Gautier Capuçon reviewed in the Chicago Tribune and Chicago Sun-Times
Published: 13 April 2012
On eve of European tour, CSO delivers French works in style
By John von Rhein, Published: April 13 2012, Chicago Tribune
With its latest foreign tour set to begin next week in Moscow and St. Petersburg, followed by four stops in Riccardo Muti's Italian homeland the week after, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra barely had time to squeeze in a pair of subscription concerts to keep the home folks happy. Those took place Thursday night and Friday afternoon at Symphony Center.
However, listeners who managed to catch the all-French program with which Charles Dutoit wrapped up his annual residency here could not complain about being given short shrift, qualitatively speaking. Between bracing doses of Debussy and Ravel, the Swiss conductor presided over an absorbing performance of an absorbing work, French composer Henri Dutilleux's "Tout un monde lointain…" for cello and orchestra. The young French virtuoso Gautier Capucon was making his CSO debut as soloist.
The five-movement work is a cello concerto in all but name. Inspired by the poetry of Charles Baudelaire, each of its five linked movements bears a quote from Baudelaire's verse or prose. Dutilleux, the eminence grise of the conservative wing of contemporary French composers, wrote the demanding solo part for cellist Mstislav Rostropovich, and it's impossible to hear this highly rhapsodic work without imagining the great Slava's unique tone, which Dutilleux said he had in his mind's ear while composing the work.
But Capucon had special qualities of his own to bring to his performance on Thursday night. Not the least of these was the finely graded intensity he brought to the long cello recitative that begins the work and that soon evolves into rapid-fire interplay with the orchestra. The cellist's lean but penetrating sound and rhythmic acuity were matched by an abundance of lyrical feeling, particularly in the two slow movements. This was an altogether winning debut, made all the more so by the sensitivity with which Dutoit wrapped the ornate orchestral fabric around the bravura solo writing.
The noticeably under-populated audience awarded the soloist an excited ovation. It's worth noting that Gautier Capucon will join with his brother, violinist Renaud Capucon, as soloists in the Brahms Double Concerto with the CSO under Bernard Haitink here in October. Those performances are something to anticipate.
Dutoit devoted the first half to the complete Debussy "Images for Orchestra", an apparent albeit unstated bow to both the CSO's season-long "An Exuberant Era" theme and the 150th anniversary of the composer's birth.
The guest maestro presented the three "Images" in Debussy's published order, placing the more popular "Iberia" second in the sequence. The hot Spanish colors and dancing rhythms of "Iberia" were sharply drawn within a fluid soundscape. Eugene Izotov's oboe added to the sensuous atmosphere of the slow section, although the entire woodwind choir shone in all three tone poems. The less-familiar "Gigues" and "Rondes de printemps" took on degrees of refinement and transparency of texture one doesn't always associate with the CSO, perhaps because so few conductors ask those qualities of this orchestra.
Similar plasticity of rhythm and a generous tonal palette marked Dutoit's voluptuous account of Ravel's "La Valse".
Dutoit, CSO a perfect match for French program
By Andrew Patner, Published: April 13 2012, Chicago Sun-Times
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 in Chicago.
Thursday night Dutoit was able to pull these devotions together with the CSO debut of the highly-skilled
and charismatic French cellist Gautier Capucon, 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, Capucon 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 first CSO performance, in 1998 — and now the controlled firebrand Capucon.
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. Capucon, who will appear this fall with
his violinist elder brother Renaud (who made his own brilliant debut 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
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 “Iberia” movement of the Debussy was
hypnotic (the third and hardest section, “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.