WORKS: Cinq rechants; O sacrum convivium!
PERFORMER: Danish National Radio Choir/Jesper Grove Jørgensen
CATALOGUE NO: CHAN 9663
A cappella works by pupils of Messiaen: what an excellent way of exploring the multiplicity of styles to be found in mid- to late 20th-century music. Dozens of notable composers went through the Messiaen class at the Paris Conservatoire, including many who are emerging only now on to the international scene.
Unfortunately, what could be an extremely fruitful way of exploring diverse corners of the modern repertoire turns out to be nothing more than an extremely tenuous peg. On it hang offerings by just two of the maître’s ‘pupils’, Stockhausen and Xenakis, along with Messiaen’s short devotional motet ‘O sacrum convivium’ and ‘Cinq rechants’, the intoxicating a cappella showpiece from his Tristan triptych. The latter should be profoundly dramatic in its gestures, but the Danish National Radio Choir seems unable to trust Messiaen’s instructions regarding changes in tempi and dynamics, resulting in a curiously understated and ultimately limp account.
The Stockhausen pieces are decidedly unprogressive student works from 1950, before he had encountered Messiaen’s music. The two relatively recent works by Xenakis, À Hélène and the scintillating Serment show what the choir can achieve. Nevertheless, something is seriously wrong when the troubled entreaty of Nuits begins to sound dull. Christopher Dingle