MESSIAEN La Fauvette Passerinette
In 2012, 20 years after Messiaen’s death, Peter Hill discovered among his sketches an 11 minute piece that might have marked the start of a second phase of work on the large-scale piano cycle Catalogue d’oiseaux. In absorbingly detailed booklet-notes, Hill explains the innovative aspects of La fauvette passerinette (1961); and even if (as I suspect) Messiaen might have refined and increased the piece’s contrasting materials in producing a definitive version, Hill’s realisation forms a rewardingly substantial centrepiece to this outstanding recital disc.
The whole point is to put Messiaen himself in a stimulating context; and anyone suspecting from the playlist that this collection of compositions is too much of a miscellaneous ragbag for its own good should be as disarmed as I was by the fresh perspectives it opens up. There is enough music by Messiaen himself to ensure that his presence and impact are never forgotten, not least because he is shown here to have steered French music virtually single-handedly from refined late Romanticism into the harsher world of late modernism. The other composers selected can then be heard responding to either or both of these compositional possibilities – and the explicit links between (for example) Ravel and Takemitsu show that this is far from a simple matter of chronology.
The appeal of the disc is greatly enhanced by the exceptional quality of the recording, with every facet of Hill’s uncompromisingly extensive expressive range vividly captured – and, quite rightly, there is a credit for the piano technician.