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Olivier MESSIAEN (1908-1992)
Méditations sur le Mystère de la Sainte-Trinité – No VI; Le Fils, Verbe et Lumière (1969) [8:45]
L’Ascension (1933-34) [21:20]
La Nativité du Seigneur – No. IX; Dieu parmi nous (1935)  [9:39]
Messe de la Pentecôte (1950) [28:40]
SharonRose Pfeiffer (organ, Meditations, Messe)
James E. Jordan (organ, Ascension)
David Chalmers (organ, Nativite)
rec. Skinner Organ, Church of the Transfiguration, Orleans, MA, October 2007
Experience Classicsonline

The centenary of Messiaen’s birth has seen a fair few new releases and some important reissues. This one falls very securely into the former category and one should first note its Messiaenique booklet – the colour of which is profuse and ranges from primary-naïve to mystic-fauve. It’s actually a painting by Sr. Mary Lane, which is based on the words “mysticism, color, and the life of Christ.” Eye-catching.
That said this is a slightly difficult disc to sum up. We have two complete works, L’Ascension of 1933-34 and the later 1950 masterpiece Messe de la Pentecôte. There are single movements only from Méditations sur le Mystère de la Sainte-Trinité and La Nativité du Seigneur – both of them long, complex works that don’t give up their secrets on a single movement’s exposure. And the disc is also parcelled out to three different organists who all take turns with Skinner Organ at the Church of the Transfiguration, Orleans, MA.
Democratic though this may be it does create a somewhat fractured approach to the music. SharonRose Pfeiffer plays Le Fils, Verbe et Lumière which is the sixth movement of Méditations sur le Mystère de la Sainte-Trinité. She plays with admirable control but is somewhat sturdier and less subtle than Jennifer Bate [Regis RRC 2051, a two CD set]. She plays Messe de la Pentecôte in a similarly direct way but at a cost of a certain lack of colouration and atmosphere. She’s much faster than Bate [Regis, as above] in the Offertoire, which she opens at a daringly reduced volume. Fine though this is, and excellent though the Skinner sounds, the more arresting sonorities are to be found from the organ of St Pierre de Beauvais Cathedral, which Bate plays.
David Chalmers plays Dieu parmi nous from La Nativité du Seigneur. Comparison with Bate is again instructive. Bate [Regis RRC 1086] is less inclined to linger than Chalmers taking only 8:14 to his 9:39. The sound colours are much different as well, with Bate sounding elemental and Wordsworthian in her evoked textures and registers. James E. Jordan plays L’Ascension with boldness and good projection.
I suppose the rationale of the disc is to present two important works and surround them with two satellite performances derived from much longer works that might tempt the hearer into exploring further. It’s slightly unsatisfying nevertheless. Would a double CD have been so commercially gloomy a prospect?
Jonathan Woolf


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