Messiaen: Preludes; Quatre etudes de rythme; Canteyodjaya

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COMPOSERS: Messiaen
LABELS: Arte Nova
ALBUM TITLE: Messiaen
WORKS: Preludes; Quatre etudes de rythme; Canteyodjaya
PERFORMER: Martin Zehn
CATALOGUE NO: 82876 57833 2
Messiaen’s Préludes and Rhythmic

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Studies make strange bedfellows.

On first hearing, few listeners would

suspect that they were composed a

mere 20 years apart, let alone by the

same hand. The subtle colours and

poetry of the early Préludes (1928-

9), written when Messiaen was

barely 20, are a world away from the

fiery anarchy produced, ironically,

by the abstruse calculations of the

Rhythmic Studies. The exigencies of

programming complete cycles of

Messiaen’s piano music have led to

the pairing becoming commonplace

on disc, but it should not be

forgotten that it is a remarkable

pianist who can excel in both pieces.

Having recorded fine accounts

of the Catalogue d’oiseaux and Vingt

regards, Martin Zehn has already

demonstrated his versatility and

this new release will not disappoint.

His forthright approach has much

to commend it, and is particularly

apposite for the apparent soundworld

of the Studies. The hammering

at either end of the keyboard in

‘Neumes rythmiques’ flashes like

polished steel. The composer’s own

idiosyncratic recording (FMR,

reviewed November 2003) is, for

once, instructive here, for Messiaen’s

understated attack contains both

more menace and more humanity

than Zehn.

In the Préludes everything is

in its rightful place, but, for all

the clarity of performance and

recording, Zehn matches neither

the wit in ‘Le nombre léger’ of

Roger Muraro (Accord) nor the

lyricism of Peter Hill (Regis). There

is much to admire about Zehn, but

this music needs more grace and

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breathing space. Christopher Dingle