Dutilleux: Le Loup - Wilson
Chandos CHSA 5263
Classical - Orchestral
Dutilleux: Le Loup, Oboe Sonata* (orch. Hesketh), Flute Sonatine** (orch. Hesketh), Sarabande et Cortège^ (orch. Hesketh)
Juliana Koch* (oboe)
Adam Walker** (flute)
Jonathan Davies^ (bassoon)
Sinfonia of London
John Wilson (conductor)
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Review by Graham Williams - June 1, 2021
For the fifth Chandos release with his crack Sinfonia of London – a body that comprises outstanding musicians from orchestras from both the UK and abroad, – John Wilson has turned his attention to the music of Henri Dutilleux (1916-2013).
The main work on this superbly recorded SACD is the composer’s 1953 ballet ‘Le Loup’ written for the dancer and choreographer Roland Petit who founded his own ballet company in 1944 with the aim of combining classical ballet with more popular genres. Wilson gives us the full ballet score (as does a recent rival recording on the BIS label) rather than the shorter ‘fragments symphoniques’, roughly half the score, that some might remember was recorded by George Prêtre with the Paris Conservatoire Orchestra in the 1960s.
Dutilleux summarised the plot of ‘Le Loup’ as being “a very short scenario in the style of a German legend, a story of the love between a girl and a wolf, effectively between beauty and the beast”.
The ballet is in a single Act with three Tableaux, and the Chandos liner notes provide, in considerable detail, both the stage action and the tempo indications for the music.
The music possesses tremendous rhythmic energy and drive – something never found wanting in Wilson’s incisive performances – but also a considerable amount of lyrical music that includes a haunting recurring waltz representing the girl in the story. Wilson and the Sinfonia of London play this thrilling score with an unbeatable combination of terrific flamboyance and typically winning style. Not until the end of his life did Dutilleux sanction performances of the ballet in the concert hall which is almost certainly one cause of its totally unwarranted neglect.
The three remaining works on this disc were composed in the 1940s and are reminders of the considerable contribution French composers have made to the wind instrument repertoire. Dutilleux composed each of them as test pieces for the end-of -year examinations at the Paris Conservertoire. They are heard here in the orchestrations made in 2019 by the Liverpool born composer Kenneth Hesketh who studied with the composer during his residency at the Tanglewood Festival in 1995.
The ‘Sonatine for Flute and Piano’ that dates from 1943 is an enchanting piece, performed here with sensitivity and sparkling virtuosity by Adam Walker. The three-movement Oboe Sonata (1947) that follows is equally attractive, and is given a ravishing performance, by Juliana Koch, the LSO’s Principal Oboe, whose playing is subtly nuanced in the more reflective passages and rhythmically incisive elsewhere. Finally, the bassoon is given its opportunity for display in the earliest work on this disc the ‘Sarabande et Cortège’ (1942). As the name suggests a slow dance with a sinuous bassoon line is followed by a processional march with a cadenza that spans the bassoon’s entire range. It is fair to say that the work’s technical demands would tax the technique of all but the finest players, but here they are surmounted with absolute assurance by Jonathan Davies the Principal Bassoon of the LPO.
Hesketh’s exquisite orchestrations of all three works – receiving their premiere recordings here – relate to the early influences of Debussy and Ravel on Dutilleux, but in the case of the Oboe Sonata, there are some hints of his later style in the instrumentation with its use of tuned percussion. The liner notes also include an illuminating conversation between Kenneth Hesketh and Caroline Potter, the biographer and leading authority on Dutilleux.
As indicated above, the sound quality of this 5.0 multi-channel recording (made in the Church of St. Augustine, Kilburn London 6 – 9 January 2020), even when judged by Chandos’s consistent and exalted standard, is exceptionally vivid and wide ranging – certainly demonstration worthy.
In every respect this is an excellent addition to the composer’s rather sparse representation on SACD.
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