Jun Märkl / Orchestre National de Lyon

Messiaen: Et exspecto resurrectionem mortuorum

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Olivier Messiaen composed Et exspecto resurrectionem mortuorum (1964) as a memorial for the dead of the two world wars and imbued the work with feelings of vastness and isolation, fitting for such a profound meditation. Scored for winds and percussion, the piece is constructed in several slow sections, usually built on single lines of wide intervals played in unison, that present a stark vista of desolation that dominates the work. This prolonged mood of grief carries through to the end, in spite of episodes of activity for the gamelan-like percussion and dissonant wind textures that interrupt the sustained threnody. This funereal work is matched up with two earlier Messiaen pieces, Le tombeau resplendissant (1931) and Hymne (1932), both written for full orchestra, which are much more active and vigorous, in dramatic contrast to the main offering. These pieces are as vibrant and colorful as Et exspecto resurrectionem mortuorum is grim and monumental. Jun Märkl and the Orchestra National de Lyon give Et exspecto resurrectionem mortuorum a powerful and controlled reading, but it's evident that there is more for them to do in the filler pieces and more opportunity to display their skills. Newcomers to Messiaen's music may find Et exspecto resurrectionem mortuorum too severe a work to appreciate immediately, but Le tombeau resplendissant and Hymne are both approachable and quite easy to follow.

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