Messiaen: L’Ascension; Diptyque; Apparition de l’Eglise éternelle; Messe de la Pentecôte

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Messiaen
LABELS: Decca
WORKS: L’Ascension; Diptyque; Apparition de l’Eglise éternelle; Messe de la Pentecôte
PERFORMER: Thomas Trotter (organ)
CATALOGUE NO: 436 400-2 DDD
With last year’s EMI two-disc reissue of Messiaen’s vintage 1956 recordings of his own music still ringing in the ears of most organ enthusiasts, comparisons with this new release are both irresistible and intriguing.

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The obvious gain of the present disc lies in the recording quality. Messiaen was not well served either by engineers (recessed organ sound) or organ tuners (badly out-of-tune reeds) and there are some appalling edits. But his inspired performances – questionable tempo fluctuations aside – shine through resplendently and there is an improvisational feel to his playing which is hard to reproduce.

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Thomas Trotter, who comes from Decca’s small stable of organ virtuosi, gives persuasive, if straightforward accounts of four substantial works from Messiaen’s output. The first three in the programme are all youthful works, before complex rhythmic units and the influence of birdsong became a powerful expressive force. Trotter imaginatively draws colours from the beautifully-recorded Cavaillé-Coll instrument, and I admire the way in which he allows the music time and space in which to create its own climactic peaks. In this respect, the huge crescendo of Apparition de l’Eglise éternelle is splendidly judged, and the reflective numbers of L’Ascension breathe easily and fluently. However, in comparison to both Messiaen’s and Jennifer Bate’s recording (Unicorn) the famous ‘Transports de joie’ lacks fire. Stephen Haylett