Messiaen: Quatuor pour la fin du temps

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COMPOSERS: Messiaen
LABELS: Teldec
WORKS: Quatuor pour la fin du temps
PERFORMER: Eduard Brunner (clarinet), Trio Fontenay
CATALOGUE NO: 9031 -73239-2 DDD
Messiaen’s quartet was inspired by St John’s apocalyptic vision of the end of the world. Written for fellow captives, while the composer was a prisoner-of-war, its first performance took place in 1941 in Stalag VIII A, Silesia, before an audience of 5,000. A string on the cello was missing, and the piano keys stuck.

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This is one of the most horrifying and desolate works in the repertory, and it is a pity that the Trio Fontenay, with clarinettist Eduard Brunner, give an altogether too healthy performance. The mystery, despair and agony of the long-drawn-out solos, particularly the clarinet in the third movement and cello in the fifth are never convincingly realised, while the close miking of the clarinet produces regrettably distracting sounds of gasping. The irony of the fourth movement is nicely caught, but somehow the bitter stridency of the angular rhythms and melodies, the deathly colours and sublime resignation, seem unusually bland in this interpretation. Annette Morreau