Messiaen lovers have been given an extravagant present: three significant yet seldom heard scores in live recordings made between 2017 and 2019 by Kent Nagano and his Bavarian forces. What better way to celebrate Nagano’s 70th birthday or signal the upcoming 30th anniversary of Messiaen’s death?
Given Nagano’s connection with Messiaen reaches back some 40 years, and includes a year studying with the composer, there is a strong sense that a great deal of distilled musical wisdom permeates these performances. Such wisdom is apparent throughout, firstly in Poèmes pour Mi, where Nagano accompanies soprano Jenny Daviet with both sensitivity and purpose as she navigates the demanding vocal line with as much grace as the rather angular writing allows.
Even in the brutalist Chronochromie (1960) where Messiaen turns the orchestra into some maniacal machine that cranks out fascinating sound colours, Nagano is able to get under the skin of the music and elicit wonderfully vivid playing.
Nagano demonstrates and inspires incredible sang froid in the face of La Transfiguration, Messiaen’s most...