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Both the works on this recording were written during wartime. Debussy’s 1915 En blanc et noir, composed during a late creative burst, is his musical response to the horrors of World War I. Messiaen’s revolutionary Visions de l’Amen from 1943, written to be performed by the composer and his teenage pupil, Yvonne Loriod, is a profound religious meditation whose emotional intensity is overwhelming. The role of the two pianos is clearly divided. Melodic and expressive elements are confined to the second piano, Messiaen’s part, whereas all that is percussion, brilliance and rhythmic development is heard in the first piano, Loriod’s part.
Dutch pianist and musicologist Ralph van Raat has won, among other awards, Second Prize and Donemus-Prize (for Contemporary Music) of the Princess Christina Competition (1995); Stipend-Prize Darmstadt during the Internationale Ferienkurse für Neue Musik in Darmstadt (1998); and First Prize of the International Gaudeamus Interpreters Competition (1999). Of Norwegian origin, Håkon Austbø was the first non-French artist to win the Concours National de la Guilde Française des Artistes Solistes in Paris (1970), and in 1971 he gained international attention when a unanimous jury awarded him the first prize of the Olivier Messiaen Competition for Contemporary Music in Royan, France.
Claude Debussy: En blanc et noir
I. Avec emportement
II. Lent. Sombre
Olivier Messiaen: Visions de l'Amen
I. Amen de la Creation
II. Amen des etoiles, de la planete a l'anneau
III. Amen de l'Agonie de Jesus
IV. Amen du Desir
V. Amen des Anges, des Saints, du chant des oiseaux
VI. Amen du Jugement
VII. Amen de la Consommation
19th April 2012
“Their approach, characterised by fierce dynamic contrasts, jagged phrasing and explosive fortissimos, suits Messiaen's highly coloured extremes of rapture and religious awe far more convincingly than it does Debussy's much more svelte textures, in which van Raat and Austbo seem to mistake capriciousness for emotional turmoil.”
“[In the Messiaen] Van Raat and Austbo shape the first movement's long paragraphs wth a patience, sensitivity and rhythmic exactitude that slowly build to a climax...At piano 2, Austbo has most of the tunes and he particularly shines in the fourth movement's extended solo...collectors interested in this coupling of works can't go wrong”
“Austbo's affinity with Messiaen is frequently apparent: the Norwegian pianist's hushed, nuanced voicing in 'Amen du desir' suggests his deep awareness, too, of Catalogue d'oiseaux...Austbo and Van Raat launch into Debussy's En blanc et noir with bristling enthusiasm, and there is much charm on display.”
“Good programming this, as Messiaen’s musical language owes much to the harmonic adventurism of his illustrious compatriot...Impressive, well-presented performances; just a little short on fervour and insight.”
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