One of the most grown-up review sites around

2019
51,000 reviews
and more.. and still writing ...

Search MusicWeb Here

     
  
 

 

International mailing


  Founder: Len Mullenger             Senior Editor: John Quinn               Contact Seen and Heard here  

Some items
to consider

TROUBADISC

colourful imaginative harmony
Renate Eggebrecht violin


Leticia Gómez-Tagle
Chopin, Liszt, Scarlatti


Guillaume LEKEU


Book 1 Book 2 Book3
Mota The Triptych: -Website



Acte Prealable returns
with New Releases


Superior performance


Shostakovich 6&7 Nelsons
Notable


Verdi Requiem Thielemann


Marianna Henriksson
An outstanding recital


Arnold Bax
Be converted


this terrific disc


John Buckley
one of my major discoveries


François-Xavier Roth
A game-changing Mahler 3

........................................

Bryden Thomson


Symphonies


Vaughan Williams Concertos


RVW Orchestral

 

REVIEW Plain text for smartphones & printers

We are currently offering in excess of 51,000 reviews


Advertising on
Musicweb


Donate and keep us afloat

 

New Releases

Naxos Classical


Nimbus Podcast


Obtain 10% discount



Special offer 50% off
15CDs £83 incl. postage

Musicweb sells the following labels
Acte Préalable
(THE Polish label)
Altus 10% off
Atoll 10% off
CRD 10% off
Hallé 10% off
Lyrita 10% off
Nimbus 10% off
Nimbus Alliance
Prima voce 10% off
Red Priest 10% off
Retrospective 10% off
Saydisc 10% off
Sterling 10% off


Follow us on Twitter

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing
sample

Sample: See what you will get

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
   
Rob Barnett
Editor in Chief
John Quinn
Seen & Heard
Editor Emeritus
   Bill Kenny
MusicWeb Webmaster
   David Barker
Postmaster
Jonathan Woolf
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger


Support us financially by purchasing this from
Olivier MESSIAEN (1908-1992)
Fantasie for violin and piano (1933) [7:47]
Thème et Variations for violin and piano (1932) [10:23]
Quatuor pour la fin du temps (1941) [48:00]
Ensemble Nordlys (Christine Pryn (violin); Viktor Wennesz (clarinet); Øystein Sonstad (cello); Kristoffer Hyldig (piano))
rec. Sorgenfri Kirke, Denmark, February 2010 (Fantasie; Thème et variations); Hvidovre Musikskole, Denmark, July 2013 (Quatuor)
DANACORD DACOCD756 [66:13]

The Thème et Variations (1932) and the Fantasie for violin and piano (1933) are Messiaen’s only contribution to the violin and piano literature. Both were written for his first wife Claire Delbos, who was herself a composer as well as a violinist. The Thème et Variations have the added significance of being the 23 year old composer’s wedding gift to Delbos. Both works were performed by the pair in the 1930s but the Fantasie seems to have languished in obscurity for many years after its initial exposure. Thought to be lost, it was discovered by Yvonne Loriod-Messiaen, the composer’s widow, and only published in 2007 by Editions Durand.

The Fantasie is in loose sonata-form, embracing exotic melodies, which are modal in nature, some suggestive of plainchant. It employs complex polyrhythms. It is exhilarating, intense and exciting, written when the composer was twenty-five and still trying to find his own distinctive voice. In his writing for violin there are faint suggestions of birdsong which would become a distinctive feature in his later music. Throughout, the work is tinged with the spiritual fingerprint distinctive of this composer. The work begins with a declamatory octave opening on the piano, ushering in the violin. As it progresses, it builds up to a dramatic climax. As the title Fantasie implies, the structure is fairly free and rhapsodic.

The Thème et Variations for violin and piano was premiered on 22 November 1932 by the composer and his wife. It has the distinction of being Messiaen's first piece of instrumental chamber music. A tranquil theme is followed by four increasingly animated variations. At the end of the work, the theme is restated an octave higher. Despite being quite traditional in form, it is stamped with Messiaen’s trademark melodies, harmonies and rhythms. This composition apparently made a lasting impression on the young Pierre Boulez.

In 1940 during the German invasion of France, Messiaen was captured and interned in the POW camp Stalag VIIIA in Görlitz, Silesia. A sympathetic guard provided him with manuscript paper. Utilizing what instrumental forces were at his disposal he composed what is probably his most well-known work Quatuor pour la fin du temps. In eight movements it takes as its inspiration a vision from The Book of Revelations, Chapter X: "And I saw another mighty angel come down from heaven".
 
The resultant masterpiece thus emerged from a background of war, death, cold and famine. It narrates the composer’s ability to cope with this awful situation and how he made sense of his condition in the light of his strong Catholic faith. It was composed for the unusual combination of instruments — clarinet, violin, cello and piano — that were available to him at the time in the camp. The eight movements consist of four for the complete quartet, one solo, two duets and one trio.
 
The Quatuor has been well served with fine recordings over the years. The Ensemble Nordlys traversal can be confidently added to that list. It is a gripping reading, intelligently thought-out and characterized by sincerity. I was impressed by the wide dynamic range achieved, and by the devotional aspect this group of players bring to the score. They deliver a profoundly moving and heartfelt experience. The clarinet solo in the third movement Abyss of the birds I would single out as exquisitely played. The two Louanges are kept flowing and are striking for their ethereal and other-worldly qualities.

The Danish group Ensemble Nordlys (The Northern Lights Ensemble) was founded in 1997, and has a repertoire ranging from baroque to contemporary. They are really inside the music of Messiaen and play with heartfelt commitment. Each of the performances is idiomatic and stylistically compelling. In well-recorded sound, clarity and definition between the instruments are suitably captured.

Stephen Greenbank

Previous review: John France