Friday, 3 February 2017

Olivier Messiaen - Et Exspecto Resurrectionem Mortuorum, etc (1988 compi, rec '66-'71)

Been trying to up my Messiaen (1908-1992) game lately, and found this great CD for £2.  Apparently it’s from a box set that was released in the composer’s 80th birthday year – love that digital timing on the cover, from the early heyday of the format! 

Et exspecto resurrectionem mortuorum (And I await the resurrection of the dead) from 1964 is the centrepiece here, and it’s one of Messiaen’s most striking and sombre orchestral works, being commissioned in memoriam of the dead of the World Wars.  Whether with ominous tolling bells and rattling percussion, or in the huge monolithic brass lines, approaching something like orchestral doom-metal, this is pure apocalypse and final judgement written large.  It’s paired on CD as it was on the 1966 LP with Couleurs De La Cité Céleste (1963), which is even more percussive, makes much of Messiaen’s concept of colours in sound, and an ideal companion to the main work.  Both were conducted by Pierre Boulez.

Slightly lighter in mood, and dating from 1934 (recorded here in 1971), L’Ascension is one of Messiaen’s earliest orchestral masterpieces to show the mystical, hallucinatory Catholicism at the heart of most of his output.  The final movement is something that’s particularly stuck on me since getting into the work; it truly is otherworldly.

Seigneur, écoute ma voix!

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