Surrounded by a Symphony: Dutilleux: Sur le même accord; Les citations; Mystère de l’instant & Timbres, espace, mouvement

Complexity and crescendos reign in this award-winning album, paving the way for immersive excellence.
by Ben Jacklin

Alexander and Dmitriy Lipay’s 2017 Grammy win was a victory not only for immersive audio and excellent engineering of sound, but it was also a win for incredible musicianship. Ludovic Morlot and the Seattle Symphony can surround you in your own front room in this faultless performance, brought to life in the immersive format.

This album is a tribute to the prolific composer Dutilleux, whose brave compositional style is evident, firstly in the performance of Augustin Hadelich, who plays “Sur le même accord,” a piece originally based on one six-note chord. This piece explores the concept of creativity by limitation and allows for the talent of the violinist to shine.

“Les Citations” follows on, with gloriously avant-garde instrumentation and percussion. The piece moves from classical to free jazz. Genre hardly seems worth a mention here, the piece weaves its own story and the incredible musicianship, unorthodox instrumentation, and the freedom of the piece all give an other-worldly feel at times.

“Mystère de L’instant” then swells into view, filling the aural field with luscious layers which dip and duck to avoid one another. The tremendous movement of this piece builds tension and release which is palpable in the unerring musicianship and conductorship within this recording.

The work then moves onto a live performance of “Timbres, Espace, Mouvement” which is another excellent showing of Dutilleux and his thirst for a cerebral exploration within his catalog. The piece is filmic in its nature, but it is hard to know if this stems from the movie industry’s influence on Dutilleux or vice versa. The performance is sometimes jarring, sometimes melodic, and always beautiful. It expands and surrounds in a way that isn’t always comfortable, but the musicianship shines throughout.

With such an ambitious soundscape at play, it is easy to see why this was nominated for the category Best Engineered Album, Classical at the same awards. This is an ambitious tribute and moves between pieces that are relatively diverse. To pull together the instruments and performances in a way that brings the Seattle Symphony Orchestra into the room with you is some feat. To span this composer’s long and accomplished career in a way which preserves all of the eras and tremendous ideas shows an incredible level of skill.

The dimensions and subtleties of this piece need a level of care, and with Morlot controlling the orchestra, leading us episode by episode through the work of Dutilleux, combined with recording and engineering of the highest order, this rapturous triumph is in full deserving of its accolades.

About the Author

Ben is a writer and musician from the UK with a background in music technology. He writes about engineering and production, musicianship and music equipment for a number of publications including his own site, subreel.com