Messiaen, Olivier - Poemes Pour Mi

Published Tuesday 1st March 2005
Messiaen, Olivier - Poemes Pour Mi
Messiaen, Olivier - Poemes Pour Mi

STYLE: Classical
RATING 6 6 6 6 6 6
LABEL: Black Box BBM1090

Reviewed by Tony Cummings

Catholic mystic Olivier Messiaen isn't my favourite of contemporary composers. One of my most uncomfortable musical experiences was sitting through a seemingly endless rendition of Messiaen's "Vingt Regards Sur L'Enfant Jesus" at, of all places, a wedding. So I approached this album with an understandable reluctance. I'm afraid the song cycle, written in 1936 for voice and piano, 'Poemes Pour Mi' left me cold. Using patterns from classical Greek metrics and the rhythmic structures of Hindu music, I completely failed to appreciate its jerky ramblings despite the sleeve's assurance of the cycle's "lucid lyricism." But then came "Theme Et Variations", an early piece from 1932 and for 10 minutes I was transported by the serene spiritual calm of the interplay between piano (Stephen De Pledge) and violin (Matthew Trusler). My calm didn't last. Next up were some excerpts from the vast cycle "Vingt Regards Sur L'Enfant Jesus". I tried reading the sleevenote about how this work, by all accounts "one of the most outstanding piano works of the 20th century", was a meditation on how the Shepherds, Wise Men, Blessed Virgin and Holy Father - and also Time, the Heights, Silence, the Star, the Cross might have been gazed upon and contemplated by the Christ Child at his birth. But for all my efforts, the work still resembles nothing more to my uneducated ear than a thousand unconnected fragments. Clearly my musical education still has a long way to go.

The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.

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Reader Comments

Posted by martin neterhcott in dayton, ohio @ 13:05 on Oct 14 2008

Hear, hear, get a reviewer who knows what he is talking about.

Posted by martin neterhcott in dayton, ohio @ 11:09 on Oct 14 2008

Hear, hear, get a reviewer who knows what he is talking about.

Posted by Allen Shaffer in Virginia @ 22:06 on Sep 22 2007

With such a strong bias against Messiaen in the first place, Tony Cummings should never have accepted the invitation to review any recording of Messiaen's music. Mr. Cummings, you are not Winthrop Sargent!

The opinions expressed in the Reader Comments are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms.

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