Messiaen: Chronochromie; La ville d’en-haut; Et exspecto resurrectionem mortuorum

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COMPOSERS: Messiaen
LABELS: DG
WORKS: Chronochromie; La ville d’en-haut; Et exspecto resurrectionem mortuorum
PERFORMER: Cleveland Orchestra/Pierre Boulez
CATALOGUE NO: 445 827-2 DDD
In the Fifties and Sixties, while his younger contemporaries were busy trying to build a ‘brave new world’, Olivier Messiaen turned instead to nature. His Chronochromie not only presents us with numerous songs from his beloved birds but also depicts wind, rocks and gushing streams, fusing these natural phenomena, together with ‘colour-chords’ and abstruse rhythmic procedures, into a gritty and exhilarating masterpiece.

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This is a stunning rendition from Boulez. It is not so much the remarkable accuracy from the Cleveland Orchestra in this often fiendish score which is so impressive as the fine shading of every textural nuance, thus allowing the music’s latent poetry to shine through – a trait sadly lacking in most performances. In short, this is quite simply the best recording of Chronochromie ever made.

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The immense Et exspecto is also awesome in Boulez’s hands. Indeed, it seems almost churlish to say that the first movement should ideally be somewhat slower while the overwhelming tam-tam and gong rolls in the third movement could have had longer to die away. A magnificent account of the late monumental miniature (not a contradiction in terms I assure you) La ville d’en-haut completes an epic programme. Strongly recommended. Christopher Dingle