Archive for Olivier Messiaen

Yvonne Loriod

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on May 19, 2010 by Craig Zeichner

The widow of Olivier Messiaen, Yvonne Loriod, passed away on Monday. She was a brilliant pianist and her recordings of her husband’s music and other 20th century repertoire are treasures. She also was Messiaen’s partner in recording birdcalls:

I love this photo of Loriod holding the microphone

I’ll have more on her in the next few days, but you can read some interesting essays at the Olivier Messiaen

Best of 2009

Posted in Music with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 5, 2010 by Craig Zeichner

Lots to chose from and most of it from living composers who create outside the tedious and ugly world of the conservatory. Proving that the future of music is really in the hands of those who care about originality and beauty rather than residing in the clammy claws of the sterile academics.

CD of the Year

Phil Kline: John the Revelator
Lionheart; Ethel
(Cantaloupe Music)
I can’t say enough about John the Revelator. Phil Kline has created a work whose stark beauty connects on so many levels. You’d have to be made of stone not to feel this one.

John Adams: Dr. Atomic Symphony
St. Louis Symphony Orchestra
David Robertson, conductor
A strange and beautiful world of orchestral color and rampaging rhythms.

Johannes Brahms: Symphony No. 1

Budapest Festival Orchestra
Ivan Fischer, conductor
(Channel Classics)
Big-boned, heroic Brahms that rivals my favorite recordings by Otto Klemperer and Istvan Kertesz. Speaking of Kertesz, I wish the corporate troglodytes at Universal would get a clue and reissue his Decca recordings.

Michael Daugherty: Fire and Blood
Ida Kavafian, violin; The Detroit Symphony Orchestra
Neeme Jarvi, conductor
Daugherty’s Fire and Blood concerto has balls and Kavafian delivers a brilliantly muscular performance. Daugherty’s music is disliked by the pasty-faced academics–“it’s glib and filled with cheap effects”–they shriek. All the more reason to love his music. Check out the recording of his Metropolis Symphony too.

Gabriel Jackson: Not No Faceless Angel
Stephen Layton, director
Jackson grabbed some deserved acclaim with “The Christ Child Sat On Mary’s Lap,” the carol commissioned for the 2009 Festival of Lessons and Carols at Kings College, Cambridge. This sublime CD is an ideal introduction to his music.

Rued Langgaard: Messis
Flemming Dreisig, organ
An organ work that clocks in at over 2 hours? Yes please! Langgaard’s music is hyper-Romantic and Dreisig is a superb organist. It’s been quite a Langgaard year with Dacapo releasing a boxed set of the quirky Dane’s complete symphonies.

James Macmillan: St. John Passion
Christopher Maltman, baritone
London Symphony Chorus and Orchestra
Sir Colin Davis, conductor
(LSO Live)
A deeply moving and piercingly dramatic telling of the Passion story. A gorgeous performance led by the greatest living conductor.

Mahler Symphony No. 4
Miah Persson, soprano
Budapest Festival Orchestra
Ivan Fischer, conductor
(Channel Classics)
Fischer’s excellent Mahler cycle hits a high point.

Felix Mendelssohn: Complete Organ Sonatas
William Whitehead, organ
Church organists love these little gems but they are not especially well-know outside the organ loft. Whitehead plays a marvelous old instrument on this terrific recording.

Olivier Messiaen: Saint Francois d’Assise
Rodney Gilfry, baritione; Camilla Tilling, soprano; Hubert Delamboye, tenor
Netherlands Opera Chorus, Hague Philharmonic Orchestra
Ingo Metzmacher, conductor
(Opus Arte)
Pierre Audi’s hypnotic staging is remarkable and Messiaen’s score will probably never be better-served. I think they will be serving frozen margaritas in hell before this opera is ever staged in New York, so grab this DVD and prepare to be overwhelmed.

A video treat

I’m deeply in love with soprano Miah Persson, the soloist on Fischer’s Mahler 4th. Here she is singing “Come scoglio” from Mozart’s Cosi fan tutte.

Happy 2010! I hope…

French Organ Music for the Strong of Heart, Demessieux and Escaich

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 2, 2009 by Craig Zeichner
Wondrous machine, the Cavaillé-Coll organ at St. Sulpice

Wondrous machine, the Cavaillé-Coll organ at St. Sulpice

French organ music is my favorite drug. Give me a recording of music by Vierne, Dupré, Touremire or  Messiaen played on a big Cavaillé-Coll organ and I don’t need dessert.  Probably don’t need dinner either. Messiaen’s organ music seduced me years ago and there’s still nothing in all the world that stirs me as much.  Christmas music? Give me La nativité du seigneur above all else. Need a thrill? Play the Sortie from the Messe de la pentecôte loud, real loud. More than Buxtehude and even more than Bach, Messiaen’s organ music hits me right between the eyes.

The world's greatest scarf and Olivier Messiaen

The world's greatest scarf and Olivier Messiaen


What’s there to listen to after Messiaen? The two French composers who have impressed me most are Jeanne Demessieux (1921-1968) and Thierry Escaich (b. 1965).


Jeanne Demessieux



A private student of the great Marcel Dupré, Demessieux was an award-winning organist and composer. She was a virtuoso of astounding talent and a prolific recording artist (although you wouldn’t know that by the paltry number of her recordings that are still in print) who was far too young when she died. Her music has an intensity that is matched by its sheer difficulty. This has to be terrifying music to play.  A recording by the organist Maurizio Ciampi on the Stradivarius label has become a great favorite of mine. Ciampi is up to the technical challenges – his  pedal work kills – and makes me want to hear him play more of Demessieux’s music, or anything else for that matter. Speaking of pedal work, apparently Demessieux dazzled North American audiences by her quicksilver pedal-playing in high heels.



Ciampi's championing Demessieux

Ciampi champions Demessieux


Here’s Demessieux’s Octaves from her Six  Etudes performed by Maxime Patel. The playing isn’t as technically secure as Ciampi’s but its fun to see the pedal work.


Thierry Escaich

Escaich, he gives you so many reasons to like the music of your century!

He gives you so many reasons to like the music of your century!


“Thierry Escaich: one of the composers of today who gives you so many reasons to like the music of your century!”  That’s the greeting from Escaich’s homepage and it’s true, he makes me like music of my century! Escaich’s music is as intense as Messiaen  and Demessieux’s  and, like Messiaen, has  that whiff of the delicious perfume of the ecstatic that I find so compelling. Escaich is also a virtuoso organist; he is the successor to Maurice Duruflé as organist at the church of St. Etienne du Mont in Paris.

I’ve been reveling in Escaich’s recording of his own works on the Calliope label. He plays the Cavaillé-Coll organ at St. Etienne du Mont in a program that features some solo works that give Demessieux’s murderous Octaves a run for its money. I also recommend the terrific recording on the Accord label (with Olivier Latry at the organ console) of his Organ Concerto. If you get really hooked, try his oratorio  Le Dernier Èvangile on the Hortus label.




 The master should have the last word though,  here’s Naji Hakim playing Messiaen’s  Dieu parmi nous from La nativité du seigneur.