Unraveling the Mysteries and Joys of Messiaen + Lutoslawski
Grady Harp | Los Angeles, CA United States | 05/15/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Olivier Messiaen monumental ten movement, seventy-five minute opus TURANGALILA-SYMPHONIE is increasingly being accepted as one of the most important orchestral compositions of the twentieth century and spending time with this performance with Esa-Pekka Salonen conducting the Philharmonia Orchestra underlines that precis. Messiaen approaches music, whether orchestral, opera, chamber, or vocal, as a spiritual creation. Not that other composers do not enter this realm on occasion: Messiaen remains in the realm of nature, mysticism, spatial investigation and that most mysterious atmosphere of all - love.
Composed in the 1940s TURANGALILA explores the limits of the color palette and range of all of the standard orchestral instruments and then adds the Ondes Martenot and Piano to the mix. The result is a richly diverse panoply of aural experience that flows from cacophonous percussive sections to the barely audible gentle movements that include duets or echoes between piano and Ondes Martenot. Salonen unravels these mysterious threads better than anyone on record and the result is a work that is comprehensible and begs for repeated hearings. Paul Crossley sensitive renders the piano portions and Tristan Murail balances the fragile vagaries of the Ondes Martenot with grace and expressivity.
For a work so many concertgoers feel is too cerebral for tolerance there are a significant number of recordings - around ten at last count! While many will have their favorites among those, this reading by Salonen is the most intuitively compatible with the compositional ideas of Messiaen. The other reason for selecting this recording over others is the welcome inclusion of the hauntingly beautiful 'Les espace du sommeil' ('Sleep's Spaces'), Witold Lutoslawski's 1978 song for baritone and orchestra based on the poetry of WW II concentration camp poet Robert Desnos here recreated by the intelligent and musical John Shirley-Quirk. It is a moody and reverent work that explores despair and hope and those poetic verses find the perfect foil for musical expression in Lutoslawski's hands.
AND to top it off, this CD contains the world premiere recording of Lutoslawski's Symphony No. 3, a work Esa-Pekka Salonen and his Los Angeles Philharmonic know so well they make it sound like the masterwork it truly is. Set in two movements Lutoslawski writes 'The first movement is meant barely to interest, to attract, to involve, but never to satisfy the listener....the second movement appears and presents the main idea of the work'. Yet so integrated are the two movements that they are played without interruption and the result is a kaleidoscope of sound and rhythms and innovations that make Lutoslawski so approachable. The performance here is simply splendid. Highly recommended. Grady Harp, May 05"