La Scena Musicale

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Messiaen: Chants de Terre et de Ciel

Suzie LeBlanc, soprano; Lawrence Wiliford, tenor; Laura Andriani, violon; Robert Kortgaard, piano
ATMA Classiques ACD2 2564
***** $$$

As musicians around the world celebrate Olivier Messiaen’s centenary birthday with an abundance of concerts and recordings, here we have a disc that showcases some of his lesser-known early works, composed in the first few years of his marriage to violinist and composer Claire Delbos before her eventual psychological decline. It is interesting to hear a different side of Messiaen; he is often associated with his later experiences as a prisoner of war in Germany and his innovative compositional techniques. This disc shows a young Messiaen growing into his own voice with works rooted in impressionism and traditional French lyricism, recalling such composers as Debussy and Poulenc. Although she specializes in 17th and 18th century repertoire, Canadian soprano Suzie LeBlanc inhabits these difficult works with ease, imbuing the lyrics with pure and exquisite tone. Seldom recorded, the dramatic cantata La Mort du nombre is one of the most interesting works on this disc, ranging from lyrical to dramatic. Written for piano, violin, soprano and tenor, the piece explores the theme of love between man and woman, human and god with lyrics written by Messiaen himself. He weaves a rich tonal tapestry, at times evoking Debussy’s Pelleas et Melisande. Tenor Lawrence Wilford lends a compelling voice, flowingly expressive with a large dramatic capacity. The young composer’s originality later blossomed into extraordinary vision.

- Hannah Rahimi

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