Classical CD Reviews

MESSIAEN: Harawi, Song of Love and Death; Canteyodjaya – Tony Arnold, sop./ Jacob Greenberg, p. – New Focus Recordings

Late Messiaen doesn’t necessarily mean the best, but much here is rewarding.

Published on December 7, 2013

MESSIAEN: Harawi, Song of Love and Death; Canteyodjaya – Tony Arnold, sop./ Jacob Greenberg, p. – New Focus Recordings

MESSIAEN: Harawi, Song of Love and Death; Canteyodjaya – Tony Arnold, soprano/ Jacob Greenberg, piano – New Focus Recordings FCR131, 70:24 [Distr. by Albany] ***1/2:

Harawi is the last of Olivier Messiaen’s song cycles for solo voice. His lifelong fascination with the music of other peoples led him to the South American Andes’ Quechua love songs. He was long fascinated with Wagner’s Tristan and its concept of the love-death, the fatalistic image of two lovers desiring one another yet knowing that their journey will be impossible, and readily and even eagerly rushing to their demise. The imagery is vivid and direct, the music a little dense and not unlike Stravinsky’s Les Noce in its presentation of declamatory melody surrounded by  intense—and typical for Messiaen—rhythmic gyrations.

Opening the disc is a piece based on a series of rhythmic Hindu tropes that found their way in general into the composer’s music post-1940s. Canteyodjaya is, according to the words of the composer, a “nostalgic” piece, but I doubt anyone hearing this music will consider anything promoting pleasant feelings of old. Compared to more accessible works like Vingt regards sur l’enfant-Jésus this one is a lot thicker going even though it is not without its rewards.

Tony Arnold is a marvel in this music, a real new-music trooper who knows the intricate ins and outs of Messiaen, while Jacob Greenberg, also a proven contemporary music warrior, plays with authority and rigorous inventiveness. Sound is clear and vivid, nicely captured. Not for everyone, but Messiaen diehards will want it.

—Steven Ritter




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