French composer Henri Dutillieux might be the last of a certain kind of great composer: Using devices that might, in lesser hands, be corny — the march rhythms, washy strings, and big climax of the “de vincent a theo” movement of the eponymous piece, for example — he spins unapologetically expansive, golden narratives. On the spare opening of “memoire des ombres,” the music of the composer’s obvious predecessors (Debussy by way of Ravel) is both paid homage and made his own, to say nothing of the timbral delights that await in the “miroir” movement of the cello concerto Tout un monde lointain.
The real gem on the disc, however, is the orchestral masterwork The Shadows of Time — glee, terror, transcendence, and quiet beauty await. Conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen (himself a student of Mr. Dutillieux) is in complete agreement with the works, refusing to resort to flash. As soloists, soprano Barbara Hannigan and cellist Anssi Karturen do more than hold their own, and, under Salonen especially, the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France is perfect for the part. There is magic in these notes.