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1998 Saint Francois D Assise [Box set]

Olivier Eugene Prospe Messiaen Audio CD
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)

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Product Details

Disc: 1
1. Saint Francois d'Assise: Act One, Scene One - The Cross: Un peu vif (J'ai peur, sur las route)
2. Saint Francois d'Assise: Un peu vif (J'ai peur, sur la route)
3. Saint Francois d'Assise: Un Peu vif (J'ai peur, sur la route)
4. Saint Francois d'Assise: Un peu vif (S'il se met pleuvoir)
5. Saint Francois d'Assise: Un Peu vif - Saint Fran ois et Fr re L on remettent leur capuchon...
See all 19 tracks on this disc
Disc: 2
1. Saint Francois d'Assise: Act Two, Scene Four - The Journeying Angel: Un peu vif
2. Saint Francois d'Assise: Un peu vif (J'ai peur, sur la route)
3. Saint Francois d'Assise: Un peu vif (Frere Mass e rentre dans la salle conventuelle...)
4. Saint Francois d'Assise: Un peu vif (Qui peut frapper de la sorte?)
5. Saint Francois d'Assise: Un peu vif (Pourquoi me d range-t-on sans cesse?)
See all 19 tracks on this disc
Disc: 3
1. Saint Francois d'Assise: Act Two, Scene Six - The Sermon To The Birds: Un peu vif
2. Saint Francois d'Assise: Un peu vif (Pere, te souviens-tu du jeune homme de Sienne?)
3. Saint Francois d'Assise: Un peu vif (Une louange! un point d'exclamation!)
4. Saint Francois d'Assise: Petit concert d'oiseaux
5. Saint Francois d'Assise: Petit concert d'oiseaux (Toute chose de beaut doit parvenir la libert)
See all 9 tracks on this disc
Disc: 4
1. Saint Francois d'Assise: Act Three, Scene Seven - The Stigmata: Bien modere
2. Saint Francois d'Assise: Bien modere (Seigneur J sus-Christ, accorde-moi deux gr ces)
3. Saint Francois d'Assise: Bien modere (Les miens, je les ai aim s)
4. Saint Francois d'Assise: The Stigmata (O faiblesse!... Ame tr s m prisable!...)
5. Saint Francois d'Assise: Une lueur rouge et violette enflamme toute la sc ne...
See all 14 tracks on this disc

Product Description

Product Description


The most ambitious work by 20th-century French master Olivier Messiaen, Saint Francis is also his most all-embracing. He spent nearly a decade creating the opera, which not only encapsulates the composer's abiding Catholic faith but draws on a lifetime of musical discovery and brings together the elements of Messiaen's far-ranging, rich vocabulary: birdsong and nature as a source for music, Eastern modes, complex rhythms derived from ancient Greek poetry and Hindu talas, plainsong, and percussive gamelan-like sonorities, to list a few of the most salient. Messiaen chose Francis for operatic representation as the saint "most like Christ" and wrote his own libretto, using the gentle poetry of the Fioretti. The opera avoids dramatic tension but instead--almost ritualistically--portrays the "infusion of grace" through a series of encounters, including an angel playing music that offers a taste of heaven's bliss (marvelously orchestrated for ondes Martenot) and the famous scene of St. Francis preaching to the birds, in which Messiaen stacks multiple bird calls on top of each other in an inspired passage of "organized chaos."

This live recording was made during 1998's Salzburg Festival, and Kent Nagano (who had studied the work directly with Messiaen during the opera's premiere in 1983) marshals the score's 119 players and enormous chorus into a spectacular series of symphonic frescoes. He is sensitive both to the resonant use of silence in the score's interstices and--most memorably--to Messiaen's rare achievement in creating music to express "perfect joy." And the cast he works with is unbeatable: José van Dam conveys immense compassion and presence in the almost unbelievably strenuous demands of the title role, while Dawn Upshaw sings the angel with a penetrating purity. This masterpiece demands time to get to know it--more than the four hours it takes to unfold--but once you know it, its rewards are immense. --Thomas May

Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
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Most helpful customer reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Simply astonishing Sept. 7 2003
Format:Audio CD
Olivier Messiean is one of the handful of 20th century composers whose work does this maddening sentury justice. Impossible to catergorize,and often difficult to listen to, he brings listeners in with his unique combination of Eastern modalities, Catholicism, bird calls and luminosity. Completed when he was 75, St Franois is his masterpiece,his only opera. At over 4 hours, its is decidely not backround music,nor casually expierenced.When given the time, though its is overwhelming in its rewards.Sounding at times like Phillip Glass than Puccini,Messiean tells the story of St. Francois in 8 vignettes, done in three acts{and over 4 discs}. Kent nagano studied this score with Messiaen himself to the extant that it is almost his own{ Nagano is sort of THE messiean conductor}, and is a daunting task for anyone else to tackle this work{Though it was done with great success In San Francisco earlier this year}. Naganos is the only version in entirety I have yet heaRD, SO IT REAMINS FOR ME THE BENCHMARK. Jose' Van Dam is Francois here, his voice at times low and rumbling, at others the perfect instrument of God[as messiean intended} There are no female voices until dawn Upshaw arrives as the voice of the Angel,over an hour into the opera. And, as always, Ms Upshaw is what she plays,perfect as the angel. There are times when the opera sags[the Sermon to the Birds goes on a bit,well, it comprises all of disc 3},though that is a minor quibble. This is not an easy expierence,though it is not required that one for an opera afficianado,either. It is , in my estimation, the greatest Opera of the 20th century, and one of the greatest musical statements in recent history. Do yourself a great favor, get this listen to it over a period of time. Read more ›
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not easy but a must Aug. 2 2000
Format:Audio CD
This is not an easy opera. It is important to keep this in mind. A good amount of effort will be needed in order to enjoy this music, especially if you are not fond on modern classical music or of the music composed by Messiaen. After saying this, if you are still interested in this kind of music, i got to say this is an impressive opera-. Don't expect passion like in the italian operas or lots of sound like Strauss but slowness and spirituality. It seems that nothing happens but when you enter into the opera you'll feel the hipnotical quality of the music and the introvertion that keeps going on along the opera. There are some really extraordinary moments such as when Saint Francis meets his angel when you can have an insight of Heavens. Well, that's what Messiaen tries to do it and he really gets it. The belgium baritone Van Damn is extrordinary as saint Francis, altough i still the old Orfeo performance with Fischer Dieskau. Some of the other singer, altough, are not french native speakers and you feel the difference. I mean, lots of times they don't sound french at all. The american conductor Nagano was a close friend of the composer and they worked together on this score, so he knows perfectly well the score ( i want to make clear i'm not a great fan of Nagano, he is at his best here but i think this score really deserves a better conductor). Saint Francis has been a legend for many years. It's an opera that any really opera lover should, at least, know. This is an excellent opportunity to get to know this difficult but wonderful work.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Modern Opera at it's Finest May 3 2000
Format:Audio CD
Messiaen ranks very high on my list of favorite 20th century composers. Most of the reasons are those that he gives himself: his emphasis on emotion rather than calculation as the base of music (Messiaen was very anti-12-tone music as he finds it dry and impersonal, for the most part), and his exoticism. This comes through extremely well in this work and this recording, which features José van Dam (who sang in the Paris premiere) in the title role. Mr. van Dam announced that this performance of the work would be his last in the role, which was a wise decision as there is no way that he could possibly equal the strength with which he carries the role of a Saint. For an orchestra of over 110 pieces, including 3 ondes martenot, Nagano is the best possible choice as he keeps the music from being ponderous or dry with the caution often used to keep such large ensembles together. The music's intensely rhythmic side (as in the opening ritornelli for xylophone, marimba and wooden percussion) comes across beautifully crisp and dry. On the opposite side of the spectrum, the lyricism, including the scenes with Dawn Upshaw as the angel, is very fluid. The opera has moments of solemn faith as well as exuberance, both of which are equally strong forces.
The work is intensely dramatic while never crossing the line into being Romantic. Although the orchestra is of Wagnerian dimension, the voice is always of primary importance. Much of the singing is unaccompanied, and many of the soliloquies have a monady-like quality that makes the language equal to the notes, and sometimes above. Although the music is intensely modern, the vocal parts harken back to Gregorian chant. The connection as far as the Catholic content is obvious.
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