Choral music and DSD fans, you’ll eat this one up.
Craig Zeichner, Native DSD
07 December 2018
Craig Zeichner is the Associate Director of Marketing and Copy at Carnegie Hall.
Danish National Vocal Ensemble
Danish National Concert Choir
Danish National Chamber Orchestra
Marcus Creed, Conductor

Olivier Messiaen’s choral music has never enjoyed the recognition his organ, piano, chamber, and orchestral works have. His La Nativité du Seigneur (organ), Quatuor pour la fin du temps (chamber music), and Turangalîla-Symphonie (orchestra) are regularly performed; while his Trois Petites liturgies de la Presence Divine and Cinq Rechants are heard less often. The other work on this superb recording, O sacrum convivium, might resonate for some as it does turn up occasionally as an Offertory motet during the Mass and as a stand-alone in choral concerts. No matter, this recording will dazzle you whether you hearing these works for the first time or are well-acquainted with them.
Trois Petites liturgies de la Presence Divine was written during the Nazi occupation of France and shortly after Messiaen’s release from a prisoner of war camp. A visionary work, it’s a superb synthesis of the composer’s devout Christian belief and fascination with tonal color, unusual textures, and exotic rhythms—it is ecstatic worship that shouts, sings, and soars. It is also a difficult work to perform as singers have to negotiate hairpin harmonic and rhythmic turns while wrestling with its stratospheric tessitura. The women of the Danish choirs are spectacular. Their dangerously exposed entrances, often at the top part of their registers, are spot on pitch and their singing communicates the wondrous joy of the text. The Danish National Chamber Orchestra are outstanding and kudos to pianist Marianna Shirinyan, who absolutely nails the bird song passages.
The gorgeous motet O sacrum convivium is an early work and the only one in which Messiaen uses a liturgical text (this by St. Thomas Aquinas). Its fluid lyricism, chant-like style, unique harmonies, and flat-out beautiful soprano line glow in this performance. Contrasting with the frenetic passions of the Trois Petites liturgies de la Presence Divine and Cinq Rechants, the motet’s other-worldly languor is all the more powerful.
Cinq rechants, from 1948, is—like the earlier Harawi and Turangalîla-Symphonie—inspired by the Tristan and Isolde myth and was called a “love song” by the composer. Scored for 12 solo voices and sung in French and a Sanskrit-like language invented by Messiaen, it pushes the boundaries of choral writing. There’s vibrant declamatory passages, honeyed melodies contrasting with crunching dissonances and—perhaps most remarkably—voices used to color harmonies and create percussive effects. Not for the timid of heart, Cinq rechants is one of the most fascinating explorations of what the human voice is capable of.
As I mentioned earlier, the performances are stunning. The vocal ensembles’ control of dynamics is extraordinary and there is a warmth to their singing that is absolutely fetching.   One key component is the sound quality. In dense passages where voices collide with instruments—like the piercing ondes martenot or percussion—there is a pinpoint clarity that allows you to hear every detail. For example, there is a passage in the Trois Petites liturgies de la Presence Divine where piano, ondes martenot, and percussion are pouring out a tremendous volume of sound, yet I was able to hear the whispering maracas through the mix. I can think of no better introduction to Messiaen’s delirious and delightful choral music than L’amour et la foi. Choral music and DSD fans, you’ll eat this one up. 
Craig Zeichner, Native DSD

