Various Artists

Mystic: The Musical Visions of Olivier Messiaen

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Mystic: The Musical Visions of Olivier Messiaen is a sort of greatest-hits package for the composer that followed in the wake of his death in 1992, though none too hard -- Mystic did not appear until 1996. It is a Messiaen compilation that shapes certain movements taken out of longer works into a sort of easy listening context, and it does provide some clues to the uninitiated as to how to access Messiaen, but in itself, Mystic is a little disingenuous. There are no transcribed birdcalls, no Chronochromie, nothing from Quatour du le fin de temps, nor anything else that indicates what a challenging and intense composer Messiaen was. Just the prettiest parts of some pieces that are not in themselves necessarily very "pretty," couched in a sort of vaguely stated mysticism. The individual movements themselves are certainly well done and recorded; all of them are taken from the exemplary work of conductor Myung-Whun Chung for Deutsche Grammophon, recordings that Messiaen himself regarded as authoritative. But these pieces deserve to be heard in the context in which they belong, even if it is part of an unwieldy and sometimes messy 10-movement symphony such as the Turangilîla. However, as a disc with which to get one's feet wet in Messiaen, Mystic is not so bad; just bear in mind that there are a lot more ingredients to Messiaen's celestial banquet than this disc would imply.

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