Messiaen Et exspecto resurrectionem mortuorum
A fascinating mixture of youthful and mature Messiaen. Written to commemorate the dead of both World Wars, the monumental Et exspecto resurrectionem mortuorum is among the composer’s best known works. The two early works are relative rarities. Although never formally withdrawn, Messiaen did little to encourage performance of the angst-ridden Le tombeau resplendissant (1931) after its premiere in 1933, and there has only been one readily accessible recording, from Myung-Whun Chung (DG). All of the material for the 1932 Hymne was lost during World War II, Messiaen reconstructing the work from memory for Stokowski. Moreover, Chung’s recording of the Hymne is, frankly, terrible, making this fine performance from Jun Märkl and his Lyon forces rather desirable.
While the combination of works is enticing, the order on the disc is rather odd. No music can adequately follow Et exspecto’s epic conclusion. Why meditate on the ‘Resplendent tomb’ when the dead have left it empty and are enjoying paradise? That said, rather than driving Et exspecto inexorably to an overwhelming conclusion, the gongs in this performance are decidedly apologetic. Messiaen was keen that there should be a sense of power in his music (not to be confused with volume), but, beautifully as it is played, this account of Et exspecto periodically pulls its punches. There is still much to admire, though, especially in the early works.