22. Henri Dutilleux [365 Composers for 2013]


22nd January – Henri Dutilleux


Dutilleux (born 22 January 1916) is our composer for 22nd January, to mark the day of his birth.
Nationality: French
Lifespan: still alive
Genre: Modern
Education: Paris Conservatoire
Fame Ranking: 5

Dutilleux  is a composer who it is hard to pigeon-hole into a particular genre. He has been influenced by the Impressionism movement (think Debussy), but has also branched out into whatever other experimental aspect of music has interested him, including the jagged rhythms of Bartok, the dramatic discordance of Stravinsky, jazz and even serialism. (Serialism is a technique where each of the 12 semitones in a chromatic scale can only be used once, until each has been used).

Dutilleux’s output has not been enormous. Something of a perfectionist, Dutilleux only has his best works published and even went so far as to renounce all of his work prior to his Piano Sonata, which was written between 1946 and 1948, because he considered it too immature.

A great deal of his compositions have been commissioned by professional musicians, conductors and orchestras, and Dutilleux has been known to go to extraordinary lengths in preparation for what he is going to produce. For example, when commissioned to write a string quartet to be performed by the acclaimed Juilliard String Quartet, he began by refreshing his knowledge of string-playing techniques, scrutinising the string compositions of past masters, drafting out a raft of ideas and finally sending three complete preparatory pieces to the Juilliard Quartet for their approval. The final composition was entitled  “Ainsi la Nuit”, although ironically the Juilliard String Quartet did not perform its premiere in the end!

At the time of writing Dutilleux is 96 years old and still composing.

Here is Dutilleux’s Sonatina for Flute and Piano, with score

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