Classical Music: Dutilleux and Messiaen BBC Philharmonic / Tortelier

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The Independent Culture
A gentle roll on suspended cymbal hangs in the air and an elegant solo violin line expands above it to be supported next by deep low cello harmonies and then string harmonics high above. This exquisitely imagined sequence of instrumental sonorities forms the unforgettable opening to Dutilleux's L'Arbre des Songes which opened Wednesday's Prom. There is a kind of music where the orchestral writing is somehow dictated by the shape of what are essentially abstract lines, but Dutilleux belongs to that rare breed of composers who think in terms of the orchestra, whose ideas clearly spring to mind in instrumental guise.

It is something of a mystery why this intensely poetical and original composer has taken so long to gain recognition in this country. His development over the years may not be of the kind that attracts immediate attention, as, say, Lutoslawski's or Boulez's did, but his music, classically French to its roots, is at last being allowed to display its integrity and genuine modernity. Conservative with a small "c" it may be, but L'Arbre is absolutely of its time, while exhibiting a freshness of impulse that will always sound new. And in a marvellous performance by Olivier Charlier and the BBC Philharmonic under Yan Pascal Tortelier, the work sustained a magic progress through light, shade, dream and reality for close on 25 minutes.

A French masterpiece of a rather different cast provided the evening's second half, its unbuttoned stylistic pluralism contrasting strongly with Dutilleux's purity and restraint. Messiaen's Turangalila Symphony requires the utmost virtuosity and staunchness of heart from its performers, and both orchestra and conductor here drew on their ultimate reserves. This was a truly splendid performance, matching the composer's generosity of spirit and emotion at all points. Jean-Yves Thibaudet gave a heroic account of the finger-crunching piano solos, and Valerie Hartmann-Claverie was the inimitable ondiste.

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