MESSIAEN Les corps glorieux. Messe de la Pentecôte
This is the third in Tom Winpenny’s Messiaen series for Naxos. Previous discs were recorded at St Alban’s Abbey (La Nativité) and St Giles’ Cathedral Edinburgh (L’Ascension), but for this recording of two further substantial organ scores, he has travelled to Hildesheim Cathedral in Germany.
Hildesheim boasts two organs playable from a single console, installed in 2014 by Seifert. With a combined tally of 100 speaking stops, these should provide more than enough scope for Winpenny to find suitable sounds for Messiaen’s detailed organ registrations. The trouble is, while he follows much of these registrations closely, the organs speak with undeniably German accents and, coupled with Winpenny’s arms’ length approach to Messiaen’s visionary ideas, the result seems distant and cold.
These are technically excellent performances, and Winpenny maintains an impeccable poise through the long passages of monody which feature so strongly in Les corps glorieux. He is splendidly supported both by an organ that speaks with amazing clarity and a recording which is devoid of any lingering ecclesiastical atmosphere. Similarly, in the Messe de la Pentecôte, which frequently inhabits the very highest and lowest extremes of pitch, we have absolute clarity from pipes which are voiced to speak with an almost laser-like focus.
For those who relish the harmonic idiom of Messiaen’s organ-writing and like to hear every single textural detail delivered with both precision and clarity, this disc will not disappoint. For me, however, much as I admire Winpenny’s technical fluency, I wish he could seem more committed to the spiritual and emotional essence of the music. These two great Messiaen scores need a little more interpretative involvement to be totally convincing in such a clinical audio environment.