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About this Piece

Composed: 2003
Length: c. 20 minutes
Orchestration: 4 flutes, 4 oboes, 4 clarinets, 4 bassoons, 4 horns, 4 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba, timpani, percussion, strings, and solo soprano

First LA Phil performances

Correspondances was commissioned by the Berliner Philharmoniker and premiered this past September. The work consists of settings for soprano and orchestra of excerpts from letters (Alexander Solzhenitsyn to Mstislav and Galina Rostropovich, and Vincent Van Gogh to his brother Theo) and poetry (Prithwindra Mukherjee and Rainer Maria Rilke). The unifying element, according to Dutilleux, was their "inclination toward mystical thinking."

The composer further notes that "The work's general title, Correspondances, beyond the different meanings which could be given to this word, refers to Baudelaire's famous poem, 'Correspondances,' and to the synaesthesias he himself evoked. On another hand, the 'Baudelairian' idea that in our world, the divine finds inevitably its image in a devilish world, catches up Van Gogh's thought when, from Arles, he wrote to his brother that 'next to the sun (the good Lord), unfortunately there is the Devil Mistral.'

"Each of these episodes is the object of a slightly peculiar orchestration, privileging such or such family of instruments. So, the evoked images and colors in Vincent Van Gogh's letter will mainly find their echo in the wood timbres, and in the brass section as well. Solzhenitsyn's letter to Slava and Galina will be backed in a dominating way by the strings, especially by the cellos, often in a cello quartet. As for 'Danse Cosmique,' it's the whole orchestra which will surround the singer. On the other hand, the third piece Gong, is a sort of interlude that hardly includes half of the large orchestra.

"Finally, a remark: at the very end of Solzhenitsyn's letter, as a watermark, as in a mist, is a quotation from Boris Godunov when is heard the Holy Fool's grief about the misfortunes of Russia. In the same way, in the center of the pages devoted to Van Gogh's letter, the composer used, as a quotation, the main motive of his own score Timbres, espace, mouvement ou la Nuit étoilée, written in 1978 under the influence of the famous painting The Starry Night."

— Susan Key