The prime modern account of Messiaen’s visionary Visions
de l’Amen is that on Hyperion by Steven Osborne and
Martin Roscoe. That this version intermittently comes close
is testament to its dedication. However, it misses the key element
of transportation towards ecstasy and; on occasion, it seems
surprisingly directionless, too. The potentialities of the “Amen
de la Création” do not quite glow with promise
- neither are the rhythms of the “Amen des étoiles,
de la planète à l’anneau” as primal
as they could be. Messiaen described the latter as a “brutal,
savage dance”, yet there is a feeling of restraint here.
These two movements include two polarities of Messiaen’s
mode of expression - latent and expressed ecstasy. Both need,
as well as first rate players, first rate sound, and Bridge’s
efforts cannot come close to the sense of presence and truth
achieved by Hyperion’s engineers on CDA67366 - a disc
that also manages to fit in three extra pieces. On Bridge, the
bass register lacks full definition and can come close to muddy.
Also overall immediacy is lacking.
There is little sense of suffering, of a mystic nature or otherwise,
in the “Amen de l’agonie de Jésus”.
Seeming simplicity in music often carries the highest demands,
and such is the case here with the opening of “Amen des
anges, des saints, du chant des oiseaux”, which opens
with a pure melody that here, alas, holds hardly any magic.
The contrasting, dancing section of this movement is better,
though, and the music’s difficulties as Messiaen layers
his birdsong relentlessly seems to inspire the players to their
best. A pity they do not realise as well the monumental bass
explosions of the brief “Amen du jugement”; sadly,
the recording also has a hand in muting their efforts. The final
“Amen de la consommation”, that carillon of transported
joy, again misses its remit. The final pages remain stubbornly
Ultimately, overall this version left me untouched - the exact
reverse of the effect this piece should have.