Olivier (-Eugene-Prosper-Charles) Messiaen (b. Dec. 10, 1908, Avignon, France.d. April 27, 1992, Clichy, near Paris)
Olivier Messiaen - in celebration of the centenary of his birth
A reminder of the special 18CD set relased in 2005
which is a bench mark for Messaien recordings:
From the web site www.oliviermessiaen.org
"This 18-CD set offers a comprehensive overview of Messiaen’s work in recordings made between 1963 and 2000 by the Warner labels Erato and Teldec. The performers include the composer himself, his wife the pianist Yvonne Loriod, Pierre Boulez, Marie-Claire Alain and other champions of Messiaen’s work.
"As a tantalising and unique bonus
, a full CD is devoted to an extensive interview with Messiaen recorded in 1988 in which he speaks, in French, about bird-song, colour, travel, religious faith, opera and the avant-garde. The richly illustrated 149-page booklet includes a full English translation of the interview as well as the composer’s detailed commentary about most of the works included in the set – with booklet editor Fabian Watkinson supplying information about the remaining works.
described the 80th Birthday Messiaen Edition released by Erato in 1988, on which the current edition is based, as “a treasure chest of great music and fine music-making.”
"Warner Classics 18 CD set that replaces and updates the original
17 CD set released by Erato in the 80s.
Click here for full details and 20 sound clips 2564-62162-2 (18CD)
From a review by Malcolm Ball (©Malcolm Ball 2005) on the www.oliviermessiaen.org
"When I was first exposed to the music of Messiaen many years ago now, it was through the French recordings of the Vega and Erato records. It’s easy to forget just how difficult these recordings were to get hold of in those days even though France was a mere 24 miles away, record imports were rare and expensive. Of course nowadays we can obtain a recording from the other side of the world within a couple of days (immediately if it’s available online) such was not the case then. In the mid 80s Erato had the good sense to put together a 17 CD box set of all these early and sometimes first recordings of their Messiaen catalogue. These were presented in a bright rainbow coloured box with all the CDs in hard jewel cases each with their own booklet so the size was not unlike that of a car battery and almost weighing as much! As with many contemporary releases around this time it was soon deleted and became impossible to find. It is these recordings that Warner Classics have resurrected and have had the even better sense to present them in slip in wallets and fold out box where in this case the accompanying booklet weighs more than the CDs and takes up far less space.
So I grew up with a lot of this material and although some are more than forty years old now they still stand up as marvellous interpretations. Yes there have been many newer performances as we enter the 21st century and all have merits of one kind or another but we must remember that many of these Erato recordings were supervised by Messiaen himself and this I’m sure gives that ‘something special’ element that is sometimes lacking in present day performances.
The Eglise Notre-Dame du Liban was never that well sound proofed and the Paris traffic still rumbles by as Yvonne Loriod bravely soldiers through the Catalogue d’Oiseaux. Rather more disturbing is that Warner decided to introduce a ‘noise gate’ during the transfer of Le Loriot in an attempt to eradicate some pre echo that was present on the original recordings. This has resulted in the natural reverberation of the piano being ‘sucked’ out to an artificial silence after the opening chords. I personally would have lived with the slight pre echo and retained the piano resonance but there you are! And don’t try to skip directly to track 4 of CD17 (Des canyons aux étoiles) as you’ll miss the attack of the first chord.
There are a couple of new additions to the set. Turangalîla Symphonie and Réveil des Oiseaux are recordings made by Kent Nagano after the composer's death. This reading of Turangalila is surely one of the most exciting but for a mis-placed cymbal crash in the last movement that presumably couldn’t be repaired due it being a live recording.
These minor points aside, this set is an invaluable tool to any student or listener coming to Messiaen for the first time as well as seasoned specialists who missed out on the original set. The booklet contains all the original notes (many by Messiaen) and texts to the choral works in English and French.
Although we still await re releases of the early Loriod piano material and the Erato Fêtes des Belles Eaux recording, the Messiaen Edition is a truly welcome reissue and superb value for money for which Warner Classics must be applauded.
©Malcolm Ball 2005