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On Dutilleux Time

Renée Fleming is having a busy year. We will be hearing her sing -- only a couple of selections -- at Sunday's National Symphony Orchestra Season Opening Gala Concert, and she has been and will continue appearing all over for gala concerts. In fact, she appeared recently in Japan, with Seiji Ozawa at the Saito Kinen Festival, where they gave the world premiere of a new work, Le Temps l'horloge, by Henri Dutilleux. Renaud Machart wrote a review (Henri Dutilleux, grave et léger, September 9) from Japan for Le Monde (my translation):

A few days before its premiere, Le Temps l'horloge had not been finished and only three of the four melodies planned had been delivered by the composer. Despite the late hour of Dutilleux's handing over of his "copy," Seija Ozawa directed it from memory as if he had always known it. It is true that the Japanese conductor has a particular affinity for Dutilleux's music, of which he has conducted the main pieces and premiered the essential Shadows of Time (1997). Renée Fleming sang the piece with that full and rich voice we know her to have (and of which Dutilleux says he is "enamored") and with an equally remarkable ease. For Dutilleux, 91 years old, is a slow writer, demanding, merciless toward his music, of which he wants to give only the best. Since The Shadows of Time, the composer has produced only three scores: a short piece for violin and orchestra intended for Anne Sophie Mutter, Sur le même accord (2002); a song cycle, Correspondances (2003), for soprano and orchestra, written for Dawn Upshaw [reviewed recently from the National Symphony with Dawn Upshaw]; and Le Temps l'horloge (2007).
When completed, the cycle will have four songs, on two poems by Jean Tardieu, one by Robert Desnos, and Baudelaire's Enivrez-vous. Machart describes the first version as "a masterpiece, discreet, deep, and light, the image of its author." The Boston Symphony co-commissioned Le Temps l'horloge, so it will have its American premiere there (November 29 to December 1), followed by the BSO's Carnegie Hall appearance on December 3.

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