In this release, Naxos brings together two of Messiaen's most attractive song cycles for voice and piano. (The company has already released the orchestral version of Poèmes pour Mi, another one of the composer's remarkable cycles.) Messiaen wrote Trois Mélodies when he was 22, and while the influence of Debussy is apparent, hints of the distinctive style he would develop -- harmonic, melodic, and rhythmic -- are already in evidence. The unabashed lyricism of the writing makes this a piece that should appeal to any fan of lush post-Impressionism. Harawi: Songs of Love and Death dates from 1945, around the time Messiaen was losing his first wife, Claire Delbos, to mental illness. The 12 songs are fully developed expressions of his early style. The cycle is based on Peruvian mythology, and the composer intersperses his own text with fragments from the Quechua language. The music has a wildness and even a primitivism that are intensely expressive of the passion and violence of the tragic story of lovers separated by death. Messiaen calls for a "grande soprano dramatique," to handle the extreme demands he makes on the singer. Both the vocal and piano part are of staggering difficulty, but the Danish performers, recent graduates of the Royal Academy of Music, Copenhagen, pull off the task of making the music sound effortlessly spontaneous. Heta Regitze Bruun has the kind of naturally spectacular voice, bright and gleaming from bottom to top, that should lead to a major international career. She soars through the ecstatic effusions of Messiaen's evocative and psychologically probing melodies with immense power and, when required, with sweet tenderness. She has a capable partner in pianist Kristoffer Hyldig, who brings a formidable technique and an alert awareness of timbral variety to the accompaniment. Naxos' sound is clean and well-balanced. Highly recommended.
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AllMusic Review by Stephen Eddins
|Harawi: Songs of Love and Death|