Messiaen: Concert à quatre
Orchestre de l’Opéra Bastille, Myung-Whun Chung
France’s most renowned composer, after Claude Debussy and Maurice Ravel, is Olivier Messiaen (1908-1992). But Messiaen stems not from these impressionists; he was a latter-day Hector Berlioz. This Grammy-winning CD offers the early orchestral Les Offrandes oubliées (The Forgotten Offerings), music that travels from pain through panic into a long, totally serene finish that is unearthly. There is also his final work, Concert à quatre, which shares with his masterpieces L’ascension and Quartet for the End of Time a sense of exotic melody like that of no one else. There is the influence of birdsong. Long, undulating woodwind lines share a musical mosaic with abrupt but appealing rhythmic birdcalls. Then, as he approaches cadences, Cèsar Franck peeks in, and we’re suddenly tonal. Remarkable music.