OLIVIER MESSIAEN: VISIONS DE L’AMEN (1943)
In the spring of 1943, in German-occupied Paris, a select audience of invited guests gathered at the Galerie Charpentier for the first performance of Olivier Messiaen’s new work for two pianos, Visions de l’Amen. Although originally one of several pieces on the program, a printed announcement of a change of date explained that “the significance, the character and the duration of this work have led the Concerts de la Pléiade to present it in a concert which will be entirely devoted to it.” Performed by Messiaen and his wife, Yvonne Loriod, Visions represented the first musical collaboration between the two, and the beginning of a personal and creative partnership that would endure for half a century. (From liner notes by Sarah Rothenberg).
Sarah Rothenberg studied the music of Olivier Messiaen in Paris with Yvonne Loriod. This critically-acclaimed recording of Messiaen’s Visions de l’Amen brings together two leading performers of Messiaen’s music.
Olivier Messiaen: Visions de l’Amen (1943)
Sarah Rothenberg, piano
Marilyn Nonken, piano
“The work receives a powerful performance by Marilyn Nonken and Sarah Rothenberg on a new release from Bridge Records. For Messiaen, who experienced a type of synesthesia, a particular color could evoke harmonies or sounds. He composed “Visions” mostly in the key of A, which he associated with blue, the color of the sky and eternity.
“Ms. Nonken and Ms. Rothenberg (who studied Messiaen’s music in Paris with Ms. Loriod) demonstrate a deep understanding of this shimmering, colorful score, which starts with the ecstatic clanging of bells in the opening ‘Amen of the Creation.’ The players forcefully convey the savage energy of ‘Amen of the Stars and the Ringed Planet,’ the second of seven movements. The mood shifts drastically with the plaintive theme of ‘Amen of the Agony of Jesus.’ The quiet tenderness that begins ‘Amen of Desire,’ beautifully played here, morphs into passionate exuberance.
” ‘Amen of the Angels, the Saints and Bird Song’ demonstrates Messiaen’s interest in transcribing birdcalls and evoking them with brilliant pianistic effects. The pealing bells of ‘Amen of Consummation,”’the dazzyingly colorful finale, ring with sparkling clarity in these pianists’ capable hands.”
— Vivien Schweitzer, New York Times
“The emotional range of the music is also vast, from the delicate tenderness of Amen of the agony of Jesus to the powerfully exultant Amen of the Consummation. The piece receives an outstanding performance from new music specialists Marilyn Nonken, who studied Messiaen’s piano works with Loriod, and Sarah Rothenberg, whose playing garnered accolades from both Loriod and the composer. Their superb technique gives them the assurance to play with the unfettered abandon the composer demands, and their comfort with each other allows them to play with sensitivity and flexibility. The passion they bring to the final movement in particular is staggering in its intensity, dramatic pacing, and sheer volume; it can leave the listener exhausted and elated, which was surely Messiaen’s intention. Bridge’s sound is clean and atmospheric.”
— Stephen Eddins, AllMusic Review
“It’s also the sole selection on this fine-sounding CD, which features two authoritative interpreters of the modern repertoire, one of whom studied with Loriod. Given its jarring, emotion-sapping intensity, letting it stand alone makes sense. Replete with rhythmic intricacies and daring keyboard-register contrasts, these vividly colored Visions burst with power throughout.”
— Stereophile Review