Daniel Stephen Johnson was born in the desert and learned to play the violin. After studying viola and English at the University of Southern California, he wrote fiction at Columbia University. Then he moved to Connecticut, where he worked at a record shop and wrote about music, literature and comedy for the New Haven Advocate and the Believer. Now he lives in Bedford–Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, and works as a sheet music salesman in Queens.
Seattle Symphony Concludes Indispensable Cycle of Late French Master Henri Dutilleux
Monday, August 08, 2016
Ludovic Morlot's Seattle Symphony has once again proved itself one of the most essential symphony orchestras in the country. Suspicions that its cycle of albums documenting the orchestral music of the late master Henri Dutilleux would be a nearly unparalleled recording project in contemporary classical music are absolutely confirmed with the release of the third and final disc, a thing of astonishing beauty.
Dutilleux's music recalls the greatest treasures of French music in the 20th century. The extraordinary richness of his timbres and harmonies evokes the music of the so-called "Impressionists" from the turn of that century. The exquisitely refined construction of these works suggests the immaculately-schooled technique of his national tradition.
He recalls the neoclassical tendencies of Les Six not just in the instrumentation of pieces like Les Citations for four players — which employs the harpsichord alongside oboe, percussion and string bass — and in the lucidity of its textures, but also in fine points of delicate melodic writing throughout his oeuvre that look back toward the history of classical music in ways that are easier to sense than they are to name. Meanwhile, his pitch material is almost as likely to echo the high modernist tendencies of Olivier Messiaen or Pierre Boulez as it is the tonal tradition, creating music that is mysteriously but almost undeniably satisfying to the ear, while still proving profoundly new, vivid and sensual.
While the orchestral playing is as ravishing as listeners have come to expect from Morlot and Seattle, the soloists brought in from outside the band are among the very hottest players on their respective instruments. The playing of violinist Augustin Hadelich, fresh from his Grammy win for last year's entry in this Dutilleux cycle, is as intensely expressive in Sur le même accord as it is precise, while harpsichordist Mahan Esfahani executes Les citations with his characteristic wit and panache, and the cimbalom playing of percussionist Chester Englander lends an unexpected delight to Mystère de l’instant.
Forthcoming on the symphony's own Seattle Symphony Media label, this album would be a tremendous pleasure on its own; as the culmination of the complete cycle, it is indispensable.
Seattle Symphony — Henri Dutilleux: Sur le même accord
Seattle Symphony Media | Released August 12