This 8-CD set contains almost all of Messiaen's music for orchestra or large mixed ensembles. The only major pieces missing are the late (and somewhat uncharacteristic) Triple Concerto and the Sept Haïkaï. Otherwise, it's all here, from the works of the early 1930s (Les Offrandes and L'Ascension) through 1991's Illuminations of the Beyond. While listeners might still have individual preferences in certain works--Marius Constant in From the Canyons to the Stars, or Chailly in Turangalila, perhaps--all of the performances are excellent. A few of them, including L'Ascension, Illumations of the Beyond, and The Transfiguration of Our Lord Jesus Christ are clearly the finest modern versionsRead more available.
Granted, Messiaen's music is almost wholly formulaic and offers little by way of interpretive license. Basically, you just wind it up and let it go, and it does its thing every time. This naturally follows from a composer who believed that he was expressing eternal, unalterable Truth in every bar that he wrote. But this doesn't mean that all Messiaen is created equal, and where Sylvain Cambreling scores over his rivals is in taking Messiaen's spirituality seriously. Practically speaking this means some very slow tempos in Turangalila's The Garden of Love's Sleep, or in the finale movement of Illuminations. Doubters might find the result monotonous, but there's no question that Cambreling captures the music's hypnotic stillness, its "eternal" aspect, as have few others, and in any case I suspect that the unconverted will have little use for eight CDs of Messiaen in the first place.
In this respect, Cambreling is a more vivid and idiomatic Messiaen interpreter than, say, Chung on DG, who has a tendency to underplay both the music's loud and soft moments, though his generally swifter, more lyrical approach offers its own rewards. Certainly there's no lack of excitement from Cambreling in such passages as Turangalila's fifth-movement Joy of the Blood of the Stars, and he's assisted by a first-rate lineup of soloists, led by pianist Roger Muraro, one of the finest Messiaen interpreters on the stage today. He makes unforgettable contributions to Turangalila, Canyons, Réveil des oiseaux, and several other pieces. The SWR orchestra also plays with the vivid colors and rhythmic precision that the music demands, and the engineering is similarly splendid. So if you're looking for a convenient way to acquire all of Messiaen's most important orchestra/large ensemble works, this is surely the way to go.