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Work of the Week – Henri Dutilleux: L’arbre des songes

L’arbre des songes, the tree of dreams – the perfect choice to conclude a concert beginning with Rêverie et Caprice by Hector Berlioz. In a dreamlike program, the Orchestre National de Lyon conducted by Kristiina Poska draws a link from Berlioz to Ravel, Debussy, and Dutilleux in their concert in La Côte-Saint-André on 21 August. The violin soloist will be Renaud Capuçon.

Capuçon himself has a link to L’arbre des songes through the work’s dedicatee, Isaac Stern: Not only was Capuçon Stern’s student, but since 2005 he has played the Guarneri del Gesù ‘Panette’ that Stern used for 50 years. L’arbre des songes was commissioned for Isaac Stern by Radio France has remained a one of the most popular contemporary violin concertos since its first performance in 1985.

L’arbre des songes – Tree of dreams, free from conventions

Unlike a conventional concerto composed of separated movements, Dutilleux introduces orchestral interludes to preserve the “enchantment” between sections. The third interlude provides a special point in the work, calling to mind the sound of the orchestra tuning. This interlude is rare example of Dutilleaux’s use of aleatoric techniques. Gradually, more and more instruments freely join a duet between the clarinet and oboe, playing material based on notated sequences of sound.

All in all the piece grows somewhat like a tree, for the constant multiplication and renewal of its branches is the lyrical essence of the tree. This symbolic image, as well as the notion of seasonal cycle, inspired my choice of ”L’arbre des songes“ (The Tree of Dreams) as the title of the piece. – Henri Dutilleux

The concert will be broadcast from the Berlioz Festival in La Côte-Saint-André and available to stream online at