Thursday, September 1, 2011

Olivier Messiaen - L'Œuvre D'Orgue De 1926 A 1951 (EMI - 2 C 153-16291/6)

I have just finished a marathon of listening. It was not just a standard musical adventure, it was quite much more than that. The records that I have listened belong to Olivier Messiaen's L'Ouvre D'Orgue De 1926 A 1951. This is a 6 Lp set which features Messiaen's performances of his own works on organ at the church of Église de la Sainte-Trinité in Paris.

Messiaen's importance in the contemporary composer class is crucial for the fact that he is one of the few composers who has connected religious belief and composition in the same pot. He has performed Sundays in the church of Église de la Sainte-Trinité for 61 years. He has been the longest player of organ in this historical church. Most of the works he has composed have one way or another a religious background or setting. However, his compositions are worlds apart from the former composers by all means. His compositions feature structurally very complex and calculated rhythms. He has drawn sounds and structures from nature and transposed these into the compositions he had in mind. The most famous of these is Catalogue D'Oiseaux for piano while Yvonne Loriod is the most famous performer for this composition. She was also the second wife of Messiaen.

There is one more thing to say about Messiaen before moving on to the records. His idea of serialism was very much respected by the eras composers and he has taught so many of the leading composers that were to shape the modern day music. Among these are Stockhausen, Xenakis, Bolcom, Grimaud, Peter Maxwell Davies and Boulez. Of course his most intimate relation was with Loriod who was his student as well, but the most controversial relationship he had was with Boulez. Boulez was a bright student of Messiaen and they lived happily for 2 years when suddenly Boulez became a hard critic of Messiaen on the basis that he was not evolving forward. Boulez went to Darmstadt after this and moved on. Quite later on Boulez sent respect to his master, but failed to conduct any of his works which still shows the anger/frustration in Boulez never quite faded.

The box set was recorded by Emi France in 1956. The only unfortunate thing about this box set is that it contains a 12 page booklet written by Messiaen. Here he gets into details (I suppose) about the origins of the tracks as well as musical explanations. And this booklet is only in French while my French knowledge really suffers after Ça-va, Bien and Et toi. I will surely get assisstance for this.

The compositions featured are; Apparation De L'Eglise Eternelle (1932), L'Ascension (1934), Nativite Du Seigneur (1935), Le Banquet Celeste (1926), 5iptyque (1930), Les Corps Glorieux (1939), Messe De La Pentecote (1950) and last but not the least Livre D'Orgue (1951).

Livre D'Orgue seems to be the most accomplished one in terms of structural developments being brought on by Messiaen, but my favorite among the compositions is easily Les Corps Glorieux. It is a long composition with 7 parts and a very impressive collection.

There has been several other releases which feature the collective organ works of Messiaen including the famous Louis Thiry's versions (I've listened that as well), but honestly I want to point that this is by far the most touching performance. These performances were recorded in 1956, but the box set came out in 1978. I currently don't know any other release of this box set prior to this, but would not be really surprised if Erato had an earlier release. Thinking how hard it was to find this box (Thanks to 1 month of research on,, de and fr), it should be dead hard to even see whether that one exists. Until then, I will remain a happy man anyway.

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