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Messiaen: Quartet for the End of Time

Amatis Trio; Ib Hausmann (clarinet) (Avi-music)

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

Messiaen
Quartet for the End of Time
Amatis Trio; Ib Hausmann (clarinet)
CAvi-music AVI 8553042   46:22 mins

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Olivier Messiaen’s Quatuor pour la fin du temps resists confinement. The premiere in the bitter January of 1941 lifted the composer’s fellow prisoners of war beyond their circumstances within Stalag VIIIA. The music refuses to be strait-jacketed into conventional bars or rhythms, while its apocalyptic subject looks outside the existence of time. It is a work beyond normal limits that lives in the moment of performance and generally eludes capture by microphones.

This new recording from the Amatis Trio with clarinettist Ib Hausmann does better than many others. There is some exceptionally fine playing, especially from Lea Hausmann and Samuel Shepherd on violin and cello respectively. The frenzied eruptions at either end of the second movement, ‘Vocalise, pour l’Ange qui annonce la fin du temps’, have rarely had such joyous abandon, while both add some delicious and judicious slides in their heartfelt ‘Louange’ movements.

Ib Hausmann is suitably mesmerising in ‘Abîme des oiseaux’, though might fall more dejectedly back into the abyss, while pianist Mengjie Han displays remarkable control throughout. What is needed, though, is more of everything; more space, more freedom and even more nuance to break the proprieties of normal music-making. This wonderful playing does not quite break through to Messiaen’s music of extremes.

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Christopher Dingle