Messiaen: Éclairs sur l’au-delà…

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Messiaen
LABELS: DG
WORKS: Éclairs sur l’au-delà…
PERFORMER: Orchestra of the Bastille Opera/Myung-Whun Chung
CATALOGUE NO: 439 929-2 DDD
The booklet for Rickenbacher’s disc, which includes the first commercial recording of La ville d’en-haut, proudly informs us that it was Messiaen himself who suggested the programme, proclaiming these artists’ performances of the works ‘worthy of a compact disc’. It is unfortunate, then, that the disc only partly achieves his expectations. Whilst the two orchestras involved respond admirably to the hard-edged authority of Loriod’s three virtuosic contributions, they remain resolutely pedestrian in Et exspecto which, amazingly for this monumental work, left me distinctly underwhelmed. A disappointing account of Un sourire and the somewhat shoddy presentation of the booklet, with an over-literal translation, misspellings and factual errors, regretfully prevent any strong recommendation.

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Chung’s remarkable account of Éclairs sur l’au-delà…, on the other hand, warrants unreserved praise. It is true that the slow movements are not quite as expansive as the score prescribes, but Chung captures the spirit and ambience of the work to perfection and the splendid ‘4D’ recording lives up to DG’s hype. No performance of this masterpiece could ever be ‘definitive’, but this will surely be the benchmark recording for many years to come. Christopher Dingle