Messiaen: Trois mélodies; Vocalise étude; Poèmes pour Mi; Chants de terre et de ciel; Harawi

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LABELS: Brilliant
ALBUM TITLE: Messiaen – songs
WORKS: Trois mélodies; Vocalise étude; Poèmes pour Mi; Chants de terre et de ciel; Harawi
PERFORMER: Ingrid Kappelle (soprano)
Håkon Austbø (piano)
Messiaen’s songs are probably the


least well-known area of his output,

yet, in many ways, they are the most

remarkable. All three great cycles,

Poèmes pour Mi, Chants de terre et

de ciel, and Harawi, were inspired

by his passionate love for his first

wife, Claire Delbos. They represent

the composer at his most intimately

personal, conveying tenderness

and ardent fire by turns, with often

surreal imagery matched by music

that shows scant regard for the

niceties of a song recital.

Marcelle Bunlet, a reputed

Wagnerian who gave the first

performances of each cycle, was

Messiaen’s favoured singer, and they

can be heard in a live, poorly recorded

account of Harawi (INA). Ingrid

Kappelle comes closest of modern

singers to matching Messiaen’s ideal, with a full-bodied, powerful

voice, whilst her ability to convey

the quietest hush is extraordinary.

In ‘Dans le noir’, the final song of

Harawi, she seems to disappear

into the realm of the stars. Her

ace, though, is Håkon Austbø. He

has recorded all of Messiaen’s solo

piano music, an experience reflected

throughout in terms of touch, colour

and tempo. Kappelle’s pronunciation

is occasionally quirky, and if not

always as incisive as Jane Manning’s

rightly lauded accounts (Regis), she

is more rounded and never mundane.

The three early songs and the usually

overlooked Vocalise etude are also

included to make this a thoroughly


desirable set. Christopher Dingle