"Illuminations of the Beyond"
In the March edition of BBC Music Magazine, conductor Simon Rattle talks
about "music that changed me."
"I think that audiences will be incredibly moved by Messiaen's Eclairs
sur l'Au Dela. I first heard it in a performance in Salzburg with the
Philharmonia conducted by Kent Nagano. I was sitting in the second row.
After 20 minutes I was simply overcome with tears. I sobbed through the
rest of the piece."
I thought, "I've got to hear this.." and listened to a 1994 recording:
Paris Bastille Opera Orchestra, conducted by Myung-Whun Chung [DG 439
Messiaen scored this 65-minute work for an orchestra of 128 players,
titling many of the eleven movements with inscriptions from the Book
of Revelations. If you've responded warmly to "Turangalila" and "Et
Exspecto.." you'll be transported by Eclairs.. It displays all Messiaen's
characteristics with fundamental richness: birdsong, hieratic brass
proclamations, vibrantly coloured harmonies.
I recognised the movement where Sir Simon began to blub - the seraphically
lovely "Demeurer dans l'Amour" [Abide in Love], an adagio scored for
violins, violas and cellos. In this recording, you'll snatch for your
hankies and howl, when the cellos throb con molto amore from 5:52 to 6:04.
I was then delighted to learn that Rattle and the City of Birmingham
Symphony Orchestra play the work in Birmingham and London later this month,
as part of their "Towards the Millennium Festival: the 1990s".
But I thought I'd send my comments now, instead of after the London concert
in the Royal Festival Hall. Why? Rattle has described rehearsing in the
RFH as like "losing the will to live." Its acoustic is shrivelled in
comparison to Birmingham Symphony Hall's, which blossoms. In the RFH
auditorium, I may be disappointed to hear Messiaen's bright plumage moult
to plucked chicken-flesh.
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