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Fanfare (US) "This disc could serve either as an excellent introduction to the Messiaen neophyte or as a pallet cleanser to those in search of a different approach".

April 4, 2015

Marc Medwin

Fanfare US (2. review)

L’AMOUR ET LA FOI • Marcus Creed, cond; 1,2,3Marianna Shirinyan (pn); 1,2,3Thomas Bloch (ondes Martenot); Danish National VOC E; Danish National C CH; Danish National CO • OUR RECORDING 6.220612 (59:03)

MESSIAEN Trois Petite Liturgies de la Présence Divine1,2,3. O Sacrum Convivinum! Cinq Rechants

Messiaen is one of those composers who regularly crosses the line between nearly naïve simplicity and staggering complexity. I mean no disrespect to him or to his music; I’ve long been an avid fan, and in fact, his texts often allude to the seeming contradiction. Simply put, if a conductor or performer emphasizes one or the other, veers too deeply into the linguistic and syntactic complexities or attempts too much simplification for emotional effect, the music suffers. Marcus Creed and his Danish forces have managed a golden mean, no mean feat where these relatively early vocal pieces are concerned.
The three-movement Trois Petites Liturgies de la Presence Divine, premiered in 1945, is ubiquitous for its oddly constructed orchestra of strings, piano, malletted percussion, celesta and ondes Martenot, is a perfect example of how simplicity and complexity inhabit the same space in Messiaen’s work. The three movements alternate between meditative slowness and that ecstatic exuberance that informs so many of Messiaen’s more rapid pieces. The second movement’s opening exemplifies the latter, while the third movement ends with gorgeously slow, nearly static, and reflective passages leading toward Messiaen’s beloved A-major, which he associates with the color blue and with Heaven. If Creed’s choice of tempi for the third movement’s more exuberant sections seem a bit slower than those chosen by Marcel Coraud for his stereo version, long my benchmark, the detail Creed elicits more than compensates. “God’s presence in all things, all-encompassing in all places, all-encompassing in each place, …” declaims Messiaen’s text, and indeed, shimmering strings serve as beautiful support for the elaborate counterpoint manufactured by piano, ondes and various tuned percussion, which I hear more clearly than in any other recording. The women of the Danish National Vocal ensemble exhibit a purity of tone similar that what can be heard on Myung-hun Chung’s 2008 Deutsche Grammophon reading, but where his tends toward superficiality, Creed’s is appropriately deep. Special mention must go to pianist Marianna Shirinyan; her special approach to articulation involves a committed kind of detachment, so that every phrase is clearly defined, providing another layer of contrast to the long vocal and string lines of slower sections and further unifying the music.
The purity of the Danish group’s tone also pervades the two other works on offer here. This version of 1937’s “O Sacrum Convivium!” boasts one of the most quietly ecstatic “Alleluia”s I’ve heard, and the nearly vibratoless singing heightens the sense of stillness and reflection that are integral to any good performance of the motet. Even the declamatory opening of Cinq Rechants, composed twelve years later as Messiaen was beginning his reciprocal relationship with Darmstadt and its students, is sung with very little vibrato, giving an almost alien quality to the linguistically mixed text. All of the qualities that make this disc the success it is are on display. Dynamic contrast throughout is breathtaking, and when rhythmic precision and dramatic pauses are of paramount importance, as in the final piece, the detailed recording and ample acoustic highlight both. This disc could serve either as an excellent introduction to the Messiaen neophyte or as a pallet cleanser to those in search of a different approach. Marc Medwin April 5th 2015

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