Seattle Symphony Launches Record Label with Focus on Contemporary Music

Q2 Music Album of the Week for May 12, 2014

Monday, May 12, 2014

Lots of things have been going right for the Seattle Symphony lately. The arrival of a great new music director, Ludovic Morlot, who loves new music, a new commission that won the 2014 Pulitzer Prize and now they have launched their own record label with three releases focused largely on contemporary French and American music.

Their freshman release is devoted to the music of the late French icon Henri Dutilleux (1916-2013). The Seattle Symphony intends to record the complete orchestral works of Dutilleux on their new label and they begin here with his Symphony No. 1, The Shadows of Time, and Tout un monde lointain (“A Whole Distant World”), which despite the name is a cello concerto by any conceivable definition.

Dutilleux’s first symphony is among his earliest works, written in 1951 when he was only in his mid-thirties. Here he retains the four movement form of a traditional symphony, but one already hears many of the aspects of his music that make it so striking: vividly colorful orchestration, complicated rhythmic layering and creative takes on form. The opening passacaglia movement captures all of this excitement as it progresses from barely audible string pizzicato to a massive swirling climax and then quickly fades off into the distance.

Tout un monde lointain was written for Mstislav Rostropovich and performed here by the excellent French cellist, Xavier Phillips. Dutilleux himself actually said that Phillips, “fully owns this work and evokes the very essence of its title.” There are several cadenza-like passages in this five-movement work, all of which are truly amazing in their beauty and virtuosity, but again, it’s really the ingenious use of the orchestra to color, punctuate, highlight and occasionally juxtapose the solo cello line that makes this piece so impressive.

Ludovic Morlot first met Henri Dutilleux in Boston in 2001 while the Boston Symphony was rehearsing The Shadows of Time (a work they commissioned). The recording here is from a live performance in Seattle at Benaroya Hall that really shows off how great this orchestra is, their renewed commitment to contemporary music and the passion that Morlot brings to music from his homeland. Listen to the full album all week below.

This audio is no longer available.


More in:

Comments [3]

Squirrel from The Tree

"OLD classical"? Now doesn't that sound silly.... anyhow Adele is more on target I think. Q2 is a great however WQXR should be incorporating more contemporary works into their playlists. And if it's more on the "accessible" tonal/modal side that would be just fine, make that great (Alan Hovhaness for example should be on the airwaves every day; he's one of the greatest 20th C composers and such an original voice. Achingly beautiful is his sound world. I have never even heard the 4 min. "The Prayer of St. Gregory" for Trumpet and String Orchestra on WQXR, it's one of the most ethereal pieces one can encounter. Barber's Adagio is ubiquitous yet the neglected(on radio, that is) Hovhaness piece dare I say is a more moving, magnificent experience. Anyhow to be slightly more on-topic while staying w Hovhaness-the Seattle Symphony should do AH proud (carry on Gerard Schwartz's/Delos/Seattle Symphony's past championing of AH) by releasing some world premieres. We still have not a single recording of any of his operas. How about the opera Etchmiadzin? -I do hope the entire orchestra and director are reading this
right NOW....I can dream, no?? ;)

May. 15 2014 01:18 AM

I disagree with Adele on both counts. First, streaming music is superior to radio; second, I prefer having a choice between contemporary Q2 and old classical. Plus radio DJs are still available on the computer.

May. 14 2014 12:32 AM
Adele (aka AF) from Nassau County, Long Island

Music like this should also be played on regular FM & HD WQXR where there are hosts and where the sound is superior to the music that comes via the computer, as in Q2.

WQXR's segregation of music into "old" and "new" by way of regular WQXR and Q2 is not doing a favor to either type of music or the listeners.

May. 13 2014 05:11 AM

Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.

The WQXR e-newsletter. Show highlights, links to music news, on-demand concerts, events from The Greene Space and more.

Follow WQXR 







About Q2 Music Album of the Week

Q2 Music's Album of the Week is our weekly review of the newest and most dynamic contemporary classical releases. It focuses on musical discovery, world premiere recordings and fresh perspectives on today's classical landscape. Read our review and stream the album on-demand for one week only at


Follow Q2 Music