Myung-Whun Chung

Olivier Messiaen: Éclairs sur l'au-delà (Illuminations of the Beyond)

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Éclairs sur l'Au-Delà… (‘Illuminations of the Beyond…') is a work demanding an incredible commend of orchestral balance and Messiaen's ecstatic genius, making it a challenge to perform that is beyond perhaps most professional conductors. Of course it had to be recorded, and readers will be pleased to know that this 1994 rendition successfully demonstrates the score's dauntingly rich beauty. Myung-Whun Chung conducts the Orchestre de l'Opéra Bastille with a transparent love and understanding of the material. Each of the eleven movements is distinctly shaped and yet clearly part of a unified whole. Different shades and perspectives come together as a portrait of the composer's final period in a way that is wholly convincing. One listen to the third movement, ‘The Ladybird and the Bridal City', is heard as the voice of one bird, with phrasings that could easily degenerate into tedious fit of extended squawks, is heard here with Chung's convincing musical focus, offering a brilliant spotlight on the bird's call. Cement's any intelligent listener's admiration for Chung comes with this movement's contrast with the next, wherein a menagerie of birdsong is heard among other melodic strains. And in the end it is not the splendor of the conductor or his ensemble that leaves an impression. It is Messiaen himself, an angelic force in 20th century music, who is recognized for his gifts, which is the vital stamp of any successful recording. Readers can have absolute confidence in the value of this rendition.

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