Olivier Messiaen: The Complete Organ Works Volume 1

Reviews from the New Release- Volume One

“No other player seems quite to equal Weir's remarkable identification with the reflective and dramatically explosive extremes of Messiaen's idiom. It looks as if Gillian Weir's performances will again claim the definitive status which they were accorded on their earlier incarnation. A further attraction comes in the extensive booklet notes, which centre on those written by Weir herself, underlining the reasons why this music matters so much to her, and also including a wealth of personal anecdote.” Arnold Whittall, Gramophone, February 2003

“How refreshing! Priory has taken what was already a marvellous disc and made it even better... plaudits by the bucket-load.” Christopher Dingle, BBC Music Magazine, April 2003

“Messiaen's organ music – indeed, his musical language – is highly individual and not to everyone's taste. But if his mystical, shimmering harmonies and subtle, complex rhythms are for you, then you will never hear a finer recording of his work than this. Dame Gillian plays the mighty Frobenius organ of Denmark's Arhus Cathedral (and contributes her own lively and affectionate memories of the composer). After the powerful Apparition de l'Eglise Eternelle, Weir gives us La Nativité du Seigneur, Messiaen's first major organ cycle, a tremendous tour de force from composer and soloist. Jeremy Nicholas, Classic FM Magagzine, March 2003.

“Reclaims its definitive status.” Gramophone, March 2003

“Priory has embarked on the re-release of Dame Gillian Weir's famed complete Messiaen recordings, already nine years old. They took the world by storm at the time so it is marvellous they will now be available in the catalogue as single CDs.” Organists' Review, February 2003

“Gillian Weir's Messiaen intégrale came out in 1994, and this first evidence of a reissue by Priory is both a coup for the company and a reminder of Dame Gillian's magisterial achievement. Here are Messiaen and Weir making the vision take on a palpable reality... the whole CD is a vibrant and thrilling experience.” Robert Anderson, Music & Vision, January 2003

Track Listings

Priory Records PRCD 921

Vol. 1 1 Apparition de l'Église éternelle
2 La Nativité du Seigneur I. La Vierge et l'Enfant
3 II. Les Bergers
4 III. Desseins éternels
5 IV. Le Verbe
6 V. Les Enfants de Dieu
7 VI. Les Anges
8 VII. Jésus accepte la souffrance
9 VIII. Les Mages
10 IX. Dieu parmi nous
11 Le Banquet céleste



Apparition de I'Eglise Eternelle (Vision of the Church Eternal)

Born eight years after the dawn of the 20th century and dying eight years before its end, Olivier Messiaen reflected the spirit of the century itself. The curve of his career mirrored first the century's departing Romanticism, then its restless quest for novelty, and finally its fall back into a comfortingly familiar simplicity. After outdoing his innovative disciples in his experimentation with increasingly complex rhythmical theories and harmonic invention (reinvigorated perhaps by the challenge from such former pupils as Pierre Boulez), he could proudly state in 1982: "I fear nothing, not even the common chord!".

That is not to say that there was not an immediately recognisable thumb-print on all that he wrote, right from the earliest published work (Le Banquet Céleste); and a consistency of style, as he developed his compositional techniques to the point where they were so natural to him that their seemingly effortless expression could give a misleading impression of naiveté, when in fact the underlying power of his music comes from their distillation and total absorption.

Already in the Apparition, the first piece he wrote after his appointment as titular organist at the church of La Trinité, his feeling for rhythm as the prime motivating factor in the music is apparent. "I am a rhythmicien", he stated, and his study of the meaning of rhythm was lifelong, culminating in an extended tome containing his thoughts and discoveries. Above all, he emphasized the gulf between rhythm and meter. The first gives life and freedom; the second imprisons the music in a static, lifeless beat. The marches of John Philip Sousa, he pointed out, are an example of merely metrical pulse, whereas rhythm, like the waves of the sea, is constantly in motion, supplying ebb and flow, tension and release, action and reaction. From the Greek principles of arsis and thesis came his later ideas of using the rhythms of Greek poetry.

The central idea for the Apparition comes from the text for the Dedication of a Church, a part of the liturgy to which Messiaen returned in 1960 for his Verset pour la Fete de la Dédicace and again in the last two big cycles for organ; he used it too in the orchestral work Couleurs de la Cité Céleste. The text reads: "Scissors, hammer, suffering and trials, perfecting and refining the chosen ones, the living stones of the spiritual edifice". The work is a crescendo and diminuendo on an immense scale. The church comes gradually into sight; at the climax the Vision is briefly in full view while a stark C major chord is held on the full organ, to shattering effect. Slowly it recedes, and the vision fades.

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