MESSIAEN Des Canyons aux Étoiles

Author: 
Geoffrey Norris
LPO0083. MESSIAEN Des Canyons aux ÉtoilesMESSIAEN Des Canyons aux Étoiles

MESSIAEN Des Canyons aux Étoiles

  • (Des) Canyons aux étoiles
What weird and wonderful challenges lie in the 100 minutes of Messiaen’s Des canyons aux étoiles. Lucky the London Philharmonic Orchestra to have such a gifted Principal Horn in John Ryan, who is able not only to negotiate the technical hurdles of the solo ‘Appel interstellaire’ in the second part but also to bring to it such a captivating sense of space and the unfathomable.

This recording is taken from a live performance at London’s Royal Festival Hall in November 2013, which formed part of the Southbank Centre’s ‘The Rest is Noise’ festival. Rightly, two other players are given appropriate credit on the packaging, Andrew Barclay on the xylorimba and Erka Öhman on the glockenspiel, both of them associated with the LPO. The pianist, brought in from outside, is the American Tzimon Barto, a brilliant, dynamic force to be reckoned with. But it is, above all, the way in which the component parts of Des canyons aux étoiles are so graphically defined and combined together as a mysterious, imposing paean to Nature that makes this interpretation so riveting. Christoph Eschenbach animates the score with a true feel for the Messiaen language, embracing the epic as well as the meditative, the syncopated rhythms of ‘Bryce Canyon et les rochers rouge-orange’ as much as the contrast of solemnity and chirruping birdsong in ‘La grive des bois’ in Part 3. It is a performance that serves as a reminder that Messiaen described this elemental score as ‘a work of praise and contemplation’.

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