First published in the Guardian on 3 December, 2015
Next year is Henri Dutilleux’s centenary (the French composer died in 2013, just shy of reaching 100) and bring on the excuse to sink into his majestic, finespun musical universe. No better place to start than Tout un monde lointain, one of his most seductive scores: a rapturous cello concerto written for Rostropovich in the late 1960s and full of sumptuous sounds. The name is borrowed from Baudelaire and each of the five movements quotes the poet, from Enigma’s ‘strange and symbolic nature’ to Surges’ ‘dazzling stream’ to Mirrors’ ‘immense torches’. James Gaffigan and the Lucerne orchestra tread that tricky Dutilleux line between sensuous imagery and intense technical refinement, while Emmanuelle Bertrand makes stunning sounds on her cello — now breathy and exquisite, now deep and spicy. The disc opens with Dutilleux’s mystical little solo Strophes and also contains a gleaming performance of Debussy’s Cello Sonata from Bertrand and pianist Pascal Amoyel.