The Gould Piano Trio, along with clarinetist Robert Plane, performs Messiaen's greatest chamber composition along with two attractive smaller pieces. Their reading of Quatuor pour la fin du Temps is notable for the musicians' sense of balance, bringing some lines to the foreground and keeping others in the shadows. Maintaining that sense of balance with this unusual ensemble is one of the marks of a performance that's transcendent rather than merely correct. Here the unusual subtlety of the dynamics and the broad palette of colors the players produce are revelatory. Plane brings exceptional finesse to the piece; his eight-minute solo is a marvel of expressiveness and absolutely clean articulation. Alice Neary has some difficulties with breaks in the impossibly high, impossibly long, and impossibly quiet sounds the cellist is required to produce, but otherwise the playing is just about immaculate. Violinist Lucy Gould and pianist Benjamin Frith make a strong case for the composer's very early Thème et variations, a marvel of post-Impressionist fervor. Les Offrandes oubliées, recorded here for the first time in Messiaen's own arrangement for piano, is less effective than the orchestral version; the slow outer sections suffer from being played on a percussive instrument with limited ability to sustain notes, but the fast middle section works as a kind of keyboard toccata. Chandos' sound is clean, intimate, and focused.
AllMusic Review by Stephen Eddins
|Theme and Variations, for violin & piano, I/10|
|Quatuor pour la fin du temps, for violin, cello, clarinet & piano, I/22|