Messiaen/Lutoslawski

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COMPOSERS: Messiaen/Lutoslawski
LABELS: RCA Victor Red Seal
WORKS: Turangalîla Symphony; Un sourire; Concerto for Orchestra
PERFORMER: Radio France PO/Marek Janowski
CATALOGUE NO: 09026 61520 2 DDD
Un sourire (A Smile), a homage to Mozart (whose music, in Messiaen’s view, ‘smiled’) in his bicentenary year, was the last commission Olivier Messiaen undertook. Listening to it immediately before the massive Turangalîla Symphony of 1946-8 one is reminded of how little his style altered in its essentials over 45 years; indeed, this beautiful slow movement, replete with the obligatory birdsong, might have been cut from the same musical block as the ‘Jardin du sommeil d’amour’ movement of the symphony itself.

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How well Turangalîla itself is lasting is debatable: some of its ideas now sound (and for some people always have sounded) distinctly crude, and the sheer amount of repetition can be wearing – though as ever in Messiaen’s orchestral scores there is no denying the vibrancy of the colour-schemes.

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Janowski and his French Radio musicians are not as wildly orgiastic in this music as some, and there will be those who will be grateful for that. Equally, they are less brilliant than some of their rivals in the virtuosic Lutoslawski piece from 1954, one of the great examples of the orchestral concerto, whose musical cogency they nevertheless articulate impressively. George Hall