Messiaen, Debussy

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5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Debussy,Messiaen
LABELS: INA Mémoire Vive
WORKS: Harawi
PERFORMER: Marcelle Bunlet (soprano); Olivier Messiaen (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: IMV 044 (distr. www.ina.fr) ADD mono
This is very special indeed. Messiaen wrote three substantial song cycles between 1936 and 1946, Poèmes pour Mi, Chants de terre et de ciel and Harawi, representing a formidable contribution to the repertoire of French song, but never followed up by later works. A not insignificant factor in this subsequent neglect of song was the retirement of the singer for whose voice all three works were written and who performed them many times with the composer: Marcelle Bunlet. It is thanks to the remarkable skills of this French Wagnerian, a notable Kundry at Bayreuth, that Messiaen requires a ‘grand dramatic soprano’ for his song cycles. Now, with the release of this palpably live performance of Harawi from 1954, with the composer at the piano, it is possible to understand what Messiaen so admired. Bunlet is not only strong throughout her vast range, but is able to respond to every twist and turn of this extraordinary music, passionately excited one moment, anxious the next, calm then euphoric, seductive then terrifying, but always in control even when singing with wild abandon. The big-boned reading of the ‘filler’, Debussy’s Baudelaire songs, will not be to all tastes, but it is worth remembering that they were composed very much in Wagner’s shadow. This is not for the faint-hearted, nor for those requiring crystal clear sound, but they are revealing, precious and intensely moving performances. Christopher Dingle

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