ALBUM TITLE: Messiaen: Poèmes pour Mi
WORKS: Poèmes pour Mi; Vocalise-Etude; Chants de terre et de ciel
PERFORMER: Hetna Regitze Bruun (soprano), Kristoffer Hyldig (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 8.573247
Two song cycles of the 1930s here give an insight into Messiaen the man. Both were inspired by his impassioned love for Claire Delbos, his first wife, and the ‘Mi’ of Poèmes pour Mi. The first cycle from 1936 is an idiosyncratic, sacramental celebration of their marriage, while their year-old son Pascal also features in Chants de terre et de ciel from 1938. Though profoundly lyrical songs, their intensity of emotion and Messiaen’s unabashed blend of the autobiographical and theological makes for a heady brew not usually associated with the mélodie.
His ideal voice was not that of a fragile Melisande, but of the Wagnerian Marcelle Bunlet, who sang Kundry and Isolde at Bayreuth. Hetna Regitze Bruun may not have sung those roles, but her beauty of tone is matched by the richness and power needed for these remarkable works. Bruun floats effortlessly in the melismatic alleluias of ‘Action de graces’ from Poèmes pour Mi or the wordless Vocalise-etude tucked between the two cycles, yet brings searing radiance to the closing ‘Resurrection’ of Chants de terre et de ciel. Some words are a little lost in the excitement, and some moments, such as the opening of ‘Les deux guerriers’ could be even more extreme. These are small caveats, though, given the magical stillness of ‘Antienne du Silence’ and, as with their earlier Messiaen disc, Kristoffer Hyldig’s real understanding, poetry and virtuosity in the piano parts. Christopher Dingle