These recordings are
assuredly for Messiaen devotees and
for those drawn to the French avant-garde
of the 1940s. The sound is taken down
from 78s made available by the British
Library with minimal processing and
editing. For those in the know the sound
bespeaks more of a Pearl approach than
a Dutton or a Naxos.
Tholing some primitive
and rough sound especially at the crumbly
start of the Amen of Creation is
the price of admission to an intense
and turbulent performance. Do not expect
perfection of ensemble either. Things
are hectic and splashy at the start
but improve as the work progresses.
I am sure that in 1949 Loriod and the
composer were still discovering the
work they had premiered at the house
of Mme Sivade in rue Blanche, Paris
on 9 May 1943. Loriod had been the composer's
extraordinary piano pupil since 1941.
She takes the virtuosic decorative and
birdsong segundo line while the composer
takes the often profound and oratorical
A couple of impressions:
The Amen des anges, des saints du
chant des Oiseaux surprised me with
its moments of crystalline proto-jazz.
After the explosions, dissonance and
earthquakes of the earlier movements
the hazed drift from sensual to religious
ecstasy in Amen du désir creates
its own closed and private world. The
latter spans an impressively concentrated
ten minutes. Its material and mood is
closest to the luxurious sensuality
of the Turangalila symphony.
The finale rushes onwards in a dazzle
of bell sounds finding exaltation in
The Etudes are untypical
Messiaen in two ways. First they are
not caught up in the religious-ecstatic
experience and second they have a tendency
to dry modernistic academicism which
is at its most extreme in the two central
studies. The Ile de Feu movements
that open and close the work reflect
the violent rites of Papua New Guinea
and can be seen as one of the extremes
of France's fascination with the exotics
of the départements outre-mers.
They are a far cry from the gentleness
of Colin McPhee's Gamelan Anklung
or the exultant simplicity of Britten's
Prince of the Pagodas. The Etudes
were premiered on Radio Turin in 1951.
This recording was made as part of a
The case takes the
form of a light cardfold with all the
notes squeezed onto the card. The font
is small; the notes extensive. They
are by Malcolm Ball and are agreeably
detailed. Full background on French
and UK premieres is given together with
biographical context and Messiaen's
own commentary for the Visions.
Here are two works
in authentic readings still having about
them the brittle brilliance and rude
intensity of creative discovery.