CSO: Dutoit and Gautier Capuçon in Dutilleux and French 20th century classics -- super chouette!
Chicago Sun-Times and suntimes.com, Saturday April 14, 2012
Dutoit's a master with the French as ever with CSO
And another Capuçon makes another brilliant Chicago début
BY ANDREW PATNER
Chicago Symphony Orchestra players and staff are busy packing for the CSO’s two-week six-city tour to Russia and Italy that kicks off in Moscow on Wednesday. But before their nine-hour Sunday evening flight, and their reunion with music director Riccardo Muti, they managed to squeeze two performances of an all-French program in at Orchestra Hall with regular and much more than reliable Swiss guest conductor Charles Dutoit.
Born, raised, and educated in the French-speaking Suisse Romande region, Dutoit, 75, has always had a special interest in French music and a great ability to bring out its proper sound and style with a very wide array of international orchestras. He is also an extremely supportive collaborator and has introduced many young soloists around the world including to concertgoers in Chicago.
Thursday night Dutoit was able to pull these devotions together with the CSO début of the highly-skilled and charismatic Savoyard French cellist Gautier Capuçon, 30, in a major work by Henri Dutilleux, at 96 the dean of French composers, along with all three parts of Debussy’s Images for Orchestra and Ravel’s La valse.
Dutilleux is an unusual figure, sticking to his own guns for decades yet rarely either breaking new ground or extending earlier traditions. He carefully crafts his limited number of works, but they just tend to meander, differ little one from another, and to say little, at least to these ears. That said, Capuçon brought out the score’s every technical and emotional aspect in a performance both commanding and highly subtle of the composer’s 1967-70 Tout un monde lointain . . . (“A whole distant world . . . “). The half-hour cello and orchestra work was written for Mstislav Rostropovich and championed by him, Lynn Harrell -- who was soloist in the only previous CSO performance, in 1998 -- and now the controlled firebrand Capuçon.
Growing out of a canceled ballet to honor the 19th-century French poet Baudelaire, the cello work has five mostly continuous sections where the soloist brings out the darkness of Baudeleaire’s “Flowers of Evil” while spare scoring for large forces keeps up a misty mood. Capuçon, who will appear this fall with his violinist elder brother Renaud (who made his own brilliant début here last season) in the Brahms Double Concerto with conductor Bernard Haitink, and his 1701 Matteo Goffriller instrument had every sense of volume, variation, and shading down cold and received total and attentive silence in the work’s involved pizzicato sections and long pianissimos followed by a loud and long audience ovation.
Dutoit and Pierre Boulez have wholly different methods in presenting the modern French classics of Debussy and Ravel. But they somehow achieve the same high-level result, perhaps because they each know that the motor for every shift and surprise in these works is right there in the score and not something added or conjured by the conductor. With heavenly solo playing by clarinet Stephen Williamson and oboe Eugene Izotov, the popular 1908-09 "Ibéria" movement of the Debussy was hypnotic (the third and hardest section, “Rondes de printemps" ["Spring rounds"], was not yet all there Thursday night). And Ravel’s 1919-20 “choreographic poem for orchestra” was as animated and frightening -- yet never out of control -- a waltz as you would ever wish to encounter.