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Quatuor Pour La Fin Du Temps

Gould Piano Trio , Messiaen Olivier Audio CD

Price: CDN$ 21.95 & FREE Shipping on orders over CDN$ 25. Details
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Amazon.com: 4.3 out of 5 stars  3 reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "Abysmal" is a compliment here July 29 2008
By Jim Shine - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
In Messiaen's centenary year, here's a chance for me to renew acquaintance with his best-known work. Based on a passage from the Book of Revelation, in which an angel announces that there shall be no more Time, part of the quartet was composed while Messiaen was in a POW camp, the rest being based on music he'd already written (including the clarinet solo Abime des oiseaux, written for fellow soldier Henri Ahoka who was now a fellow prisoner). The booklet notes reject the story that the first performance was before 5,000 prisoners, saying the audience was no more than 400. Either way, it was an impressive achievement.
The quartet begins with an evocation of early-morning birdsong from clarinet and violin, underpinned by piano and cello; its mood of expectation is followed in the second movement by one of mystery, depicting the angel, framed by a loud, powerful beginning and ending. The third movement is the clarinet solo, darkly contemplative before being briefly interrupted by more bird calls and then falling back into quiet desolation. Robert Plane's clarinet sound is wonderful here - soft and smooth but with no hint of sweetness. After this darkness, the cheerful dance of the following Intermede comes as quite a contrast, but fortunately not a jarring one. At times it's like cafe music, and very much light relief, coming as it does before a long slow movement for cello and piano. This reflection on "the eternity of Jesus" is filled with a questing nature, piano chords driving the cello on through joy and rapture but never achieving any resolution as such. This is the chance for cellist Alice Neary to shine, but Benjamin Frith's contribution is also stellar. Movement 6 strikes me as the least successful, though only in as much as it doesn't live up to the promise of its title, 'Dance of wrath' - I hear much drama and an impersonal sense of menace, but whether the absence of rage is down to me, the performers, or Messiaen I'm not sure. The angel returns in the next movement, 'Tangle of rainbows', an exotic light show of reflections and refractions, with odd cascading and exploding effects. The finale is another slow movement, in which the piano functions almost like a heart beat above which the violin slowly soars up; towards the end the piano rings out like bells as the violin ascends into the stratosphere and off into eternity. It's sheer beauty, marvellously done by Lucy Gould and Frith.
I'm very glad to have this disc - the other recording I own (a now-deleted Philips disc with performers Beths, Bijlsma, de Leeuw and Pieterson) has a dissatisfyingly harsh sound to it, and the Chandos is so much better. As to whether there are better versions out there, I can't say - what I can say is that I found this to be a powerful experience and suspect that anyone coming to this music for the first time will be very impressed.
The couplings may be an important decider for prospective buyers. The first track here is a solo piano version of the early (1930) piece Les Offrandes oubliees. It's in 3 sections, the outer ones contemplative, the middle one vigorous, and again has a religious theme. The following Theme et variations was a wedding present (1932) from Messiaen to his wife Claire Delbos, who was a violinist. It begins tenderly romantic but the variations become increasingly flashy before the piece culminates in a sort of glorious procession with a quiet ending. Both pieces are very much worth having, and again the performances are excellent.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Messiaen, reinterpreted July 31 2008
By Dean R. Brierly - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
There's nothing quite so exciting as hearing a piece of music for the first time, but it's also very stimulating to discover fresh interpretations of familiar works. Such is the case with Olivier Messiaen's "Les Offrandes oubliées," which up till now has existed solely in orchestral form. This new Chandos disc presents the premiere recording of the composer's version for solo piano, and the differences are as profound as they are intriguing. The orchestral recordings are, of course, glorious in and of themselves. Yet, to my ear, the austerity of the piano version better integrates the composition's ferocious middle section, with its abrupt shift of mood and tempo. The piece just seems to flow with a stronger organic unity scored for piano. If this stripped-down version sacrifices some of the emotional sound and fury of its orchestral incarnation, it generates a much more intimate and reflective mood. It's not for me to say which arrangement is superior, merely to note that both have their own particular strengths. For Messiaen fans, the piano version is a must-have, if only to make their own comparisons. This disc also presents two other famous Messiaen pieces, "Theme and variations" and "Quartet for the end of time." There are no surprises regarding instrumentation, but the Gould Piano Trio (joined by clarinetist Robert Plane for the "Quartet") manages to put its own interpretative stamp on the music. Again, this is a subjective response, but these musicians seem to privilege the lyrical impulses in these compositions slightly above their dissonant elements. I have several other versions of these pieces in my collection, and they tend to exhibit a bit cooler emotional temperature. This is not to imply that the Gould Piano Trio isn't tuned in to the more atonal side of Messiaen's aesthetic, but it does seem a bit more diligent in channeling the warmer sound colors in the composer's palette.
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Turning anguish into hope Sept. 5 2008
By Tym S. - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
Olivier Messiaen, "Quatuor Pour La Fin Du Temps"

The title piece, "Quatuor Pour La Fin Du Temps" (Quartet For the End of Time), must have been written with that actual belief troubling the heart of its composer. Messiaen had been conscripted into the French army in 1939, then interred in a German POW camp. Faced with the insanity of war and a bleak future, he used the only four instruments available to sift through his torment with complex and richly symbolic arrangements. The 45 minute suite is a varied architecture of psychological pain and transcendent faith. Its first performance was before camp inmates who reportedly felt every nuance of it.

The suite is a challenge for players, with its demanding parts and shifting tempos and moods. But the journey is worth it for the careful listener. Its very richness could be a dense maze, but instead is a series of layered moods that can be enjoyed separately and then ultimately together. Robert Plane's stately and quixotic clarinet is a resonant thread that sutures the sad elegance of violin, cello, and piano from the Gould Piano Trio.

Also included is "Les Offrandes Oubliees", a spiritual meditation borne out of his deep faith, as well as "Theme et Variations". The latter is a beautiful piece inspired by his wife, Claire, an accomplished violinest; Variation V particularly has an aching beauty that haunts and uplifts, played wonderfully by Lucy Gould (violin) and Benjamin Frith (piano).

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