Messiaen: Livre du Saint Sacrement

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COMPOSERS: Messiaen
LABELS: Dabringhaus und Grimm
WORKS: Livre du Saint Sacrement
PERFORMER: Rudolf Innig (organ)
CATALOGUE NO: MDC 317 0623-2
Livre du Saint Sacrement is Messiaen’s last, and longest, work for organ. As such, it stands as the composer’s summa for his own instrument and meditates on the Eucharist, the same subject which inspired his earliest extant organ piece, Le banquet celeste. The 18 movements of this vast cycle are divided into three broad sections with four contemplations of Christ followed by two groups of seven movements respectively exploring pertinent episodes of Christ’s earthly life and the mysteries of the Eucharist.

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It is the only major organ work by Messiaen that the composer did not perform or record, but he did give a glowing imprimatur to Jennifer Bate’s recording made at his church of Sainte-Trinite. Rudolf Innig’s new account is, of course, a major achievement and it is evident that he has an imaginative flair for trying to reproduce the distinctive timbres of Messiaen’s registrations. Nevertheless, he does not quite capture the same sense of the mysterious as Bate or, for that matter, Hans-Ola Ericsson(BIS). In Innig’s hands ‘Institution de 1’Eucharistie’ comes across as a little hard-hearted, while the disquieting rumble at the close of ‘Les tenebres’ is about a third thelength required for its full unnerving impact to be appreciated. The latter is an extreme example of Innig’s performance suggesting impatience. Bate’s tempi, particularly inplainchant passages, may be a little slow, but this is preferable to Innig’s often constricted approach in which the power of the music is conveyed in spite, rather than because of, his interpretation. Christopher Dingle