Messiaen: Petites esquisses d’oiseaux; Quatre études de rythme; Cantéyodjayâ

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WORKS: Petites esquisses d’oiseaux; Quatre études de rythme; Cantéyodjayâ
PERFORMER: Gloria Cheng (piano)
The second of Messiaen’s Rhythmic Studies, the quasi-serial ‘Modes de valeurs et d’intensités’, was the catalyst which launched Boulez, Stockhausen and friends on the path to total serialism. Shrewd observers might have noticed that, having shown his talented pupils the way, Messiaen changed direction and turned to nature. Nevertheless, with their anarchic predecessor, Cantéyodjayâ, the Quatre études de rythme contain some of the most influential and exhilarating music of this century.


Gloria Cheng has a penchant for demanding 20th-century scores and is certainly assured in these works, combining remarkable accuracy with a wonderful variety of colours. Unfortunately, she occasionally lacks subtlety and is certainly no match for the poetry or dynamic shading of Peter Hill (on Unicorn-Kanchana), particularly in Messiaen’s final piano work, Petites esquisses d’oiseaux. Messiaen’s Pièce pour le tombeau de Paul Dukas is a little ponderous in Cheng’s hands, but neatly concludes her (short) recital. This is an exciting, often brilliantly performed disc, but it is just as well that Cheng avoided Messiaen’s visionary works and his substantial nature portraits. Christopher Dingle