Creed staat bekend als een perfectionist
Siebe Riedstra,Opus Klassiek.nl, Februari 2016
13.February 2016
L'amour et la foi – de liefde en het geloof, is de titel van deze uitgave. Twee van de drie pijlers waar het werk van de grote Franse meester op rust, met als derde de zang van de vogels. Ze komen samen  in de liefdestrilogie die Messiaen in de jaren 1940 componeerde, bestaande uit de liederencyclus Harawi, de Turangalila Symfonie en de hier opgenomen cyclus voor twaalf vocalisten, Cinq Rechants. De schakel tussen de Trois Liturgies en de Turangalila Symfonie wordt gevormd door de concertante pianopartij en de Ondes Martenot, het motet O Sacrum Convivium! is een van de ontroerendste uitingen van deze diepgelovige katholiek.
Marcus Creed is sinds 2014 chef-dirigent van het Deens Nationaal Vocaal Ensemble, in omvang en doelstelling het zusje van het Nederlands Kamerkoor. Met deze cd geeft hij zijn visitekaartje af met drie werken van Olivier Messiaen. De Cinq Rechants uit 1948 zijn geschreven voor twaalf solostemmen, met gebruikmaking van een zelfverzonnen taal, die lijkt op Sanskriet. Razend moeilijk en razend knap uitgevoerd. De Trois Petites Liturgies uit 1943 vragen om de wonderlijke combinatie van vrouwenkoor, strijkers, solopiano, ondes Martenot en slagwerk. Het is een omvangrijk werk waarin alles gevraagd wordt van de intonatiekunst van de dames. Ragfijne drieklanken worden ons deel, maar voor de solosopraan kiest Creed voor het kleinste stemmetje uit de groep – bijna een kinderstem, dus wellicht een bewuste keuze? Het korte maar hartbrekend mooie motet O Sacrum Convivium! wordt gezongen door het Deens Nationaal Concertkoor, een formatie van 74 professionele zangers. Creed staat bekend als een perfectionist en doet die reputatie hier alle eer aan. Wie dacht dat de in 1991op Virgin Classics verschenen topprestatie van Terry Edwards, in ditzelfde repertoire met zijn London Sinfonietta Chorus niet verbeterd kon worden mag zich hier laten verrassen. 
Siebe Riedstra,Opus Klassiek.nl, Februari 2016

5 stjernet anmeldelse i Kristeligt Dagblad, Denmark
Peter Dürrfeld, Kristeligt Dagblad
13. January 2016
Vokalmusik af Messiaen
Den franske komponist Olivier Messiaen (1908-1992) betragtes i lighed med sin landsmand, netop afdøde Pierre Boulez, som en af de største komponister i det 20.århundrede, og er man nysgering efter at lære hans vokalmusik at kende, er det værd at anskaffe sig en ny cd fra OUR Recordings.

”L´amour et la foi” (kærlighed og troen), som titlen er blevet, rummer tre vokalværker af Messiaen, og pladen har meget fortjent vundet den prestigefyldte pris Diapason d´Or de l´année, opkaldt efter det franske musiktidsskrift Diapason (stemmegaflen)

Hovedværket, der varer godt 35 min, er ”Trois petites liturgie de Présence devine”, tre små liturgiske stykke om Guds tilstedeværelse. Messiaen har selv skrevet teksten til disse tankevækkende stykker. Han komponerede værket i 1943, men på grund af krigen måtte førsteopførelsen vente til april 1945, hvor de tyske tropper havde forladt Paris. En masse førende kulturpersonligheder var tilstede ved den lejlighed, heriblandt maleren George Braque, digteren Paul Élouard og komponisterne Arthur Honegger, Francis Poulenc – og Pierre Boulez.

De kunne glæde sig over det tresatsede og yderst dybsindige værk for 16 strygere, 18 sopraner, klaver og andre instrumenter, således det relativt nye ondes Martenot, et tidligt elektronisk tasteinstrument, opfundet af Maurice Martenot cirka 15 år tidligere.

På den nye skive søger DR`s VokalEnsemble og KoncertKoret, dirigeret af englænderen Marcus Creed, for en overbevisende fremførelse, assisteret af Marianna Shirinyan på klaver og Thomas Bloch på omtalte ondes Martenot.
Efter det korte mellemspil ”O sacrum convivium” (fra 1937), sunget på latin, følger cd´ens andet store værk, ”Cinq Rechants” fra 1948, skrevet for 12 solostemmer og sunget skiftevis på fransk og et sanskritlignende sprog, som Messiaen selv har opfundet.

Alt det kan læses nærmere om i det forbilledlige teksthæfte, der følger med denne krævende, men også uhyre givende udgivelse.
Peter Dürrfeld, Kristeligt Dagblad

