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Henri Dutilleux (1916 - 2013)

3 Strophes Sur la nom Sacher

1. Un poco deciso
The 3 Strophes sur la nom Sacher were written by Henri Dutilleux at the behest of Russian
cellist Msitslav Rostropovich, as part of a project to commemorate the 70th birthday of his friend
the conductor Paul Sacher. Dutilleux was among 12 composers selected by Rostropovich for
this task, each of whom had worked alongside Sacher in the past. To reinforce the dedication,
each composition was to be based on a theme derived from the letters S A C H E R. While this
may seem impossible to those who recognize the musical alphabet as stopping at G, a clever
mix of musical languages soon establishes the pattern Es (german e flat), A, C, H (german B
natural), E, and Re (D natural in the french system).
Those new to the music of Henri Dutilleux will find a wonderful introduction to his works in the 3
strophes Sur la nom Sacher. Those familiar with his works will recognize that Dutilleux was a
master of orchestral texture - following and enlarging the impressionistic sound world of his
countrymen Debussy and Ravel. In composing the 3 strophes, the restriction to a single cello
was not a limitation for Dutilleux, but rather an opportunity to explore its coloristic possibilities in
isolation. Having previously worked with Rostropovich on his cello concerto "Tout un Monde
Lointain", Dutilleux was well aware of the technical and musical feats the cellist was capable of,
and the lengths to which he could therefore push the instrument in his composition. Dutilleux
does so immediately, - extending the range of the instrument by asking the cellist to lower the
pitch of his bottom two strings.
The first strophe un poco indeciso begins by evolving the SACHER theme in enlarging groups
separated by rests before it is played complete for the first time, in pizzicato. This pattern then
repeats with the rests replaced by notes played by striking the bow against the open bass
strings of the cello. The opposition of the upper and lower registers of the cello continues in an
increasingly frenetic section that leads to a a climax which covers the entire range of the
instrument before dissolving into silence at its highest point. Following a brief pause, Dutilleux
embeds a second tribute to Paul Sacher in his score, having the cellist reenter with a quote from
Bela Bartoks Music For Strings, Percussion and Celesta which Sacher had premiered to great
acclaim in 1937. Following this brief aside, the movement concludes by revisiting its various
timbres in a quiet denouement.