WORKS: La transfiguration de notre seigneur Jésus-Christ
PERFORMER: Roger Muraro (piano), Thomas Prévost (flute), Robert Fontaine (clarinet), Eric Levionnois (cello), Francis Petit (marimba), Renaud Muzzolini (xylophone), Emmanuel Curt (vibraphone); Radio France PO & Chorus/Myung-Whun Chung
CATALOGUE NO: 471 569-2
A new recording of the transcendent oratorio La transfiguration de notre seigneur Jésus-Christ is always an enticing prospect. Built upon a series of Gospel recitations, meditations and chorales that is structurally redolent of Bach, this monumental liturgy for the concert hall is a key work in Messiaen’s output. Nevertheless, its importance does not stem merely from its vast scale, although 14 movements requiring seven instrumental soloists and a vast chorus and orchestra would be hard to overlook even with Messiaen’s penchant for gigantic structures. La transfiguration also marks a turning point in Messiaen’s creative life in which previously divergent compositional strands are brought together into an omnifarious whole.
With a strong team of soloists, led by the sublime Roger Muraro, and, in Chung, a conductor with a long and proven pedigree in Messiaen’s music, this new version will win many friends. La transfiguration can sound rather hard-edged, but this is a warm, glowing account that radiates colour without sacrificing any of its inherent granitic strength. At times the chorus does not quite sound sufficiently multitudinous, but this is a tiny quibble when set alongside a truly magnificent achievement that captures the spirit as well as the letter of Messiaen’s resplendent score. Christopher Dingle