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Olivier MESSIAEN (1908 - 1992)
Les Oiseaux
1. Cantéyodjayâ (1948) [12:38]
2. Prélude (1964) [2:59]
Petites esquisses d’oiseaux (1985)
3. I. Le rouge gorge [2:46]
4. II. Le merle noir [2:22]
5. III. Le rouge gorge [2:39]
6. IV. La grive musicienne [2:18]
7. V. Le rouge gorge [3:01]
8. VI. L’alouette des champs [2:13]
9. La fauvette des jardins (1970) [32:45]
Louise Bessette (piano)
rec. 12-14 June 2008, Studio MMR, McGill University, Montréal, Quebec
ANALEKTA AN 2 9960 [64:24]
Experience Classicsonline

Let me confess that I am neither a Messiaen expert nor an ornithologist. In spite of this I accepted this disc to widen my horizon - but also since I am after all quite familiar with Messiaen’s music - on disc as well as in live performances. I have even heard his successor as organist at the church of La Trinité in Paris, Naji Hakim, playing some of his organ music. Even more important in relation to the present disc, I have heard his second wife Yvonne Loriod playing his Oiseaux exotique. The fact that Ms Loriod was one of the present pianist’s - Louise Bessette - teachers gives special authority to her readings.

Messiaen’s ‘bird’ period had its first blossoming in the 1950s when several of his large-scale works were created. Perhaps his most important creation in this category is Catalogue d’oiseaux in seven books, written between 1956 and 1958. That Messiaen was a highly professional ornithologist is well known. He could identify most of the birds of France by ear and in his oeuvre there are more than 300 bird songs. There are only 77 in Catalogue d’oiseaux. The material on this disc represents a kind of ‘mopping up’ of the various bird references in his piano catalogue.

Being myself confined to recognize magpies and crows I have to rely on skilled bird-watchers for a few more subtly musical specimens. Though I can hear in many instances that the music is built on authentic bird songs I have been fully satisfied in this review to give more general descriptions of the music.

The earliest piece here, Cantéyodjayâ from 1948, is based on Hindu rhythms and I labelled it ‘rhythmic pluralism’ on my notepad. It is basically repetitive but the rhythms change subtly all the time and to me it seems that Cecil Taylor may have been inspired by this composition.

The Prélude, written in 1964, was found in 2000 and published posthumously by Yvonne Loriod. It is cast basically in the same mould but is more traditional, more ‘romantic’ if you like.

The six Petites esquisses d’oiseaux, composed in 1985 are fascinating, impressionist miniatures, repetitive, built on small melodic fragments that are examined and varied.

Messiaen himself regarded La Fauvette des jardins (1970) as his best work for piano. Inspired by the countryside where he used to spend his summers, it’s a long and complex work, a multi-layered painting that need repeated confrontations before it opens up. I listened to it twice during a bus-ride through a landscape that was hardly anywhere near the setting that inspired Messiaen. Towards the end of the ride I was almost hypnotized by the sounds. I look forward to going back to this fascinating piece of music.

Having heard no comparative recordings I can only judge Louise Bessette’s playing through my personal reactions. To me it sounds wholly idiomatic and the recorded sound is fully up to the requirements.

Göran Forsling























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