Some memories of Henri Dutilleux

Henri Dutilleux, one of our greatest composers died today aged 97. He was not only a sound wizard, and a composer with incomparable imagination, but also a unique person, with his raincoat (often a bottle of whiskey in the inner pocket) and his mob of black hair (in younger years). In his Mystère et Mémoire des Sons he honored me as a confrère, though all I did was driving him around the country, and translating his lectures in Dutch. He was an humble a very lovable man, living quite secluded in his appartement on the Isle Saint Louis with his wife, pianist Geneviève Joy, or in Candes Saint-Martin ‘à la campagne’ not too far from the city of his birth, Angers. We will miss him as a person and continue enjoying his music.

Henri Dutilleux–2In 1996 I was one day walking through St Pierre des Corps with Dutilleux, cellist Mstislav Rostropovich, pianist Claude Helffer, and composer Betsy Jolas. It was the day of the final round of the Dutilleux Competition for composers. Suddenly Rostropovich stopped in the middle of the road and addressed Dutilleux: ‘Before I forget, I brought you a bottle of Wodka. I know you prefer a good brandy or scotch, but this wodka is for your internal central heating, “pour ton chauffage central interieur”…’ The five of us, we had a lovely day together.

In March 1999 Dutilleux honored us by travelling to The Hague for the Dutch first performance of The Shadows of Time. The Residentie Orkest was playing under Reinbert de Leeuw. The boys voices were chosen among some kids of the Haags Matrozenkoor and were well prepared by a personal vocal coach. Dutilleux was delighted by the orchestra, by Reinbert’s involvement and the kids singing. We were extremely proud, and I even more, since my youngest son (Benjamin Samama on the right of the picture) was one of the those kids, now all in their twenties. I do hope they still remember this great event.

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