laferrière’s intense and highly accomplished performance of the solo part. I often couldn’t follow the argument by ear, but there was no trouble remaining involved with a work that exemplifies the current eclecticism so vividly. The mood is often deliberate, at times mournful, and it helps that the music’s emotional tone is so clear and direct, even as its gestures widely divagate.

It’s frustrating, no doubt, to compete with a classic recording, all the more because the Dusapin must stand up to Rostropovich’s pairing, the esteemed Lutosławski Cello Concerto, another of his most notable commissions. But Julien-Laferrière has a great deal going for him, and there’s no obstacle to giving this release a strong recommendation.

-- Fanfare

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  • Release Specifications

    • Number of Discs: 1
    • Release Date:
    • Label: Alpha
    • UPC/Barcode: 3760014198861
    • Item Number: ALPHA886