Saint François d'Assise is unique among operas. Decidedly anti-dramatic (there is little or no action), it fulfills Messiaen's aim to present the journey of St. Francis' soul toward grace. St Francis advises another monk, Brother Leon; he meets a leper, kisses and cures him; he encounters an angel; he preaches to the birds; he prays for and receives the Stigmata; he dies. The tempo, save for a few moments, remains stubbornly moderate; if you do not give in to this fact and wish for something else, you're lost.
–Robert Levine, ClassicsToday.com
Steven Osborne continues his enthralling performances of Messiaen's piano works, with Martin Roscoe joining him for the two-piano Visions de l'Amen. The two of them are flawlessly matched in their strength, control, and range of expression, even though for much of the work the two piano parts are largely independent. They move together from twinkling, distant starlight passages to powerful, brilliant solar flare-like passages. Osborne and Roscoe, although painting large pictures in the seven movements, demand that attention be paid to the details in the music.
"…Each gesture, each interpretive nuance – and there are numerous reminders that Innig’s performance is personal and distinct – serves to enhance Messiaen’s faith. So one cannot escape the devout mystery and probity that Rudolf Innig brings in such full measure to the Livre du Saint Sacrement. This performance promises to invigorate the soul." (Fanfare)
A solitaire in French is a single mounted jewel, a concept that seems less than apt for the rather hefty works recorded here by British pianist Kathryn Stott. But this fine recital holds together in another way: Ravel, who so often provides the temporal endpoint for traditional piano recitals, is here, to a greater or lesser extent, the launching point for the other three composers featured. Stott's reading of the neoclassical Le Tombeau de Couperin is beautifully precise and balanced, catching the economy of this Baroque-style suite to the hilt. That economy carries over into the later works, even the rarely performed Piano Sonata of Henri Dutilleux, a work that deftly fuses Ravel's sense of classical forms with a largely dissonant language. The opening Prelude and Fugue of Jehan Alain, actually two separate works that are reasonably enough combined here, is another seldom-played piece that makes an arresting curtain-raiser, and the final "Le baiser de l'Enfant Jésus" of Messiaen, part of the giant Vingt regards sur l'Enfant Jésus, is the splendid climax of the whole, its spiritual, dreamlike ascent at the end superbly controlled.
Remastered edition of Messiaen Complete Organ Works by Willem Tanke. Messiaen's organ works are a climax of 20th-century music, and Willem Tanke captures superbly their deep spiritual intensity, rivalling renderings by more well-known organists like Jennifer Bate and Gillian Weir. Take your time listening to the CDs: you will relish the music best if you spread the enjoyment out over a period of time. I always think of Messiaen as a composer whose pieces are threshholds into something beyond. The organ is particulary adept at opening the door. It's power and majesty and mystery as an instrument on its own does that, but Messiaen takes us to the edge of places no one else does. I have heard some of these pieces before, but hearing the entire body all together is overwhelming. It takes something which was already big and makes it bigger. These performances are more than worth your time to listen.
Karl Amadeus Hartmann (2 August 1905 – 5 December 1963) was a German composer. Some have lauded him as the greatest German symphonist of the 20th century, although he is now largely overlooked, particularly in English-speaking countries. A sinewy counterpoint drives much of Hartmann's music, whether in the neo-baroque piano pieces from the 1920s, or his final two symphonies. But he could also pack a considerable punch as in the Piano Sonata, inspired by the sight of a procession of concentration camp victims from Dachau.
Tenor superstar Jonas Kaufmann leads the cast in the first-ever DVD release of the beautiful fairytale opera from the composer of Hänsel und Gretel. The German tenor is “the fairytale prince of most opera-goers’ dreams – young, reckless, beautiful” (Financial Times), and Isabel Rey is the Goosegirl star in the acclaimed Zurich production of Humperdinck’s magical opera Königskinder – a story of love tested beyond endurance – premiered at New York’s Metropolitan Opera in 1910. Humperdinck’s setting of the modern fairytale saw him further develop the musical language of his much-loved Hänsel und Gretel. Königskinder is enjoying a revival in popularity with productions planned in several major European houses.