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Henri Dutilleux

Alongside Messiaen and Boulez, Henri Dutilleux (1916-2013) is one of the best-known composers of 20th-century French music. He followed in the footsteps of Debussy, Ravel and Roussel, and was admittedly influenced by Stravinsky and Bartók; while some of his works seem to distantly echo jazz music, his tone remained unmistakably unique. Among other places, he studied at the Paris Conservatoire. In 1938 he won the prestigious Rome Prize, he worked as an arranger, became the choir master of the Paris Opera Choir and French Radio’s music director, while as a professor he brought up a generation of French composers. He remained independent throughout his career. “What I reject is the dogma and the authoritarianism which manifested themselves in that period,” he said. He published only a few works, and even those he had kept rewriting. He destroyed his early works because he thought they weren’t original enough. “I always doubt my work. That’s why I revise my work so much and, at the same time, I regret not being more prolific,” he said. He wrote most of his compositions at the request by such performers as Charles Munch, György Széll, Mstislav Rostropovich, Isaac Stern, Simon Rattle, Renée Fleming and Seiji Ozawa. Nothing is more telling of the depth of his working methods than the fact that he spent 15 years working on his short, nine-minute piece ‘Sur la męme accord’, for Anne-Sophie Mutter. His oeuvre consists of some 20 pieces, but as Messiaen put it, these are all masterpieces.