Solitär
Dr. Matthias Lange, Klassik.com Germany
31.December 2016
Marcus Creed präsentiert zentrales Chorrepertoire des 20. Jahrhunderts hochklassig und mit überlegenem Können der beteiligten Ensembles. Olivier Messiaens Chormusik ist von größter Attraktivität.
Olivier Messiaens Werk für Chor ist durchaus gehaltvoll, das zeigt die aktuell von Marcus Creed und den Dänischen Nationalensembles vorgelegte Platte mit ihrem feinen Programm: Einleitend sind die 'Trois petites liturgies de la Présence divine' aus dem Jahr 1943 zu hören, besetzt für 18 Soprane, 16 Solostreicher, Klavier, Celesta, Vibraphon, Ondes Martenot und Perkussion. Dazu das unvergleichliche 'O sacrum convivium' aus dem Jahr 1937 für unbegleiteten Chor, schließlich die 1948 für zwölf Solostimmen gesetzten 'Cinq rechants'.
In den 'Trois petites liturgies de la Présence divine' materialisiert sich eine erstaunlich farbige Besetzung, die Messiaen reiche Möglichkeiten eröffnet: Vokal verströmt sich viel lyrische Schönheit, sind wunderbar klangsinnliche Momente zu erleben, feine Linien von fast romantischen Qualitäten, gelegentlich im sphärischen Zusammenspiel mit den Ondes Matenot, einem elektro-akustischen Instrument, freilich eingebettet in eine komplexe Rhythmik, die einerseits ein präzis gefügtes Bild zeitigt, andererseits aber immer wieder kunstfertige Verunklarung hervorruft. Aus den instrumentalen Anteilen entfalten sich dichte Wirkungen, durchaus mit dramatischem Potenzial.
Die Motette 'O sacrum convivium' ist – mit dem durchaus informativen, allerdings nur auf Französisch und in Kurzform auf Englisch verfügbaren Booklettext gesprochen – ‚eine Klasse für sich‘: Es steht mit seiner mild-komplexen Harmonik etwas abseits der anderen Werke und deren avancierter Ästhetik, nimmt aber mit seiner Intensität, seiner überaus attraktiven Klangfülle voller edler Eleganz für sich ein. Dieser Satz hatte vor gut einem Jahrzehnt auf einer Produktion des RIAS Kammerchors und Daniel Reuss‘ ebenso überzeugt wie die auch hier bei Creed und den Dänen unmittelbar sich anschließenden 'Cinq Rechants', die sich in ihren linearen Klüften, in der rhyhtmischen Ambition, der stimmtechnischen Herausforderung als echter Prüfstein für ein Ensemble solistisch befähigten Vokalisten dastehen. Messiaen spielt in diesem thematisch seiner Tristan-Trilogie angehörenden Werk fantasievoll mit der Sprache, lässt Strukturen oft geradezu implodieren, findet dann aber immer wieder den Weg zu einer gemeinsamen Deklamation der Vokalisten.
Potente Ensembles
Eine Herausforderung für jeden Spitzenchor. Und das Danish National Vocal Ensemble besteht die Herausforderung souverän, meistert die riesigen stimmtechnischen Tücken, bietet echtes solistisches Potenzial auf, immer wieder edel verblendet in eine intensive Interaktion. Bei aller forcierten Bewegtheit verlieren die zwölf Solisten das Ideal eines gerundeten Ensembleklangs nie ganz aus den Augen, verfallen nicht in hektische Härten: Auch höchste Virtuosität wird mit einer Anmutung von Leichtigkeit gemeistert. Dazu ist die Intonation makellos, in wirklich jedem Moment – und das will etwas heißen in diesem gelegentlich ins Äußerste sich weitenden Repertoire. Die instrumentale Ebene in den 'Liturgies' gerät agil und nervös, ganz dem Duktus Messiaens entsprechend, verströmt andernorts aber auch fast verstörend klar disponierten Klangsinn. Marcus Creed lässt das in sehr variablen, oft mit viel rhythmischem Drive versehenen Tempi musizieren, versammelt die Kräfte zuweilen auch zu lyrisch grundiertem Stillstand. Der größere Chor singt die Motette 'O sacrum convivium' mit kontrollierter Fülle und beeindruckender dynamischer Präzision in sehr klar konturierten Registern.
Marcus Creed präsentiert zentrales Chorrepertoire des 20. Jahrhunderts hochklassig und mit überlegenem Können der beteiligten Ensembles. Es ist erstaunlich, wie selten zum Beispiel die 'Cinq Rechants' bislang komplett eingesungen wurden – allein diese Komposition lohnt unbedingt die Begegnung. Wie Olivier Messiaens Chormusik überhaupt von größter Attraktivität ist.
Interpretation: 4 Stars
Klangqualität: 4 Stars
Repertoirewert: 4 stars
Booklet: 3 Stars



 

Dr. Matthias Lange, Klassik.com Germany

Opera News Magazine review on L´amour et le foi
William R. Braun, Opera News Magazine
November issue
THE TWO MAIN works on this all-Messiaen CD remain on the outer fringes of the repertoire, but for different reasons. The Trois petites liturgies de la Presence divine (which would make an excellent introduction to Messiaen's music for anyone who doesn't know it) require a unique instrumental ensemble, one difficult to assemble, to accompany the choral singers. The Cinq Rechants, on the other hand, are written for an easily recruited group of twelve a cappella singers, but the vocal lines and rhythms are of such grave difficulty that few ensembles take up the challenge.
 
