horizontal line

The two principal works on this disc – Messiaen’s Préludes and Saariaho’s Je sens un deuxième cœur – are concerned with grief and suffering, so the CD’s enigmatic title presumably refers to the glimmer of hope with which both works conclude. Messiaen’s Préludes date from 1929, when he was just 20, and are the earliest works he continued to acknowledge. Composed shortly after his mother’s death, the Préludes’ introspective and disconsolate sound-world looks back to Debussy and late Impressionism, yet also forward, albeit fitfully, to the personal harmonic language and irruptive rhythms of Messiaen’s later music. Unfortunately, Gloria Cheng imbues them with a rather hard-edged energy that downplays their mystery and poetry, qualities perhaps more sympathetically realised by such acclaimed interpreters as Peter Hill, Håkon Austbø and, especially, Yvonne Loriod.

Cheng is more compelling on Je sens un deuxième cœur, a terse suite for piano, viola and cello that Saariaho based on material from her second opera, Adriana Mater. Part urgent, programmatic drama, part queasy Spectralist colours, the music depicts the panic of war, private dreamscapes, Adriana’s violent rape and her decision to keep the child that was conceived. The trio’s playing, taut and incisive, forcefully conveys the music’s murky horrors and flickering tenderness.

Three minor works complete the CD. Messiaen’s 1991 Pièce for piano and string quartet roughly sketches a garden warbler amidst brusque strings; Saariaho’s brief Prelude and Ballade revisit Chopinesque fantasy, adding a twist of fluttery Gothic excess, which Cheng judges to perfection.

GRAHAM LOCK Read the full review on Agora Classica

   Read full review   

To continue reading, please upgrade to a premium account. You will have immediate full access.

Read more classical music reviews online here:

Piano International, 2013 - ©Rhinegold Publishing