WORKS: Réveil des oiseaux; Trois petites liturgies de la présence divine
PERFORMER: Yvonne Loriod (piano), Jeanne Loriod (ondes martenot), Luc Héry (violin), Michel Sendrez (celesta), Marie Griffet (soprano); Maîtrise de Radio France, French National Orchestra/Kent Nagano
CATALOGUE NO: 0630-12702-2 DDD
A prevalent characteristic of Olivier Messiaen’s music is the juxtaposition of apparently disparate material. The combination of Réveil des oiseaux and Trois petites liturgies is therefore particularly astute as, superficially at least, there is very little in the way of style, technique or sentiment that would suggest to an unsuspecting listener that both pieces are the work of a single composer.
Dating from 1944, the Trois petites liturgies is an unashamedly heady brew of intoxicating sensuality and religious devotion combining luxurious tonal and modal harmonies with Eastern influences. Provoking an outcry from the musical intelligentsia at its premiere, it has now entered the repertoire as one of Messiaen’s most popular works.
Although the Réveil des oiseaux was composed just eight years later, its similar public emotionalism was by then untenable in the ‘brave new world’ of the Fifties. However, having shown his pupils the path to total serialism, Messiaen rejected abstraction and instead devoted a decade to the depiction of nature, particularly birdsong.
The performance of Trois petites liturgies is without parallel, while the equally outstanding account of Réveil des oiseaux – a work long overshadowed by its ornithological successor, Oiseaux exotiques – should win many new devotees for the piece. Christopher Dingle