Messiaen: Éclairs sur l’au-delà…

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COMPOSERS: Messiaen
LABELS: EMI
WORKS: Éclairs sur l’au-delà…
PERFORMER: BPO/Simon Rattle
CATALOGUE NO: 5 57788 2
Éclairs sur l’au-delà…, Messiaen’s sublime final completed work, has already forged a place in the repertoire barely a decade after the composer’s death. The 11 movements of these ‘Illuminations of the beyond’ represent an Indian summer for Messiaen and provide an excellent introduction to his music. Simon Rattle’s interpretation has evolved over several years. His close intimacy with the work is reflected in a wonderful fluidity to the scintillating textures of the second movement, ‘La constellation du Sagittaire’. Similarly, Rattle and the BPO are without peer in the penultimate ‘Le chemin de l’invisible’, the grit in Messiaen’s luminescent oyster, the spice of a live performance captured in marvellous sound making it utterly thrilling. Unfortunately, such positives are offset by misjudgements at pivotal points elsewhere. Rattle has long been convinced that the sixth movement, ‘Les sept anges aux sept trompettes’, should be faster than marked, but his brisk canter suggests the honking of horns at road works rather than apocalyptic trumpets. To this should be added a stroll through the opening ‘Apparition du Christ glorieux’ that fails to ease the listener into Messiaen’s timescale. Sylvain Cambreling’s rival version (Hänssler) may sound leaden-footed, but this is on account of its rigidity not its slow tempi. Myung-Whun Chung (DG) may lack pizzazz, but with the Opéra de la Bastille orchestra playing at its best, even outshining the Berlin strings, his account currently transcends all four recorded rivals. There are delights aplenty in this newcomer, but, when it counts, Chung leaves Rattle sounding distinctly earthbound. Christopher Dingle

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