Thursday, May 3, 2012
Olivier Messiaen - Catalogue D'Oiseaux, Yvonne Loriod (Erato - STU 70595-8)
Olivier Messiaen is one of my favorite composers from the 20th Century and he is quite a unique character as well. He himself started as an irregularity guy who constantly looked for new things. When he started falling back from his pupils, he started listening them and adopted these new approaches to his music. This box set in question is one of my precious from my record collection and a door which he opened while following his pupils. Actually I even had hard time getting the nerves to listen it. But anyways, here we are.
Messiaen is a man of regular habits which can be seen from his long serving organist position in La Trivite, Paris. Another of his long lasting habits was his interest or rather endless curiosity against birds, their lives and habitats. His first habit brought forth a huge set of orgue based compositions. It was just inevitable for his second habit to come forth similarly and it did so in 1958 when he finished the 13 compositions which make up Catalogue D'Oiseaux.
Actually these works are more of a musical encyclopedia rather than compositions. The main reason is Messiaen tried to picture the bird songs and their habitats with the help of his wife Yvonne Loriod on piano. In reality calling them compositions is not easy. They are not copies of the originals, but they are also not totally authentic. He received the basics from the birds and then followed his imagination while putting these collaborative works into form. Honestly these pieces are not at all easy to explain. You can certainly note down the songs of the birds, yet you can also picture what is beneath the surface.
The pieces are also quite hard to play with the main obstacle being right and left hands having totally different uses along the compositions. The performer should give the birdsongs with his/her right hand while all harmonies expressing surroundings and habitat should be played with the left hand. I'm sure it would be a good exercise for the brain's left and right hemispheres to adjust to this continuous onslaught. I should also note that left and right hands are in totally different melodies and timbres all the way and have no connection to each other at all. The performer tries to cope with two unattachable melodies at the same time.
There are numerous birds which are recorded and hence pictured in these compositions. Unfortunately I don't know French and even if I knew, I really doubt if I would understand the names anyway. On the other hand, this monumental and collective work has inspired many future composers and musicians during their quest to look for what they really want to achieve.
To buy this box set (Or a similar pressing):