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January 11 , 2011

Henri Dutilleux: 95th birthday

French composer Henri Dutilleux celebrates his 95th birthday on January 22. One of the great contemporary composers, Dutilleux, born in Angers in 1916, was initially drawn to the orbit of the “Group de Six” around Milhaud and Poulenc, but soon began to shape his own, highly personal music, rooted, as he says in “free tonal continuity” . His works are concerned with constant metamorphosis, or what Robert Levin has described as “constructing an entire world, molecule by molecule”. In that world, “harmonies of dazzling iridescence inflect brilliant rhythmic and melodic gestures.”

The first appearance of Dutilleux’s work on ECM was itself connected to a birthday tribute, his “3 Strophes sur le nom de Sacher” incorporated in “12 Hommages à Paul Sacher pour violoncelle” and played by Patrick Demenga.

More recently, in 2010 ECM New Series issued the widely acclaimed “D’ombre et de silence” on which Robert Levin, a close friend since the late 1970s, brought together Dutilleux’s piano music composed over more than four decades, from 1946 to 1988.

When he received the final mix of “D’ombre et de silence”, Dutilleux told Robert Levin that he “couldn’t imagine a better rendering of this music.”

Amongst many awards, the disc was Fono Forum’s “Empfehlung des Monats”, Classica’s “Choc du mois”, a Neue Zeitschrift für Musik “Empfehlung” and BBC Music Magazine’s ”Instrumental Choice“.

“The performances are wonderful. The later works are marvels of sheer sound, sometimes stark and bell-like, sometimes shimmering” - Ivan Hewett, Daily Telegraph.