Both pieces are well served by the Danish forces here. In the Liturgies, conductor Marcus Creed shapes the second movement in a way that keeps it from going into autopilot, eventually reaching heights of abandon, and his female choir is tireless. Its numbers are reduced from the standard contingent, which is a bit of a stretch for the singers, but the challenge is met. The third movement, an entirely different reverent experience, tends to drive a bit, and there is an unwonted sense of restraint to it emotionally. But Creed perhaps has the edge over other recorded versions in the beauty of sound when the choir is pared down to smaller groups. The solo pianist, Marianna Shirinyan, has an unusual and persuasive approach to the piece. She has a more probing and colorful interpretation than did Yvonne Loriod, who in her many performances tended to play as if etching the notes onto copper plates. Two conductors with long-term close associations with Messiaen and his music, Seiji Ozawa and Kent Nagano, have found more playfulness, rhythmic intensity and exaltation than Creed, but on his own terms he succeeds.

The Cinq Rechants, one of Messiaen's "Tristan" pieces and one he considered among his best, require twelve virtuoso singers. They are on hand here. Again, there is just a hint of caution and good manners rather than ecstatic abandon, but, still, the performance on its own terms is persuasive. A recording under Marcel Couraud, who commissioned the piece, is more buoyant in the quicker passages, but Creed brings a supple quality to the fourth movement, and his slower tempos certainly allow the ear to take in more details. The brief motet "O sacrum convivium!," the closest thing Messiaen has to a pantry staple, has here the chantlike flow that Messiaen wanted, a sense of invisible bar-lines. In an era when sound engineers like to boost instruments that are never prominent in live performance, it’s amusing to hear how instead they have used their powers to tamp down the ondes Martenot in the Liturgies, which in the concert hall can easily swamp the other fifty performers.
William R. Braun, Opera News Magazine

Marcus Creed Presides Over Idiomatic Performances with Authority
Philip Reed, Choir and Organ
2015-09-24
4 stars

This recording offers three of Messiaen's bestknown choral works: O sacrum convivium! (1937), Trois petites liturgies de la Présence Divine (1943) and Cinq rechants (1948). The last of these, with its mixture of languages (French and a Sanskrit-like language devised by Messiaen himsef), was composed for 12 solo voices and presents many challenges to its performers: sound, rhythm and technique are all extended by the composer's demands, which include modifying vowels sounds to produce percussive effects.

The Danish National Vocal Ensemble delivers a committed reading of this difficult work. No less committed are their colleagues of the Danish National Concert Choir and Chamber Orchestra who join them in the other substantial piece on the CD, the Trois petites liturgies, which receives a persuasive account, Marcus Creed presides over these idiomatic performances with authority.
Philip Reed, Choir and Organ

5 Star review
Frits van der Waa, Volkskrant
16 September 2015
Een haarscherpe uitvoering onder leiding van Marcus Creed
 
De zangers van het Deens Nationaal Vocaal Ensemble, het Nationaal Concertkoor en het Nationaal Kamerorkest leveren bevlogen en haarscherpe uitvoeringen onder leiding van Marcus Creed

Er is weinig 20ste-eeuwse muziek waaruit zo'n blijmoedigheid spreekt als uit die van Olivier Messiaen. Het werk van de Franse componist is één grote lofzang op de schepping. In de tinkelende pianonootjes in Trois petites liturgies de la présence divine hoor je Messiaens geliefde vogeltjes kwinkeleren, als afwisseling met de engelachtige, in fondanten klanken gevatte vrouwenstemmen.

Daar blijft het niet bij in dit werk uit 1943: klokgelui, spreekkoren, ketsende akkoorden en de elektronische oouueeii-geluiden van de ondes Martenot maken de loftuitingen hier en daar flink luidruchtig.

