Messiaen • Kurt Rohde
Messiaen: Quartet for the End of Time; Kurt Rohde: one wing
Left Coast Chamber Ensemble
Avie AV 2452 58:17 mins
Composed in Stalag XIIIA prison camp and inspired by the Book of Revelation, Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time almost inevitably makes a profound impact in concert. Yet its special qualities generally remain elusive to microphones even when, as here, recording a live performance.
The Left Coast Chamber Ensemble plays with spirit, and beautiful moments emerge from the distinctly boomy acoustic, but so do frustrations. It may seem churlish to bemoan the clinking edge to the piano’s tone given the decrepit instrument played at the work’s premiere. Nonetheless, it becomes wearing, especially in livelier passages, jangling in ‘Danse de la fureur’ as if the seven angels were Morris dancing while blasting their apocalyptic trumpets. Elsewhere there could be greater stillness. Two seconds is hardly adequate space between the seventh movement’s belligerent conclusion and the prayerful opening notes of the final violin ‘Louange’. The latter’s welcome ebb and flow is then disrupted by disconcerting lurches forward; nor is the second movement’s long-breathed violin and cello duet quite otherworldly.
A new work, Kurt Rohde’s one wing, lifts the disc. Inspired by the Angel music from Messiaen’s opera, Saint François d’Assise, it prolongs, then transforms the ethereal conclusion of the Quartet.