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Thread: Olivier Messiaen

  1. #406
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    Quote Originally Posted by mikeh375 View Post
    Oh boy Starthrower, you're not wrong there. It's always the wannabes. Thanks, this forum is beginning to lose its appeal.
    That's Starthrower, my good ol' buddy.
    And my good friend and fellow composer mikeh375,
    with assistance from the venerable "Knorf."

    Thank you ladies and gentlemen! Welcome back, my friends, to the show that never ends!

    Boom! That's the sound of a door slamming. Tragic, isn't it? You all meant so much to me, after all we've been through together...sob...

    Now listening to the Yvonne Loriod box set.


    Last edited by millionrainbows; May-17-2020 at 14:39.

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    Senior Member starthrower's Avatar
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    Any opinions on the various recordings of Des Canyons? Chung, Salonen, de Leeuw, Marius Constant? I'm looking to pick up a copy.
    "In the beginning there was noise. And the noise begat rhythm. And the rhythm begat everything else." - Mickey Hart

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    Quote Originally Posted by starthrower View Post
    Any opinions on the various recordings of Des Canyons? Chung, Salonen, de Leeuw, Marius Constant? I'm looking to pick up a copy.
    I adore this work. Perhaps my favourite Messiaen composition. I've been lucky enough to attend two concert performances over the last few years, last time 2019, I think.

    You are spoilt for choice concerning recordings. I have four sets. My first was Loriod/Marius Constant on Apex and is very good indeed. I then acquired Sylvain Cambreling's recording and Salonen next.

    However, the recording that I came to late, and is head and shoulders my favourite is Myun-Whung Chung on DG. It's superb!

    Edit: I see I also have de Leeuw, but I'd forgotten about it (I wonder if that's meaningful?)
    Last edited by HenryPenfold; Sep-16-2021 at 16:36.

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    Thanks, Henry! I ordered a cheap copy of the Salonen. But I'll pick up the Chung when I see a good price. I also got a great deal on de Leeuw's La Transfiguration. The Chung has great sound but isn't very exciting. The Dorati is the best but too expensive.
    "In the beginning there was noise. And the noise begat rhythm. And the rhythm begat everything else." - Mickey Hart

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    Quote Originally Posted by starthrower View Post
    Thanks, Henry! I ordered a cheap copy of the Salonen. But I'll pick up the Chung when I see a good price. I also got a great deal on de Leeuw's La Transfiguration. The Chung has great sound but isn't very exciting. The Dorati is the best but too expensive.

    Dorati was my first purchase many moons ago at mid-price! My no.1 choice until Sylvain Cambreling came along!

    I haven't heard Chung in La Transfiguration.. He seems to be hit and miss with Messiaen - an excellent Turangalila, a dull Eclairs sur l'au-delà, superb Des Canyons ............


    Last edited by HenryPenfold; Sep-16-2021 at 16:48.

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    Senior Member starthrower's Avatar
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    The only Eclairs I have is by Rattle and I haven't listened to it for quite a while. I'm not a big fan of Turangalila so my CD by Chailly is sufficient. Sometimes I'll watch the live performance with Joanna Macgregor on YT.
    Last edited by starthrower; Sep-16-2021 at 17:40.
    "In the beginning there was noise. And the noise begat rhythm. And the rhythm begat everything else." - Mickey Hart

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    Quote Originally Posted by HenryPenfold View Post
    I adore this work. Perhaps my favourite Messiaen composition. I've been lucky enough to attend two concert performances over the last few years, last time 2019, I think.

    You are spoilt for choice concerning recordings. I have four sets. My first was Loriod/Marius Constant on Apex and is very good indeed. I then acquired Sylvain Cambreling's recording and Salonen next.

    However, the recording that I came to late, and is head and shoulders my favourite is Myun-Whung Chung on DG. It's superb!

    Edit: I see I also have de Leeuw, but I'd forgotten about it (I wonder if that's meaningful?)
    I have a friend who is a Messiaen nut and he swears by that Chung recording. He says he's never returned to any other since he got it, Henry.

