Messiaen: Quatuor pour la fin du temps

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COMPOSERS: Messiaen
LABELS: Deux-Elles
WORKS: Quatuor pour la fin du temps
PERFORMER: Fibonacci Sequence
CATALOGUE NO: DXL 1133

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There are well over 20 recordings of the Quartet for the End of Time. Many are exceptionally well played, though few have much of the wonderful fluidity of the composer’s own account (Accord). Most also offer other works, usually by Messiaen, to increase the allure.

So, in presenting just the Quartet, a work that transcends the moment in the concert hall, yet so often falls flat on recordings, the members of The Fibonacci Sequence need to produce something very special. Sadly, they do not come close.

Yes, there are some fine moments, and some lovely touches of colour, but much of this performance is as wooden as the clogs Messiaen wore when playing at its premiere as a prisoner in Stalag VIIIA.

Violin and clarinet are playing streams of notes in the opening ‘Liturgie de cristal’ rather than being transformed into birds. It feels like the musicians are almost counting out loud during the fearsome sixth movement, and where is the fun in the ‘Intermède’?

Most catastrophic is the final violin and piano ‘Louange’. Rather than ebb and flow, it lurches between speeds, as if two performances at completely different tempos have been repeatedly spliced together and making Time all too apparent.

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Messiaen’s performance is essential listening, while the Gould Piano Trio give the best recent account (Chandos). In a crowded market, virtually any version is better than this. Christopher Dingle