Messiaen: Méditations sur le mystère de la Sainte Trinité

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COMPOSERS: Messiaen
LABELS: Priory
WORKS: Méditations sur le mystère de la Sainte Trinité
PERFORMER: Gillian Weir (organ)
CATALOGUE NO: PRCD 922 Reissue (1994)
How refreshing! Priory has taken what was already a marvellous disc and made it even better. When Gillian Weir’s set of Messiaen’s complete works first appeared on Collins, it quite rightly received plaudits by the bucket-load. Weir’s long association with the composer’s music, allied to an independent streak in her interpretations, produces invigorating accounts of this powerful music. Unfortunately her performances were undermined by woeful presentation. The discs were only available as a distinctly unwieldy set, and Collins’s accompanying booklet notes were parsimonious. No such charge could be levelled at Priory, which is now issuing the set on separate discs, each of which is furnished with a generous and genuinely informative set of notes.

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To say that the competition is now very strong in this repertoire would be a gross understatement, especially with the appearance last year both of Olivier Latry’s magnificent set (DG) and the reissue of Jennifer Bate’s legendary recordings (Regis). Nevertheless, Weir’s account of the Méditations is the jewel in the crown of her Messiaen interpretations and the weakest spot (if 80 minutes can be a spot) in Bate’s offering. Whereas Weir captures the fearsome, driving power of the toccata passage evoking the Holy Spirit at the heart of Méditation 5, Bate sounds distinctly lugubrious, while Latry somehow fails to make the hairs stand on the back of the neck despite having the full resources of the vast Notre Dame organ. Strongly recommended.