Messiaen • Debussy

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COMPOSERS: Olivier Messiaen; Claude Debussy
ALBUM TITLE: Messiaen • Debussy
WORKS: Messiaen: Visions de l’amen; Debussy: En blanc et noir
PERFORMER: Ralph van Raat, Håkon Austbø (piano)


Two essentially life-affirming works written under the shadow of war Debussy’s is playfully defiant, while Messiaen typically looks beyond this world. Although Ralph van Raat is more closely associated with minimalist repertoire, Håkon Austbø maintains a strong record with both composers. Indeed, it seems surprising that he has turned to Visions de l’amen only now. Perhaps he could not decide which part he preferred; Messiaen gives them distinct roles, writing for himself the second piano part (Austbø’s choice), which includes the principal themes. The first piano part was his earliest creative response to the young Yvonne Loriod’s seemingly unlimited pianism. Van Raat rises to the challenge, though not quite to Loriod’s dynamism.

Austbø’s affinity with Messiaen is frequently apparent: the Norwegian pianist’s hushed, nuanced voicing in ‘Amen du désir’ suggests his deep awareness, too, of Catalogue d’oiseaux. Yet his customary sense of space is conspicuous by its absence, and the sense of inexorable forces is lacking in ‘Amen de l’agonie de Jesus’ and ‘Amen du jugement’.

Austbø and Van Raat launch into Debussy’s En blanc et noir with bristling enthusiasm, and there is much charm on display.


Christopher Dingle