Het motet O sacrum convivium fungeert als rustpunt, waarna Messiaen het in Cinq rechants over een nog speelsere boeg gooit. Bij teksten als mayoma kalimolimo denk je gauw aan fritessaus of priklimonade, maar het gaat toch echt over de liefde. De zangers van het Deens Nationaal Vocaal Ensemble, het Nationaal Concertkoor en het Nationaal Kamerorkest leveren bevlogen en haarscherpe uitvoeringen onder leiding van Marcus Creed.
Frits van der Waa, Volkskrant

What a tremendous disc this is!
Lynn René Bayley, Fanfare Magazine
May 13th
This disc of choral music by Olivier Messiaen only include the texts of these pieces in French and Latin, the originals used by the composer. Well, thankfully music is an international language.

The first of the Trois petites liturgies de la Présence divine starts in such a way that it sounds as if it were the middle of the piece, not the opening. The choral writing focuses on the sopranos and is accompanied by a small body of strings and piano, both of which play discretely from each other. In fact, the sparseness of the writing is unusual in any sense for liturgical vocal music. So too the use of the ondes Martenot, a keyboard version of the Theremin. Messiaen himself called this trilogy "color music," referring to the fact that he saw colors when composing. I'd say that it falls somewhere stylistically between his orchestral and piano music of the same period (1945). It is indeed colorful and fascinating music, but to my ears not moving in either a religious or an emotional way. This does not make it bad music, just objective, which to a certain degree is better. Too often, music written to religious texts can try too hard to be "mystical," becoming soft or mawkish in the process. Messiaen avoids this here. I particularly liked the second piece, "Sequence du Verbe, cantique divin," for its tremendous energy and relatively attractive melodic construction. This is a piece that could easily become a staple in church services of high mass, were those churches amenable to the use of modern music. It almost sounds like a more modern, wilder version of Catulli Carmina. I was, however, disappointed by the way he wrote for the ondes Martenot, producing nothing more than swoops of sound. Well, heck, Olivier, any amateur can do that! I would have thought you'd have written something challenging for the instrument. Apparently, France didn't have an ondes Martenot player on the same high level as Theremin master Clara Rockmore. The third piece, "Psalmodie de l'ubiquité par Amour," uses a sort of forwards-backwards motion in the rhythm that resembles part of the Turingalîla Symphony. It is also longer than the first two pieces combined (by 25 seconds, but still, longer). Part of the music's charm, but also a weakness, is its episodic nature. You almost feel as if the music is coming to a close in places, but it's just switching gears. If you're not too hung up on form, however, you'll find yourself enjoying it tremendously.

O sacrum convivium, one of Messiaen's earliest works, is more conventional in construction and set to an old, pre-existing Latin text. Now, this music is lovely and atmospheric in the best tradition of liturgical music. Except for a certain amount of altered chord positions and unusual harmonic solutions, it could easily be performed at many Christian church services without upsetting the faithful.

More interesting, however, are the Cinq Rechants. This, the liner notes tell us, "is the last part of Messiaen's great Tristan trilogy, which was introduced in 1945 with the song cycle Harawi and followed two years later by the monumental Turingalîla Symphony." This is really strange, "out there" music, although I disagree with annotator Christian Hildebrandt's claim that this love drama of "tabooed infidelity and most unselfish love can be interpreted as symbols of Messiaen's own life crisis and love drama." Writers are forever trying to connect works of art to their creators' personal problems, never quite realizing that a creator creates to get away from his or her problems, not to mirror or immortalize them in words or music. That being said, there is no question that this is a really inspired work, performed by a cappella chorus of 12 voices. Sometimes, as in "Ma première fois terre," they are reduced to a whisper; in other places, they shout out their lines. The third piece of the five, "Ma robe d'amour," sounds the most mystical to me; but once again, perhaps particularly in a "Tristan piece," I question the use of the word "liturgical" to describe this music. The text, we are told, is a combination of French and a bizarre Sanskrit-like language that Messiaen invented. Regardless, it's an utterly fascinating piece, full of strange and strong contrasts of mood and style from start to finish. Several parts of the last piece, "Mayorna kalimolimo," sound like precursors to Meredith Monk's work.

Marcus Creed and his forces, choral and orchestral, really tear into this music with a passion and commitment that sweep the listener up in their energy. What a tremendous disc this is! And what great, forward sound! Highly recommended.


Lynn René Bayley, Fanfare Magazine