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Henri Dutilleux

Henri Dutilleux

Country of origin: France
Birthday: January 22, 1916
Date of death: May 22, 2013

About Henri Dutilleux

Dutilleux' works captivate people with their almost magical narrative power... Each tone carries weight with him, lives in a world of mirrors and iridescent light, each referring to the origins of the myth and playing mystically with the deceptive nature of the memory. (Süddeutsche Zeitung)

Henri Dutillleux was born in Angers (France) on 22 January 1916. As early as his school days, he began to study piano, harmony and counterpoint with Victor Gallois at the Douai Conservatoire. From 1933-1938 he attended the Paris Conservatoire, studying harmony and counterpoint with Jean and Noël Gallon, composition with Henri Paul Busser and music history with Maurice Emmanuel. After his brief military service, Dutilleux returned to Paris in 1940 where he earned a living as a pianist, arranger and teacher before becoming choral director at the Paris Opera in 1942. From 1945 to 1963 he held the post of director of music productions with the French radio company ORTF. From 1961 to 1970 he taught composition at the Ecole Normale de Musique de Paris until he returned to the Paris Conservatoire for two years as guest professor.

Even though personal contacts with colleagues such as André Jolivet, Darius Milhaud, Francis Poulenc and Georges Auric always gave him suggestions and inspirations, Henri Dutilleux never belonged to a particular composition movement or group. Since his international breakthrough with Symphony No. 1 (1951) Dutilleux had been active in various genres: apart from symphonic works, he also composed chamber music, solo concertos and ballet music.

2007 saw the premiere of the first version of the piece Le temps l'horloge for soprano and orchestra in Matsumoto (Japan) under the direction of Seiji Ozawa and Renée Fleming. The extended version was performed at the Paris Théâtre des Champs-Elysées in May 2009. Correspondances (2003), also composed for soprano and orchestra, is one of the most frequently played works of the composer. It was letters of various authors – from Rilke to van Gogh – that inspired Dutilleux to write the five different movements of the work dedicated to Dawn Upshaw and Simon Rattle, and to each of them he assigned a particular timbre. Apart from the different meanings that can be attached to the word 'correspondance' (Engl. 'exchange of letters'), the title of the work refers to Baudelaire's famous poem of the same name.

In the solo concerto genre, Dutilleux' concertos for violin are outstanding: L'arbre des songes (1985) and Sur le même accord (2002). Anne-Sophie Mutter's first recording of Sur le même accord was awarded the Echo Klassik. This work contains an ever-present six-tone chord – partly hidden, partly obvious – which is played and permanently varied by soloists from the ranks of the orchestra and the solo violin.

Among the numerous honours and prizes awarded to Henri Dutilleux are the Grand Prix de Rome (1938), the French Grand Prix National de la Musique (1967), the Praemium Imperiale (1994) in recognition of his oeuvre, the Cannes Classical Award for his orchestral work The Shadows of Time (1999) and the Grand Prix 1999 de la Presse Musicale Internationale. In 2005 Dutilleux received the Ernst von Siemens Music Award, two years later the MIDEM Lifetime Achievement Award, in 2011 the Marie-Josée Kravis Prize for New Music at the New York Philharmonic. In addition, Henri Dutilleux has been an honorary member of the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters since 1981 and of the Académie Royale de Belgique.

Henri Dutilleux died on 22 May 2013 in Paris.