Recorded between 17-19 June 2004 in the Philharmonie, Berlin
CD No: EMI 5577882 Duration: 60 minutes Reviewed: September 2004
Éclairs sur lAu-delà
Reviewed by Colin Anderson
Sir Simon Rattle and the Berlin Philharmonic have been touring Olivier Messiaens final orchestral work to the summers music festivals, including the Proms, and made this studio recording at home before setting off on their travels.
In responding to a New York Philharmonic commission (the premiere given in 1992 under Zubin Mehta after the composers death), Messiaen seems to be consciously rounding-off his creativity. There are look-backs to LAscension (one of his earliest successes), further flirtations with birdsong (a constant fascination for him), a distillation of stylistic traits and, not least, an anticipation of new realms, of something beyond this world.
The eleven movements that make up Éclairs sur lAu-delà each has fascination, a parading of colour and effects bound by a certain naivety and enormous sophistication. One can sometimes smile at the composers ideas (yet what he has to say seems entirely unselfconscious and absolutely sincere) and be thrilled by the dramatic outbursts and greatly moved by the eloquence of movements like Demeurer dans lamour, a distant utterance for strings, silence so important, and beautifully played here, that holds the air and suspends the listener.
Éclair is a wide-ranging, evocative score, one that teems with dynamism and colour. For all that Rattles championing of it will undoubtedly bring the work even more interest than hitherto, his is the fifth recording of it and also the one that takes the least time over it. At a few seconds over one hour, Rattle knocks several minutes off of Myung-Whun Chungs premiere recording (DG) but is in agreement with David Porcelijn (ABC); Sylvain Cambreling, on Hänssler, takes 76 minutes. The Messiaen student will want to know all these views the other recording is under Antoni Wit but as a library choice, and for the curious, Rattles fabulously well played and vividly recorded version, is the one to go for. This vital and taut account, one relishing space as much as impact, is entirely within the gift of Rattle and his orchestra. His deeply instinctive response and the musicians mastery of the musics technicalities makes one re-think Éclairs in the most positive way.