Messiaen Trois Mélodies; Harawi
The central panel of Messiaen’s “Tristan” trilogy is also the most direct translation of its source, which is saying something given the violent and surreal imagery of the composer’s poetry. But we are nearer to “O sink hernieder” than would at first appear, for the cycle is grander and more public in utterance than its genre would generally suggest or even be thought to permit, conceived as it was for Toscanini’s Kundry at Bayreuth, Marcelle Bunlet, and the first thing to be said about Danish soprano Hetna Regitza Bruun is that she comes far closer to Messiaen’s requested grand soprano dramatique than most of her rivals on record. Her chest voice comes into its own in crucial songs such as No 4, “Doundou tchil”, where she is convincingly aggressive: Rachel Yakar (Erato) and several others sound pretty or tentative by comparison.
Youthfulness is also a rare asset – this is her first recording – in a cycle that goes to appropriate extremes to portray the longing for extinction over the unbearable pain of a love beyond distraction. “I think I really prefer things which make me afraid,” once said the boy Olivier to his mother, and a strong sense of that fascination/repulsion is evident in the whirling nightmare of No 6, “Repetition planetaire”, but also in the long fortissimo lines of No 7, “Adieu”, and the cycle’s true final song, No 12, which Bruun wisely takes as fast as breath allows rather than as the metronome dictates, before she shows, in the cycle’s fading memories of love, that she can sing quietly, too. Messiaen’s lines expose the occasional lack of agility in a large voice but she compensates for this with excellent French that allows the music to do the talking, as Messiaen himself does in a piece written at a most painful time in his life.
Naxos’s recording equally reveals that Kristoffer Hyldig is a fine new Messiaen pianist. Only the lack of texts, let alone translations, prevents the warmest of recommendations.