Composer: Olivier Messiaen
Orchestra: Orchestre National de Lyon
Conductor: Jun Markl
Number of Discs: 1
Format: FLAC (image+cue)
Size: 236 MB
01. Et exspecto resurrectionem mortuorum: I. Des profondeurs de l’abime, je crie vers toi, Seigneur: Seigneur, ecoute ma voix!
02. Et exspecto resurrectionem mortuorum: II. Le Christ, ressuscite des morts, ne meurt plus; la mort n’a plus sur lui d’empire
03. Et exspecto resurrectionem mortuorum: III. L’heure vient ou les morts entendront la voix du Fils de Dieu ?
04. Et exspecto resurrectionem mortuorum: IV. Ils ressusciteront, glorieux, avec un nom nouveau, dans le concert joyeux des etoiles et les acclamations des fils du Ciel
05. Et exspecto resurrectionem mortuorum: V. Et j’entendis la voix d’une foule immense ?
06. Le tombeau resplendissant
LATE AND EARLY VISIONS
This is an issue that I want to commend with as big and as numerous a five stars as I can. It’s not a matter of my opinion of the music, although I am a serious Messiaen-junkie. It is not just a matter of the performance and recorded sound either, nor even of the unfailingly predictable value that Naxos offer us. What I am raving about, in my restrained way, is the imaginative selection of the three items that we have here.
Messiaen lived to the age of threescore years and twenty-four. The main number here is a big commission that he was given in the 60’s for a work to commemorate the fallen in WWII. What he went for was not another requiem but an instrumental piece, in five movements and lasting half an hour, responding to biblical texts of the apocalyptic kind that sparked M’s special imagination. The instrumentation is not standard: there are no strings, but a profusion of woodwind, brass and percussion. Obviously the recording had better be up to long tam-tam crescendos, great organ-simulating brass effects etc, but both the National Orchestra of Lyons and their technical personnel have no problem with any of it that I can detect in these recordings from the first decade of the current millennium.
And then for something completely different. What would you suppose a composition entitled `The Resplendent Tomb’ was about, particularly such a work written by a young man of 23? If I can believe the liner note, this so-called `tomb’ was the memorial to his lost youth, as he conceived the matter. That’s all I know, but a man who lived to age 84, retaining his faculties, would not in the final turn-out have lost all that high a proportion of his good years, whatever Wertherish emotions he may have felt in those early times. One way or the other, he was anxious to disown the work, but we need not do anything of the kind in my opinion. I would call it rather a good piece, surprisingly light-footed much of the time despite its purported topic. In particular, its leggiero style at the start makes a brilliant contrast with the great ponderous disclosures of the Et Exspecto that precedes it.
That is for a normal orchestra, and it lasts roughly 20 minutes. The final quarter of an hour is devoted to a `Hymn’, belonging to the same early period as the `Tomb’. This time M was not only happy to acknowledge this offspring but worked hard to re-create it from memory after the original score got lost in the post. The liner-note writer alludes to M’s fine memory and draws the naive inference that we have got something very close to the original composition. That is what I would call a very shaky assumption. Myself, I have quite a good memory, but remembering something in a general way is a very different matter from remembering it in accurate detail over time, as I have had cause to find out, and as any lawyer can confirm. What does it matter anyhow? We have a fine piece of music in one of its versions, and if the original ever reappears we will have a fascinating comparison.
The performances are absolutely fine to my way of thinking. The works are all new to me, but by now I have quite a developed idea of what I consider the proper idiom for performing Messiaen. A few decades ago a review would have had to take all alternative versions of the works under performance into account. These days economics and normal human life-expectancy make such demands unreasonable. If there are not fine alternative accounts available already there soon will be, you can bet your bottom dollar on that. I don’t myself expect any resurrection from the dead, but I can complete my human term satisfied with these fine accounts of these fine works.