Search - Olivier Messiaen, Recorded Sound, Marcel Couraud :: Messiaen Edition [Box Set]

Messiaen Edition [Box Set]
Olivier Messiaen, Recorded Sound, Marcel Couraud
Messiaen Edition [Box Set]
Genres: Special Interest, Classical


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Klingsor Tristan | Suffolk | 08/03/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)

"This is a quite wonderful and pretty comprehensive survey of Messiaen's music. And, at just over $7 a disc it represents seriously good value. Pretty much all the major works are here, barring some of the later pieces - e.g. the opera, St. Francois, the last great organ cycle, the Livre du Saint Sacrament, and the late orchestral pieces like the Quadruple Concerto and the Eclairs sur l'au dela. For the rest, all the performances are at least very good and, in many cases, definitive.

The orchestral pieces are perhaps the main place where one can do better elsewhere. Nagano's Turangalila is certainly good as far as it goes, but it lacks the raw energy of Previn or the lushness of the sleepy Love Garden that Rattle draws from his players. (I've often wished that the conductor of the premiere, Bernstein, had recorded it - it's his kind of piece!) Boulez's Et Expecto is very good indeed, but his later DGG version has better sound. For the orchestral version of L'Ascension, seek out one of Stokowski's amazing recordings. Des canyons and Reveil des Oiseaux, however, are about as good as you'll find. The 3 Little Liturgies still await a recording worthy of this wonderful piece for women's choir and Ondes Martenot dominated orchestra. The one in this set, the earliest recording here (1964), will have to do meanwhile.

The recording of the Quartet for the End of Time dates from around the same time, but is a classic - Guy Deplus' clarinet playing still never ceases to amaze me with its fluid liquid quality and stunning breath control.

But it is really with the recordings by Messiaen's second wife, Yvonne Loriod, that we come into the realms of the unbeatable. Pretty much all his piano repertoire is here from the early Preludes to the late Esquisses d'Oiseaux. There are definitive performances of the 20 Regards (her later recording from the 70's) and, especially, of the vast-ranging Catalogue d'Oiseaux, including its pendant Fauvette des Jardins. Her contribution to the concertante pieces - the Reveil d'Oiseaux, the Couleurs de la Cite Celeste and the 7 Haikai - ensures not only their authenticity but also their magical range of colour and tone, not to mention her apparently easy virtuosity. She is also the perfect accompanist in the three Song Cycles.

And, to cap it all, there is Messiaen himself on the Cavalle-Coll organ at the Trinite Church in Paris, which he played regularly for over 60 years and for which his organ music was conceived. Here he plays the big cycle of Meditations sur le Mystere de la Saint Trinite from the late 60's and plays it better than anyone else has since.

If you have any taste for the rich colours, infinite rhythmic subtleties and vivid portrayals of nature in Messiaen's unique music (and even if you don't share his religious convictions), this is a treasure-trove indeed. I recommend you snap it up soon because it looks to me like one of those sets that won't stay in the catalogue for too long.