Messiaen: Eclairs sur l’Au-Delà…

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Messiaen
LABELS: Jade
WORKS: Eclairs sur l’Au-Delà…
PERFORMER: Polish Radio National SO, Katowice/ Antoni Wit
CATALOGUE NO: JAD C 099 (distr. Complete Record Co.) DDD
Eclairs sur l’Au-Delà…, completed by Messiaen on his death-bed in 1992, is a series of eleven meditations on the afterlife, drawing inspiration from the book of Revelation. Although the musical language is essentially the same as in previous works, the ambience created by Messiaen is almost entirely new. The music is disarming in its charm and intimacy, after the monumentalism of previous years, and much of the work could be regarded as chamber music that just happens to require 128 highly accomplished musicians to perform it.

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This is an exceedingly fast performance, due predominantly to the disappointing rendition of the work’s long opening wind chorale, Apparition du Christ glorieux. The tempo allows no space for the music to breathe, denying the chance to acclimatise to Messiaen’s broad timescale. After this disappointing start I approached the ensuing movements with trepidation, but found my fears blissfully washed away. The crucial slow movements for strings – Demeurer dans l’Amour, and Le Christ, Lumière du Paradis – are handled with eloquence, while there is suitable power and awe created in the apocalyptic Les sept Anges aux sept trompettes.

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This is, on the whole, an accomplished reading which is imbued with a magical air of hushed expectancy. Even with the imminent appearance of Myung-Whun Chung’s performance on DG, I would not wish to be without this recording on my shelf. Christopher Dingle