Notes and Editorial Reviews
Sancta Dorothea. St. François d’Assise: La Prédication aux oiseaux. St. François de Paule marchant sur les flots. Consolations. Unstern! Sinistre, disastro.
Petites esquisses d’oiseaux. Cantéyodjayâ
Fredrik Ullén (pn)
BIS CD-1803 (72:15)
Here are two composers who lived a century apart, with little in common stylistically, yet Ullén’s program of alternate pieces by Franz Liszt and
Olivier Messiaen works extremely well. A strong Catholic faith was one thing the composers shared. Ullén concentrates on this specific area of Liszt’s output, understanding that all of Messiaen’s music was informed in some way by his religious beliefs.
The program begins with Liszt’s
, a gentle chorale to set the general mood of contemplation, then moves to his famous evocation of birds in the first of the two
, depicting St. Francis of Assisi
: La prédication aux oiseaux.
It is inevitable that Messiaen’s birdsong-influenced music should follow, and so it does. Ullén chooses the late suite of six short pieces (
Petites equisses d’oiseaux
), composed after a two-year break upon completion of his opera, also on the subject of Francis of Assisi. Alternating with these, the pianist intersperses Liszt’s six
: music of religious inspiration with enough variety to avoid any feeling of sameness. The program concludes with a late, disturbingly modern sounding work of Liszt:
Unstern! Sinistre, Disastro,
written only a few years before his death, followed by Messiaen’s vibrant love poem
of 1949 and finally the second of Liszt’s Legends, the stormy
St. François de Paule marchant sur les flots.
The thought Ullén puts into programming he also brings to his playing. Known for remarkable technical skill (Ullén has recorded fearsome etudes by Sorabji and Ligeti), the Swedish pianist here provides limpid beauty, perfectly balanced textures and the sense of inward calm this music demands—even in the twittering birdsongs. He puts all his skill and intelligence at the service of these unexpectedly complementary composers, and his piano is beautifully recorded. Quite simply, this disc is a gem.
FANFARE: Phillip Scott
Works on This Recording
Cantéyodjayâ by Olivier Messiaen
Fredrik Ullén (Piano)
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