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OLIVIER MESSIAEN - VARIOUS ORGAN WORKS - LOUIS THIRY (Organ) - 3760039836267 - Calliope CAL1527

This Special Edition 3 cd set of most of Messiaen's important organ works was released earlier this year to commemorate the 100th anniversary of his birth coming up on December 10, 2008.

Messiaen was a very important French composer who lived from 1908 to 1992. He studied and later taught at the Paris Conservatoire, where some of his pupils were Stockhausen and Boulez. He was a deeply religious man and most of his music was written in the glory of God and therefore most of his works have some kind of religious program attached to them. He invented and developed unique harmonic modes and rhythms with unusual values. He held the post of organist at La Trinité in Paris, for 60 years, and composed works for orchestra, chamber groups, piano and of course organ, on which he was considered a master at improvisation.

There lies the magic of Messiaen's music. Although it is all clearly written down, note for note, it all sounds improvised, newly inspired and performed in the moment. I have played some of his organ works myself, and believe me, even the layout of the notes on the page is new and unexpected, but yet well structured. The prime objective in his organ music was not the sound of the organ itself, but rather the essence of the music. These are not works written for the organ, but rather works written to be performed on an organ. This might sound like exactly the same thing, but it is completely different. They are like orchestral works playable by one person. By doing so, Messiaen managed to take organ music out of the church, and inject it within the rest of the musical world. (Ironic when you take the deeply religious context of the works into consideration).

This 1972 recording, with organist Louis Thiry, who worked on the scores with the composer, was the first complete stereo recording of Messiaen's organ music, and to this day, stands as one of the great achievements in the history of recordings. The recording sessions were performed on the 4 manual, 95 rank, 67 stop Metzler organ of the Saint-Pierre Cathedral in Geneva, using only one pair of well positioned microphones. This instrument is well suited to Messiaen's registration. Take for example the final chord of "Dieu parmi nous", from "La Nativité du Seigneur", one of the best examples of a non-organ sound I have ever heard. Over time, awards like the Diapason D'Or, Grand Prix du Disque, Choc du Monde de la Musique, to name but a few, have been tagged to some of the recordings available in this special set.

Some of the major works included are Les Corps Glorieux, L'Ascension, Messe de la Pentecôte, La Nativité du Seigneur, Livre d'orgue ... This 3 cd set re-issue is dubbed "Centenary Edition" and therefore might only be available for a limited time. I find it to be a very impressive and extremely important document of Messiaen's music, and a demonstration class organ recording.

Jean-Yves Duperron

Great news! As of January 2017, this wonderful set has been remastered, repackaged and is now on the market again.