Miroirs – Oiseaux tristes
Le merle noir
Rappel des oiseaux
Des canyons aux étoiles – Le cossyphe d’Heuglin
Les fauvettes plaintives
Des canyons aux étoiles – Le moqueur polyglotte
Flight (for solo flute)
Emily Beynon (flute – Messiaen & Benjamin) & Cédric Tiberghien (piano)
Reviewed by: Ben Hogwood
Reviewed: 3 July, 2008
Venue: St Mary Abchurch, Abchurch Lane, London EC4
This early-evening recital was a most interesting study of Messiaen’s use of birdsong placed in the context of character pieces before and after – and covering geographical locations as varied as the Alps and Utah.
Two of the eight pieces featured a solo flute, but the programme was structured for these to make the biggest impact. La merle noir stands at the beginning of Messiaen’s exploration of birdsong. Beynon and Tiberghien were in absolute unity of rhythm and balance, not an easy task when the piano part is as thrillingly virtuosic as that of the flute, nor with the players positioned beneath the impressive church dome.
The placement of the Messiaen pieces was instructive, the programme running in units of two. So it was that Tiberghien’s atmospheric and dynamically extreme ‘Oiseaux tristes’ (from Miroirs) was the antecedent to La merle noir, with a seemingly abrupt change of style to Rameau beginning the next group. In event the parallels between Rameau and Ravel were more revealing, in part down to Tiberghien’s performance, Rappel des Oiseaux taken at quite a lick so that while the passagework was nimble, some detail was lost. This was not the case in a baleful Les fauvettes plaintives in which ornamentation was ideally affected, the trills in thirds impeccable.
The two excerpts from Messiaen’s Des canyons aux étoiles, arranged by the composer, stood well on their own and especially in these dynamic performances. The pianist was in absolute control of the demands, with the curious pedal effects of ‘Le moqueur polyglotte’ (The Mockingbird) convincingly secured, and the flourishes of ‘Le cossyphe d’Heuglin’ (The White-Browed Robin) thrilling in their exact virtuosity and rhythmic complexity.
Beynon gave Flight, written in 1979 when George Benjamin was under the tutelage of Messiaen, an evocative reading. The lower notes in particular were strongly resonant, the morendo of both pitch and dynamic expertly controlled. Meanwhile the sparkling flurries through the middle of the piece were clear and incisive of timbre, piercing the ears as bird-cries can do.
Finally La poule brought us back to earth, Rameau’s strutting hen given appropriate touches of humour from Tiberghien, a touch of furtiveness adding extra character to this delightful piece.