Monday, April 24, 2006

Mstislav Rostropovich Again Bringing World-Class Contemporary Classical Music To The Repertoire Of The National Symphony Orchestra in Washington, D.C.

French composer Henri Dutilleux [b. 1916] on his "Correspondences" orchestral song cycle [2003] for soprano and large orchestra (with large percussion section):

"The initial idea for the work was a matter of choosing some letters from various authors that might engender different forms of lyric expression conveyed by the soprano voice and the large symphony orchestra.

Brief orchestral interludes are sometimes used as bridges between these letters; the first of these is preceded by a poem by the Indian writer Pirthwindra Mukherjee, "The Cosmic Dance," a poem which may itself be regarded as a kind of ode, or message, to Shiva . . .

The next sung episode is based on the main passages of a letter from Solzhenitsyn to Mstislav and Galina Rostropovich (dated February 9, 1984), describing his trials, his time in the labor camps ten years before, experiences he overcame thanks to the heroic support of his friends Slava and Galina, and to his own faith as well.

It is from the letters of Vincent van Gogh to his brother Théo that I have drawn out such excerpts as "I have a great need of religion, so I go out at night to point the stars." This episode is preceded by the evocation of a very short poem by Rainer Maria Rilke called "Gong."

While these texts are quite different from one another in their form and their content, they nonetheless have in common an inclination toward the mystical thinking on the part of the respective authors. Together with the idea of the Cosmos, this is what struck the composer as a unifying element.

The work's overall title, Correspondances, beyond the different meanings that might be assigned to this word, refers to Baudelaire's famous poem of the same title, and to the sensations he invoked. On the other hand, the "baudelairian" idea that in our world the divine inevitably finds its image in a devilish world, seems reflected in Van Gogh's mind when he writes from Arles to his brother that "next to the sun (the good Lord), there is unfortunately the Devil Mistral."

Each of these episodes is given its own distinctive orchestration, with this or that family or instruments to the fore. Thus the evocative images and colors in Vincent van Gogh's letter will find their echo mainly in the timbres of the woodwinds and in the brass as well, while Solzhenitsyn's letter to Slava and Galina is backed chiefly by the strings--particularly by the cellos, often in a cello quartet. In "The Cosmic Dance," however, the singer is surrounded by the entire orchestra, and, by way of further contrast, the third section, "Gong," is a sort of interlude involving barely half the orchestra.

Finally, I would like to remark that at the very end of Solzhenitsyn's letter, as a sort of watermark, as in a mist, is a quotation from Boris Godunov, in which we hear the Simpleton's expression of grief over the misfortunes of the people of Russia.

In the same way, in the center of the section devoted to Van Gogh's letter, the composer uses the main motif of his own score Timbres, espace, mouvement, ou La Nuit étoilée, written in 1978 under the influence of the famous painting Starry Night."


Henri Dutilleux "Correspondences", a work for soprano and orchestra, composed in 2003 under a commission from the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, was given its premiere by that orchestra on September 5 of that year, with Dawn Upshaw as soloist and Sir Simon Rattle conducting. Miss Upshaw is again the soloist in the performances of April 27, 28, and 29, 2006, under NSO Conductor Laureate Mstislav Rostropovich, who together introduce the work into the repertoire of the National Symphony Orchestra.

In addition to the solo soprano, the score, dedicated to Dawn Upshaw and Sir Simon Rattle, calls for piccolo, 2 flutes, 2 oboes, English horn, 2 clarinets, bass clarinet, 2 bassoons, 3 horns, 3 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba, timpani, snare drum, bass drum, 2 suspended cymbals, tam-tam, 3 bongos, 3 tom toms, accordion, marimba, vibraphone, celesta, harp, and strings. Duration, 22 minutes.

© Richard Freed/Henri Dutilleux,3503.html

French Master classical music composer, Henri Dutilleux [b. 1916]

Photo credit: With thanks.


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