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Another 5 stars review in Fanfare

April 7, 2023

Peter Burwasser

5 Stars: A brilliant new recording of one of the great solo piano works of the twentieth century.

MESSIAEN Vingt Regards sur l’enfant Jesus • Kristoffer Hyldig (pn) • OUR 6 220677-78 (2 CDs:138:11)

Considering that Messiaen’s epic Vingt Regards sur L’enfant Jesus is, in the opinion of many connoisseurs of piano music, including this writer, one of the great solo piano works of the twentieth century, there are not a great deal of complete recordings of the music. I own recordings by Peter Serkin (my introduction to the music over 40 years ago), Yvonne Loriod (Messiaen’s wife, and the dedicatee of the work), Pierre-Laurent Aimard and Håkon Austbø. They are all excellent performances, a quality I attribute to the dedication and intense work that is required to bring the score to life. Only an artist who is truly devoted to the music and is willing to sacrifice the time and energy to learn it would dare to record it.
Danish pianist Kristoffer Hyldig joins this elite club in very good standing. The opening sounds of the work, an evocation of God gazing upon his holy son, are delivered with solemn pacing and carefully modulated tonality. The music contains a remarkable dynamic range, from whispered, prayer like washes of harps, to thundering fortissimos, descending from the heavens. Hyldig manages these exceptional technical challenges with a keen sense for the theatrical flow of the material. I admit to a sentimental attachment to the Serkin rendition, which yields none of its magical sense of discovery and awe after all of these years, but Hyldig’s performance is no less enchanting and the SACD sound of the OUR recording is a major draw, with an intimate acoustical envelope that highlights the dynamic range and the kaleidoscopic palette of the music as well as any recording that I know. Peter Burwasser 07.04.2023

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