books, articles, radio

Messiaen and Dutilleux

51NhnEu3alL._SY445_These two French composers have always interested me, though they could hardly be more different.

I’ve written a full-length book on Henri Dutilleux, Henri Dutilleux : la musique des songes, presenting a detailed study of his major works and of the expressive and elusive musical language which he has elaborated over the last half-century. The book is published in French by Millénaire III: it was launched at an international conference on Dutilleux attended by the composer himself in Paris in December 2006. It is available from bookshops in France, and from Amazon or directly from the publisher.

Henri Dutilleux, ou la musique des songes
[Henri Dutilleux and the music of dreams]

Translated by Frédérique Aït-Touati. Published by Millénaire III; series editor Nicolas Darbon, December 2006, Paris. 272 pages. Price: 29 Euros.

I’ve also written an article on Messiaen looking at his use of birdsong in his wonderful cycle of piano pieces Catalogue d’Oiseaux [Catalogue of birds]. I’ve tried to get beyond a literal account of this music, with all its birdsongs – so accurately but idiosyncratically rendered – to consider how they affect Messiaen’s musical language and its expressive aims.

‘Messiaen’s Catalogue d’Oiseaux: a musical dumbshow?’  can be found in a volume called Messiaen Studies, edited by Robert Sholl and published by Cambridge University Press. More details.


In the year of Messiaen’s 100th anniversary there was a lot of his music in the air, and nueeI was asked to write and present Radio 3’s CD Review ‘Building a Library’ feature on the first and (in my opinion) the greatest of Messiaen’s organ cycles, La Nativité du Seigneur.  And in fact Messiaen has no need of anniversaries to generate interest: after programmes on various other 20th-century composers things came full circle in 2012 when I was asked to make a programme about his epic Turangalîla-Symphonie.

There’s also an article on Dutilleux in the book Henri Dutilleux: entre la nuée et le cristal (January 2010).

And more recently (summer 2011), a new article has been published on what I have called ‘a fork in the road: twin paths in Dutilleux’s later music’, in a special edition of cmr20.v029.i05.coverContemporary Music Review on Dutilleux, which also features papers by Ken Hesketh, Caroline Potter, Caroline Rae and Julian Anderson.


I’ve written and presented a number of programmes for Radio 3’s ‘Building a Library’ series discussing interpretations of various key works from the 20th century including Messiaen’s La Nativité and Turangalîla-Symphonie, Schoenberg’s Five orchestral pieces op. 16, Fauré’s String Quartet, his final work, dating from the 1920s, and Stravinsky’s wonderful Symphony in C.  Slightly shortened versions of all these programmes can be downloaded as podcasts from the Building a Library website.