COMPOSERS: Olivier Messiaen
ALBUM TITLE: Messiaen
WORKS: L’ascension; Diptyque; Offrande au Saint-Sacrement; Prélude; Le Banquet céleste; Apparition de l’eglise éternelle
PERFORMER: Tom Winpenny (organ)
CATALOGUE NO: Naxos 8.573471
Tom Winpenny’s second Messiaen disc usefully collects various early pieces. Everything here dates from before the watershed of La nativité. Messiaen’s musical voice is already clear, but the shadows of Dupré and Tournemire understandably loom large. The former’s influence is most apparent in the rather laboured first panel of the Diptyque. It never really catches fire in Winpenny’s hands, but then it rarely does. His phrasing is exquisite, by contrast, in a relatively brisk approach to the second part (the bit reused in the Quartet for the end of Time).
The largest work here is the four-movement cycle L’ascension. Originally written for orchestra, the transcription caused Messiaen many headaches, so Winpenny’s finely judged choice of colours should be applauded, making full use of the organ of St Giles, Edinburgh. There is a natural flow throughout, especially in the tricky layering of ‘Alleluias sereins’. Nonetheless, there is scope for pushing things further. For instance, the dazzling ‘Transports de joie’ could have greater abandon, especially in the torrents of notes towards the end.
Of the two posthumously published student works, Winpenny ensures the climax of the Prélude is suitably imposing, though it is rightly capped by his control of the long rise and fall of the imperious Apparition de l’eglise éternelle. The other posthumous piece, the Offrande au Saint-Sacrement, consists largely of swirling arabesques over long-breathed chords, but Winpenny’s registration intriguingly nods towards the extraordinary worlds of Messiaen’s 1950s cycles. These would mark a bold next step for Winpenny and Naxos.
Naxos 8.573471 66:33 mins Christopher Dingle