The lucid lyricism of Olivier Messiaenʼs song cycle, Poémes pour Mi opens this recital of some of his finest chamber music. Soprano Gwen-Ann Jeffers makes the most of Messiaenʼs unique harmonic colours in this set of songs dedicated to the composerʼs wife, Claire Delbos ('Mi' was his pet name for her)
Pianist Stephen De Pledge - who studied with Mme. Messiean prior to the recording of these works - takes the solo role for 6 petites esquisses dʼoiseaux, six brief sketches paying homage to the robin, blackbird, song-thrush and others; and reminding us that Messiaen, a composer of note, was also an acknowledged authority on birdsong.
That influence is also present here with the recording of Le Merle Noir (ʻThe Blackbirdʼ), for flute and piano. Flautist Daniel Pailthorpe takes the songs of the blackbird, playing over a piano part almost representing the topographic background. One of Messiaenʼs most important compositions - and arguably one of the most outstanding solo piano works of the 20th century - was his vast cycle Vingt Regards sur lʼEnfant-Jésus, composed in 1944. Stephen De Pledge plays here the 14th and 15th pieces, considered as the double climax of the entire cycle. The first begins with a brilliant toccata, and ends in an awesome coda; the second a more peaceful and warm ʻcosmic lullabyʼ.
Stephen is joined by the violinist Matthew Trusler for Theme et Variations, an abstract work composed early in Messiaenʼs career (in 1932). The theme begins with a spiritual calm, before each of the five variation quickens in tempo and melodic elaboration leading to an ecstatic climax and coda.
This disc, with 76 mins of music, is a re-mastered reissue of a previous Black Box release. All the tracks on this disc were recorded in the Music Room at Champs Hill (2002/3), and the artists featured here have gone on to record many other discs at Champs Hill.