Messiaen: Visions de l’Amen; Fantaisie burlesque; Pièce pour le tombeau de Paul Dukas; Rondeau

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LABELS: Hyperion
WORKS: Visions de l’Amen; Fantaisie burlesque; Pièce pour le tombeau de Paul Dukas; Rondeau
PERFORMER: Steven Osborne, Martin Roscoe (piano)
Following his outstanding recording of Vingt regards sur l’enfant-Jésus, Messiaen’s pianistic Everest (reviewed October 2002), it is logical that Steven Osborne, joined by Martin Roscoe, should wish to tackle the composer’s other wartime religious monument, Visions de l’Amen. A cycle of seven movements for two pianos, Visions was the first in a litany of pieces to take advantage of the extraordinary talents of Yvonne Loriod. There is a clear progression from virtually silent contemplation to a radiant proclamation of joy. To this can be added the interrelationship of the pianists, the breathtaking pianism of the first piano taking wing from the principal unfolding of themes and harmonies in the second piano, the result being visually as well as aurally dramatic. Osborne and Roscoe hold their own in a strong field: tender and poetic at the opening of ‘Amen du désir’, sprightly in ‘Amen des anges, des saints, du chant des oiseaux’ and resolute in the penultimate ‘Amen du jugement’. Nevertheless, they are outshone by Peter Hill and Benjamin Frith (Regis), who are far more daring in their tempos for this music of extremes, with greater stillness at the heart of the ‘Amen de la consommation’ before the breathless, ecstatic dash for the end. Placing the fillers at the end is a mistake. The same pieces open Hill’s recital, and he throws in the Petites esquisses d’oiseaux for good measure. There is much to savour in Osborne and Roscoe’s performance, captured in typically superlative Hyperion sound, but the newcomer fails to knock Hill off his perch. Christopher Dingle