Author Topic: Music Review-- Messiaen Moments, in Swells and Fanfares  (Read 2959 times)

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Music Review-- Messiaen Moments, in Swells and Fanfares
« on: November 19, 2011, 07:30:54 AM »

On Friday night at Alice Tully Hall that work served as the point of embarkation for a distinctive recital by the brilliant French musician Olivier Latry, a tenured organist at the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris. Under the banner of Lincoln Center’s White Light Festival, Mr. Latry presented “Wind of the Spirit,” a 70-minute sequence of Messiaen’s organ music, arranged without regard for chronology and presented with only minor pauses.

From the ascendant fanfares, mystical harmonies and emotional swells that help “Apparition de l’Église Éternelle” speak to all, Mr. Latry proceeded to two sections from “Livre du Saint Sacrement” (1984), an extensive final summation of Messiaen’s traits and devices. The second, “La Manne et le Pain de Vie,” was especially haunting, its pale, keening tones evoking the arid desert and spiritual thirst.

Here and throughout, a small stream of audience members trickled through the exits, whether out of bemusement, perplexity or worse. For the vast majority who remained, Mr. Latry’s prodigious dexterity in “Le Vent de l’Espirit” (from “Messe de la Pentecôte,” 1949-50) and timbral resourcefulness in “Verset Pour la Fête de la Dédicace” (1960) were causes to marvel.

Messiaen’s passion for bird song, evident elsewhere, found literal expression in a vivacious “Chants d’Oiseaux” (from “Livre d’Orgue,” 1951). Mr. Latry ended with two sections from “La Nativité du Seigneur” (1935), conveying vividly fiery heraldry in “Les Anges” and enveloping sublimity in “Dieu Parmi Nous.” His encore was “Prière Après la Communion” (from “Livre du Saint Sacrement”), its pealing descents a gentle, symmetrical end to an engrossing journey.

An organ expert might offer a detailed exegesis of how well the hall’s recently restored Kuhn organ suited Messiaen’s demands. To ears seasoned by other recitals and guided by Mr. Latry’s authoritative 2002 Deutsche Grammophon CD survey of Messiaen’s organ works, the instrument provided all the brilliance, tonal variety and penetration required by French music, Messiaen’s included.

What I missed was the complicity of a cathedral’s architecture in making Messiaen’s music the immersive experience it can be. Still, a more clinical perspective failed to defuse this potent mix of composer and interpreter.

The objective is to reach human immortality—that is, to create things which are necessary to mankind, necessary to the purpose of the existence of mankind, and which have become the fruit that drives the creation of a higher state of mankind than ever existed before."


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