Martin, Messiaen

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5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Martin,Messiaen
LABELS: Harmonia Mundi
WORKS: Mass for Double Choir; Songs of Ariel; Cinq rechants; O sacrum convivium
PERFORMER: RIAS Chamber Choir/Daniel Reuss
Frank Martin’s beautiful Mass for Double Choir is well served on CD these days. It dates from the Twenties and is one of his most sublime utterances. It was written for his own satisfaction and as a private confession of faith: Martin never sought performances and it was not until the Sixties that it entered the repertoire. There have been many notable recordings over the years, most notably the Westminster Cathedral Choir under James O’Donnell (Hyperion, reviewed December 1999). The RIAS Chamber Choir under their Dutch conductor Daniel Reuss gives a performance of great feeling and sensitivity. In terms of tonal blend and purity of intonation it is second to none and the performance has real eloquence and nobility. It also gives us the magical Songs of Ariel, not widely available since the deletion of the Harry Christophers version, which much enhances the value of this fine issue. The Messiaen Cinq rechants (or refrains) of 1948 is the last element in his so-called Tristan trilogy, which includes Turangalîla. It is his last a cappella work and Messiaen thought it one of his very finest. It combines elements of Peruvian folksong, the alba or dawn songs of the troubadours and the chansons of Claude le Jeune, as well as Indian rhythms. The Berlin choir meets its formidable vocal demands with a performance of remarkable virtuosity, and adds a serene account of the earlier O sacrum convivium. Superb and responsive singing throughout, and in the Mass recommended alongside (though not necessarily in preference to) the Westminster Cathedral account. Robert Layton