Renée Fleming, With Levine and Boston Symphony, Gives US and NY Premieres of Dutilleux Cycle Written for Her

Classic Arts News   Renée Fleming, With Levine and Boston Symphony, Gives US and NY Premieres of Dutilleux Cycle Written for Her
Beginning this evening, soprano Renée Fleming gives the first United States performances of a song cycle written expressly for her by 91-year-old Henri Dutilleux, the éminence grise of French composers. With her longtime colleague James Levine on the podium, Fleming will sing the new work, Le Temps l'horloge, tonight, tomorrow afternoon and Saturday evening (Dec. 1) at Symphony Hall in Boston and next Monday, Dec. 3, in Isaac Stern Auditorium at Carnegie Hall in New York City.

Also on the all-French program are Debussy's La Mer and excerpts from Berlioz's Roméo et Juliette; Fleming will sing several chansons by Henri Duparc (in orchestral arrangements) as well.

Le Temps l'horloge ("Time and the Clock"), is a three-song cycle — just nine minutes which The Boston Globe's David Weininger describes as "filled with the kind of highly refined, intricately sculpted music that has been Dutilleux's calling card for decades ... awash in instrumental color that's both shadowy and rigorously clear." The work was co-commissioned by the BSO with the Orchestre National de France and Japan's Saito Kinen Festival, where Seiji Ozawa conducted the world premiere on September 6 of this year.

Dutilleux's new score is one of many which the BSO has commissioned or co-commissioned to celebrate its 125th anniversary. Already in 2007, the orchestra has premiered Kaija Saariaho's Notes on Light, Charles Wuorinen's Theologoumena, André Previn's Double Concerto for Violin, Double Bass and Orchestra, Robin de Raaff's Entangled Tales, and Elliott Carter's Horn Concerto. Later this season, Levine and the BSO present the world premieres of William Bolcom's Symphony No. 8 and John Harbison's Symphony No. 5. An additional score, Gunther Schuller's Where the Word Ends, was scheduled to have its world premiere in March, but the composer decided to postpone the premiere to a later season.

The texts Dutilleux has chosen for Le Temps l'horloge explore (as do many of Dutilleux's works) time and the ways we experience its passing. The first two, the title poem and "Le Masque," are by 20th-century poet and playwright Jean Tardieu; the third, by Robert Desnos and titled simply "The Last Poem," is the inscription on the memorial in Paris to all those who were deported by the Nazis from occupied France to concentration camps.

Interestingly, we may get a chance to hear another premiere of Le Temps l'horloge later: Dutilleux says he's not finished with the piece yet. He intends to add one more song to the cycle, set to Baudelaire's famous poem "Enivrez-vous" (the one that begins "Be always drunken").

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