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    I've liked the Sylvan Cambreling box set (well enough) when I want to hear excellent performances in very good sound (from Hänssler), which is always an attractive bonus in Messiaen's music.

    I agree that Chung's series is hit and miss, but with more hits than misses. Yes, his Canyons is very worthwhile, and I prefer Muraro to several other pianists in this music: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iBRTJMKyvV0. But Chung & Cambreling aren't my first choices.

    For me, the foremost interpreter of the music of Messiaen in the second half of the 20th century was the late Reinbert de Leeuw. For example, I'd consider the following box set from the Netherlands Wind Ensemble to be essential in any Messiaen collection: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kKxU...p0aa30KUP34XHQ.

    De Leeuw's Canyons is also brilliant: https://www.amazon.com/Olivier-Messi...1812683&sr=1-2. I don't think a conductor can do full justice to this music, without having first visited these astonishing canyons (& National Parks), where Messiaen received his inspiration, and to my ears, De Leeuw sounds like he's been to these places and likewise experienced their stillness, quietude, eeriness, starkness, beauty, immensity & grandeur (as have I--in both Bryce & Zion, but not Cedar Breaks). In other words, De Leeuw gets the sense of place in this music better than most, in my view: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zzQK...6qGARCNT0mqSY8

    I also wouldn't want to be without the comprehensive 18 CD Erato/Warner box set (which used to be an incredible bargain set, & I hope it still is...), and I consider Marius Constant's Canyons with pianist Yvonne Loriod to be essential in any Messiaen collection, as well (it's also available individually in a discount CD). The set includes some of Messiaen's own performances, which needless to say, are essential, too (as are those of his 2nd wife, Loriod). (EDIT: I've just checked, and unfortunately, this set is no longer a screaming bargain on Amazon, where it once sold for under $30. It's a shame they can't keep it in print & inexpensive, indefinitely: https://www.amazon.com/Messiaen-18CD.../dp/B000A2ACWO)

    Next, I also think that Pierre Boulez can be excellent in Messiaen's music. The following two DG discs make interesting, complimentary choices to & after De Leeuw:

    The following is another one of my favorite Messiaen discs, who like many French composers was, for me, often at his best when writing for the female voice: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aPHu...JmKCTuFZsbXe1s

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PkU9...V_-E1AL9pyLU1o

    Here too are some live Boulez performances: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_F5H...CBUCao&index=2

    Lastly, I'm also partial to Riccardo Chailly's spectacular recording of the Turangalila-Symphonie: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ABHU...CU0HBG3jciG_Io. Although critic David Hurwitz prefers Antoni Wit's performance on Naxos, which I've not heard, but I see that the CD has won numerous awards, so it may well be a first choice: https://www.naxos.com/catalogue/item...de=8.554478-79.

    Other conductors are good in Messiaen, but they seldom sound quite as authentic & interesting to me (as those I've mentioned above). They are more like actors that give slightly more superficial, less knowing performances. Some of them can even sound a tad less committed to me. Like they're on the outside, looking in.

    P.S. My most recent Messiaen 'find' is this excellent disc of the composer's early vocal & chamber music, which contains works that were all written in Messiaen's twenties: Interestingly, the "Chants de terre et de ciel" song cycle was composed to his 1st wife, using his own texts. Suzie LeBlanc's singing of all these songs is remarkable, and more than up to the challenge that the songs present--i.e., her intonation is flawless, & there's no operatic screechiness, which so often afflicts sopranos' performances of French chansons. It's a rewarding & recommendable issue, and comes in 'state of the art' audiophile sound (from Atma): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CNSu...ugSBv43W-Om3NU.
    Last edited by Josquin13; Sep-16-2021 at 23:40.

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    Quote Originally Posted by starthrower View Post
    Any opinions on the various recordings of Des Canyons? Chung, Salonen, de Leeuw, Marius Constant? I'm looking to pick up a copy.
    I've got those 4 versions, but IMO the differences between the various recordings are rather subtle and not really that important. My overall favourite & the first I heard, is Constant, though. But it's not necessarily "the best'.

