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The two works on this CD – both for two pianos, by French composers, and reactions to war – make an intriguing pairing. It is the contrasts that really stand out: Debussy, in 1915, evokes enigmatic battlefield sounds between skittish snapshots of civilised society; Messiaen, in 1943, evokes the end of the world in a seven-part mystical vision that encompasses the creation, judgment day and paradise. If En blanc et noir possibly needs a lighter touch, Ralph van Raat and Messiaen expert Håkon Austbø certainly rise to the challenges set by Visions de l’Amen, in which Messiaen, inspired by sources such as birdsong and gamelan, draws on the full resources of the piano to depict his ecstatic affi rmation of faith and salvation. Messiaen’s own recording with Yvonne Loriod remains the touchstone for stark drama, but this new version has a power and intensity that make it well worth hearing.

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Piano International, 2012 - ©Rhinegold Publishing