Skip to content
Skip to navigation menu

Celebrating Dutilleux at 95

On 22 January 2011, the French composer Henri Dutilleux celebrated his 95th birthday. This milestone is commemorated in a special edition of the Contemporary Music Review, ‘Dutilleux at 95’, co-edited by Caroline Rae and Caroline Potter, which has just been published, and which is the outcome of an Institute of Musical Research study day held in January this year at the University of London’s Senate House.


Dr Rae and Vice Chancellor Dr David Grant pictured with Maître Henri Dutilleux when he received his Honorary Fellowship at the BBC Discovering Dutilleux Festival in 2008 in the presence of the BBC National Orchestra of Wales

Dutilleux, born January 1916 in Maine-et-Loire, was awarded an Honorary Fellowship from Cardiff University in February 2008 as part of the BBC Discovering Dutilleux Festival in association with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales. His connections to Cardiff are highlighted in many of the photographs included in the journal.

Far from being a mere anniversary retrospective, the volume reassesses and nuances Dutilleux’s position in the contemporary music scene through an examination of his technique, composition and aesthetics, including reference to his most recent works.


Inevitably, Dutilleux tends to be considered within the context of French music: his orchestral music is frequently programmed alongside Berlioz, Debussy and Ravel (and he is a direct link to this tradition having met Ravel in the 1930s). But the six articles seek to place him in a wider European context to reveal his influential role as part of the international mainstream.

While Dutilleux’s maxim that art benefits from the enrichment of foreign cultures is the prime focus of the article by Caroline Rae, which discusses aesthetic and technical parallels with music by Central and Eastern European composers, Julian Anderson investigates rarely explored links between Dutilleux and the Spectralists through insightful parallels with works of Gérard Grisey to reveal Dutilleux as a hitherto unacknowledged influence.

Kenneth Hesketh provides a new analytical interpretation of the string quartet Ainsi la nuit based on processes of evolutionary development and heredity, while Jeremy Thurlow identifies Métaboles as a key evolutionary work, tracing its impact on Dutilleux’s later music. Mark Hutchinson focuses on Mystère de l’instant to explore parallels with the aesthetic of ‘moment form’ adopted by Stockhausen and his Darmstadt colleagues to highlight new connections with Marcel Proust as part of an overall reassessment of this work.

Finally, Caroline Potter investigates the complex issues of Dutilleux’s revisions, based on her studies of the manuscripts housed at the Paul Sacher Foundation in Basel. Most of the contributors know Dutilleux personally and have worked with him in a range of contexts over a period of many years.

See Also