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    Josquin, thanks for all of your suggestions. You always come up with some interesting recordings that are generally under the radar of most listeners. I have the de Leeuw La Transfiguration on the way so I'm looking forward to that performance. And I've never listened to Des Canyons all the way through because Messiaen's music does not translate through a pair of small computer speakers. I'm looking forward to the CD.
    "In the beginning there was noise. And the noise begat rhythm. And the rhythm begat everything else." - Mickey Hart

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    Quote Originally Posted by Josquin13 View Post
    I agree that Chung's series is hit and miss, but with more hits than misses. Yes, his Canyons is very worthwhile, and I prefer Muraro to several other pianists in this music: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iBRTJMKyvV0. But Chung & Cambreling aren't my first choices.

    For me, the foremost interpreter of the music of Messiaen in the second half of the 20th century was the late Reinbert de Leeuw.
    Allow me to disagree. I think Chung is the safest choice for Messiaen and I've enjoyed all of his recordings. Excellent choice of pianists (Muraro for Canyons and Trois Petites Liturgies, Loriod for Turangalila) and good sound, with the big orchestral masses not sounding harsh. I like my Messian with that kind of "hammerless" sound that Debussy wrote about.

    Reinbert de Leeuw's CD that you recommended (with Oiseaux Exotiques, 7 Haikai etc) features good playing but it hurts my ears at times, both the wind orchestra and the piano by Peter Donohoe. By the way I've heard Donohoe play live the complete "Vingt Regards" and he's an amazing Messian pianist, but not so much in that recording.

    I didn't listen to de Leeuw's recording of "Des canyons". Another one to check in this particular work is Eschenbach/LPO.

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    I think Des Canyons... is a really extraordinary, many-sided work, the sort of thing that not only permits but demands a great diversity of approaches--quite possibly a greater diversity than it has yet had.

    I've just spent a very pleasant couple of days revisiting the recordings on my shelves, and, if pressed to choose among them, I would choose both Chung and de Leeuw! I feel that both of them, in very different ways, plumb very deep into the heart of this amazing music, and I couldn't possibly rank one of them above the other.

    I totally agree, also, with Josquin13's praise of the big Erato/Warner Messiaen Edition that includes the Loriod/Constant Des Canyons and much else of similar caliber. This is exactly the piano timbre & style that Messiaen heard in his imagination when he was composing the work--I think, even if we didn't know that to be the case, the playing sounds so totally right at every point that we might well guess it.

    Even when the work was brand new, it seemed to me to have the word "Masterpiece" written all over it, and I don't feel that one note of it has lost its power in the past half-century. At the time, I thought it might well be the final culmination of Messiaen's career (I was very young, and he was in his late 60s, which seemed to me the absolute terminal stage of senile dementia). Little did I know how much was still to come!
    Last edited by gvn; Sep-23-2021 at 08:17.

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    Quote Originally Posted by HenryPenfold View Post
    I adore this work. Perhaps my favourite Messiaen composition. I've been lucky enough to attend two concert performances over the last few years, last time 2019, I think.

    You are spoilt for choice concerning recordings. I have four sets. My first was Loriod/Marius Constant on Apex and is very good indeed. I then acquired Sylvain Cambreling's recording and Salonen next.

    However, the recording that I came to late, and is head and shoulders my favourite is Myun-Whung Chung on DG. It's superb!

    Edit: I see I also have de Leeuw, but I'd forgotten about it (I wonder if that's meaningful?)
    I doubt that your forgetting de Leeuw's recording is meaningful - it's very good. I do agree that we are spoiled for choice with this work. I know all those you mention except the Cambreling and find them all very good.

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    I saw the recommendation above of Gunilla von Bahr for Le merle noir, and she is a fine player, but for me the best one by far is that by the formidable Philippe Bernold. This is an excellent CD in general of some of the main 20th century standards for flute:

    bernold.jpg

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