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

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COMPOSERS: Messiaen
LABELS: Unicorn-Kanchana
WORKS: Visions de l’Amen; Petites esquisses d’oiseaux; Fantaisie burlesque; Pièce pour le tombeau de Paul Dukas; Rondeau
PERFORMER: Peter Hill, Benjamin Frith (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: DKP (CD) 9144 DDD
This disc completes Peter Hill’s acclaimed complete anthology of Messiaen’s piano music. As such, there is a sense of tying up of a few loose ends, coupling some of his lesser-known early pieces with the two-piano Visions. Indeed, the first three pieces were recorded as long ago as 1984-5 and include the fascinating 1932 Fantaisie burlesque, a combination of ecstatic diminished-seventh harmonies and Les Six-like jazz.

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The mark of Hill’s Messiaen has always been the skill with which he manages to conjure a seemingly endless range of sonorities from the piano, bringing to life the birdsong works with a particular veracity. The six ‘little bird sketches’ here, full of colour and life, are no exception. For the heavyweight work on this disc, the Visions de l’Amen, Hill is joined by Benjamin Frith. Between them they make a powerful sound.

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This is Messiaen in his transcendental mode, creating abstract sounds to express the mythical sense of his religious beliefs. Massed chordal progressions, plainchant allusions and ecstatic chorales often seem to defy the mechanical limitations of the piano, but Hill and Frith rise admirably to the challenge, and are helped by a generous but unobtrusive recording environment. Matthew Rye