Messiaen: Oiseaux exotiques; Sept Haikai; Couleurs de la cite celeste; Un vltrall et des oiseaux; La ville d’en haut; Et exspecto resurrectionem mortuorum

COMPOSERS: Messiaen
LABELS: Chandos
WORKS: Oiseaux exotiques; Sept Haikai; Couleurs de la cite celeste; Un vltrall et des oiseaux; La ville d’en haut; Et exspecto resurrectionem mortuorum
PERFORMER: Peter Donohoe (piano); Netherlands Wind Ensemble/Reinbert de Leeuw
CATALOGUE NO: CHAN 9301/2 DDD
The plural title of this ‘New Directions’ series is apt enough. In search of an elusive new classical record-buying public, Chandos seems to have emulated the Stephen Leacock character who ‘flung himself upon his horse and rode madly off in all directions’.

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In fact, the only genuinely ‘new’ direction is taken by the live recording which combines the amplified, improvising Turtle Island String Quartet with Neeme Jarvi’s Detroit Symphony Orchestra. But the specially composed items here make less impact than the big-big-band version of Dizzy Gillespie’s A Night in Tunisia, and the quartet’s witty encores, arrangements of Miles Davis, Bach and Tower of Power.

There are two discs of Russian music – a current growth area in the classical market. In Grechaninov’s solemn Holy Week cycle, the recording captures the rich sound of Polyansky’s elite choir, founded on those inimitable Russian basses. In Rachmaninov’s two early Trios, die second a deeply felt piece in memory of his mentor, Tchaikovsky, the Bekova Sisters provide predictably good teamwork, but not quite enough projection or intensity.

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But will buyers of either of these discs also be attracted to the Dufay Collective’s colourful and imaginative interpretations of a dozen medieval dances? Or to the dazzling performances by the Danish Safri Duo of a well-varied batch of contemporary percussion duets? Certainly both are outstanding issues, which deserve to benefit from a new marketing approach. The pick of this bunch, however, is the Netherlands Wind Ensemble’s set of music by Messiaen. Reinbert de Leeuw and Peter Donohoe succeed in generating and sustaining remarkable momentum in the five assorted pieces for piano and ensemble; but de Leeuw also allows time for the great cliffs of sound of Et exspecto to make their full effect. The live performances are excellendy played and recorded; only the ungenerous playing time prevents an unqualified recommendation. Anthony Burton