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Olivier Messiaen: Vingt Regards sur l'Enfant-Jésus
Olivier Messiaen, Pierre-Laurent Aimard
Olivier Messiaen: Vingt Regards sur l'Enfant-JÚsus
Genre: Classical
  •  Track Listings (10) - Disc #1
  •  Track Listings (10) - Disc #2

Olivier Messiaen's Vingt Regards sur l'Enfant-Jesus (Twenty Ways of Looking at the Infant Jesus) is just that--20 intense miniatures in which the composer explores his religious, spiritual, and musical convictions. Over th...  more »


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CD Details

All Artists: Olivier Messiaen, Pierre-Laurent Aimard
Title: Olivier Messiaen: Vingt Regards sur l'Enfant-JÚsus
Members Wishing: 2
Total Copies: 0
Label: Teldec
Original Release Date: 1/1/2000
Re-Release Date: 7/18/2000
Genre: Classical
Styles: Chamber Music, Historical Periods, Classical (c.1770-1830)
Number of Discs: 2
SwapaCD Credits: 2
UPC: 639842686822

Olivier Messiaen's Vingt Regards sur l'Enfant-Jesus (Twenty Ways of Looking at the Infant Jesus) is just that--20 intense miniatures in which the composer explores his religious, spiritual, and musical convictions. Over the course of its two hours, you'll hear birdsongs, a bit of Liszt, and plenty of dissonance, along with some genuine moments of tenderness and even sensuality. It's easily Messiaen's greatest work for the piano, and playing its many facets effectively is a challenge few musicians have accomplished. Despite stiff competition from Hakon Austbo and the composer's wife (Yvonne Loriod), Pierre-Laurent Aimard delivers what is undoubtedly the finest recording to date of the piece. Aimard, who studied under the composer and Loriod herself, rises to the difficulties of this work and all its tonal colors. He's rhythmically precise, yet he brings out the subtleties of the music as well. Messiaen's great work has never sounded better, due in part to Teldec's great recording, but mostly to Aimard's versatile playing. An impressive release and a must-have for Messiaen lovers. --Jason Verlinde

CD Reviews

Indescribably Beautiful
J Scott Morrison | Middlebury VT, USA | 11/09/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)

"My concert-going days go back to hearing Artur Schnabel in 1947, and when I say that a recital I heard a year ago by Pierre-Laurent Aimard in which he played five of the 'Vingts Regards' is among the greatest musical experiences I've ever had, it is against that background of almost sixty years of wonderful music heard in many different venues and with many wonderful musicians. (I must add that he also played several of the Ligeti 'Études' and that made it all the more special.) At the same time I must say that my knowledge of Messiaen's piano music had been pretty meager until the past couple of years. The reason for that was that I had been very much turned off by Peter Serkin's recording of 'Vingt Regards' of some years ago (and which I see has just been reissued by RCA in a 'remastered' edition.) I will admit that I may not have been ready for this work when I first heard the Serkin; people whose judgment I respect have told me I'm mistaken in my original assessment of the Serkin recording. Be that as it may, I believe that this Aimard is an amazing document of great beauty and understanding on his part, not surprising considering he studied for seven years with Yvonne Loriod, the composer's wife and primary interpreter in earlier years.

For those who find Messiaen a bit difficult to get into, I'd suggest that this work may not be the first work they should hear, but once one has Messiaen's style from some of his orchestral works, say, in one's ears, it is a logical next step. And the next thing to remember is that for all its intellectual and religious underpinnings, the best way into Messiaen's world is through simply letting it happen. It matters not to most listeners that Messiaen used Hindu rhythms, or scales of his own devising, or transcribed birdsong, or whatever other esoteric technical strategy. What matters is the overall impression. And that can only be gotten by simply letting the music wash over you, seep into your pores so to speak. Eventually, even if his language seems strange at first and even if his time-scale is at odds with your own probably more fast-paced one, just let it happen. From the performer's perspective, of course, one cannot do that. And this is where Aimard shines. He completely understands the technicalities of Messiaen's style, and he has complete mastery of the virtuosic technique involved, but he presents the music in a way that does not call attention to those things. Rather, he plays the music the way an earlier generation must have presented the music of the then-new Debussy--for the sound experience itself. Debussy confused early listeners, too, but they were soon won over, strange as it must have sounded to them initially. However, once one understands more about Messiaen's technical procedures (the use of leitmotivs, for instance) this performance is all the more wonderful, because one can also then hear Aimard's complete identification with it.

Finally, I want to comment that the recorded sound of the piano is quite lifelike, and as a pianist myself I will add that the instrument is an exceedingly attractive-sounding one that is well-regulated.

Two thumbs up.

2 CDs: TT=116 mins.

Scott Morrison"
Messiaen the Irresistible!
J. Anderson | Monterey, CA USA | 08/28/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Since discovering Messiaen's ecstatic piano masterpiece in college, it has remained for me one of the staples of my listening life. The specifics of my appreciation for this piece have grown more copious with repeated listenings to this remarkable Teldec version brilliantly conveyed by Pierre Aimard. He gives a more than convincing appraisal of this music as profound as a diamond, and requiring a cohesive exposition by a master jeweller. Aimard offers nothing less! His pianistic art is unmistakable, and filled with reverence and humor. Overall, I prefer this version certainly to Ruth Laredo's, and even to Peter Serkin's version, although a kind of neurotic love on my part for Serkin's willingness to be little, small, inside this music will never die. Certainly Teldec accomplishes a marvel of sonics, and the playing as well is beautifully achieved- cogent, spacious, and never afraid of those moments of unsheathed ecstasy that Messiaen was fearless to compose. While Messiaen remains perhaps for many an acquired taste, the "Vingt Regards" are as near to perfect as anything his utterly unselfconscious gifts ever wrought. This is a finely endowed rendition of a piano masterpiece composed by one of music's rare priests and imagineers, Messiaen the Irresistible."
An indescribable accomplishment
Yuval Sharon | Brooklyn, NY | 12/16/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Having just seen Aimard perform this piece last night, I am compelled to try and share with others an experience unlike any other. The chance to hear this mammoth work live is once in a lifetime, but the ability to hear Aimard's interpretation over and over again is a true gift that should not be passed up. Aimard plays possessed by this music, and his utter devotion and belief keeps him sounding bold and inspired from the first moment to the last. Messiaen's distorted kaleidoscope of a score is so multifaceted, all-encompassing, and overabundant that you may almost forget there is only one piano (if not one instrument), and this intimate recording captures it all. I cannot speak about what this music does for Catholic listeners, but as someone who is not Catholic, nor Christian at all, I believe that this overtly religious score must not be read only on its surface symbolism. Like Bach's music, it is the spirit that dominates more than any pictorial representation of the nativity. Its themes transcend denominations to speak with terror and joy of the human condition. In the end, it's an experience so monumental as to be ultimately indescribable."