Marilyn Nonken / Sarah Rothenberg

Messiaen: Visions de l'Amen

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Olivier Messiaen's massive seven-movement suite Visions de l'Amen is one of the monuments of music for two pianos of the 20th century, if not of any century. Written in 1943, it was his first collaboration with Yvonne Loriod, who later became his wife, but who was at the time still a student at the Paris Conservatory. He wrote the rhythmically complex and virtuosic first piano part for her, and the second piano part, demanding more physical power, for himself. Writing for two such formidable performers, he was able to create sonorities that had never before been heard. The subject matter of the seven movements reflect the monumentality and cosmic scope of the composer's vision, with titles such as Amen of Creation, Amen of the agony of Jesus, Amen of Judgment, and Amen of the Consummation. The emotional range of the music is also vast, from the delicate tenderness of Amen of the agony of Jesus to the powerfully exultant Amen of the Consummation. The piece receives an outstanding performance from new music specialists Marilyn Nonken, who studied Messiaen's piano works with Loriod, and Sarah Rothenberg, whose playing garnered accolades from both Loriod and the composer. Their superb technique gives them the assurance to play with the unfettered abandon the composer demands, and their comfort with each other allows them to play with sensitivity and flexibility. The passion they bring to the final movement in particular is staggering in its intensity, dramatic pacing, and sheer volume; it can leave the listener exhausted and elated, which was surely Messiaen's intention. Bridge's sound is clean and atmospheric.

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