- Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
There is certainly no shortage of recordings of this singular, otherworldly work available, many of them excellent. But this one really does have the most going for it. Firstly, it was closely supervised by Messiaen himself, and the pianist is none other than his wife, Yvonne Loriod, who Messiaen frequently said was able to give the truest touch to his music. It's also one of the most technically clean versions out there. But to me, one of its strongest points is also that the instruments are perfectly balanced. The right balance is extremely important to the overall effect of this work, especially for the movements with the piano and more than one other instrument, and this is one of the only recordings I've heard that hits it just right. On many recordings, the piano is too far in the background and the magic of those incredibly colorful and vibrant chords is lost, and on others it overwhelms the important subtleties of the interplay between the other instruments while destroying the ethereal effect.
This recording simply offers the best blend of technical perfection, vision, and balance. There's nothing forced here. The rhythms in the fast movements are all executed with plenty of both drive and clarity without ever getting strenuous (no small achievement), the clarinet solo of the third movement is the most flawless and engaging rendition I've ever heard, and the last movement is so glowingly transcendent that it makes me wonder what it may have done to the hearts of the Nazi officers who heard its first performance in that deathly cold prison camp.
There are apparently several issues and re-issues of this outstanding recording available, invariably coupled with the early but striking Theme and Variations, but they are all the same 1991 recording.