Messiaen: Vingt Regards sur l'Enfant-Jésus

Bertrand Chamayou

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Messiaen: Vingt Regards sur l'Enfant-Jésus Review

by James Manheim

There have always been two sides to the music of Olivier Messiaen. He was a card-carrying member of the post-World War II avant garde, but his piano music fell clearly into a long tradition going back to Chopin and beyond. This, of course, is the source of its continuing appeal. The duality is especially vivid in the large Vingt Regards sur l'Enfant-Jésus for piano, and in this recording pianist Bertrand Chamayou captures it elegantly. He is neither slurpily sentimental in the work's mystical-spiritual aspects, nor too hard-edged in its rigorous structures. The work in Chamayou's hands has the desired effect of an object (in this case, object of adoration) being turned and reflecting different ways, and the listener has a sense of natural flow from one piece to another, something not easy in a work this size. Sample No. 10, the Lisztian "Regard de l'Esprit de Joie," and the following "Première communion de la Vierge" for an idea of the control Chamayou has over the sequence of events. A fine recording of a work that, because of its size and difficulty, is not so often recorded.

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