Paris was not the place for Jews in 1942—the Germans forced the French police to round up more than 13,000 Jews who were then transported to the concentration camp at Auschwitz. To the east, the Battle of Stalingrad raged, as did Shostakovich in his seventh symphony, which received its premiere that year. Further west, the creativity was still flowing—the film of the year was Casablanca
, and the musical contributions ranged from White Christmas
(Bing Crosby) to A Ceremony of Carols
by Benjamin Britten. Henri Dutilleux’s musical activities in Paris that year were as conductor of the choir of the Paris Opera, and as a fast-rising young composer. In later years he distanced himself from his earlier works, which were heavily influenced by the music of Debussy and Ravel, but his Sarabande et Cortège
for bassoon and piano had already been published, and it has remained a firm favourite in the bassoon recital repertoire. Its technical demands are considerable, the requirements including the full three-and-a-half-octave range of the instrument. Understandably, given the events in Paris at that time, the mood is subdued—the ‘Sarabande’ conveys a somewhat empty lyricism with moments of anxiety, and the ‘Cortège’ could almost be a Hitchcock film soundtrack with its dark mood, paced progression and intermittent outbursts. It includes a hint of a fugue that goes nowhere, leading to a build-up, a cadenza ascending to a high F (top line of the treble clef), and a brief upbeat conclusion.
from notes by Laurence Perkins © 2021