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Messiaen: Vingt Regards Sur L'enfant Jésus / Hakon Austbo


Release Date: 11/29/1994 
Label:  Naxos   Catalog #: 550829   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Olivier Messiaen
Performer:  Haakon Austbö
Number of Discs: 2 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 2 Hours 13 Mins. 

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This CD is reissued by ArkivMusic.

Notes and Editorial Reviews

Please let this CD grow on you. At first hearing, and even several subsequent ones, the gentle playing of Norwegian pianist Håkon Austbø, winner of many music awards and prizes and a professor at the Amsterdam conservatory, seems a little too relaxed, almost like a neophyte concert-performer who’s learnt to overcome extreme nerves by some sort of auto-suggestion. If you’re familiar with other reference recordings like Aimard’s (on Teldec 26868) and Osborne (Hyperion, CDA67351/2), then you may find Austbø understated one at first, dour, cold almost.

In fact the opposite is true. Austbø, who is engaged in such ambitious projects as recording the complete Debussy piano music (for Simax; indeed the
Read more present release forms part of Naxos’ own complete Messiaen piano cycle), approaches the Vingt regards from a position of strength, not timidity. After working your way through the music a few times, you’ll start to realise that the way he scales the heights of, say, ‘Par lui tout a été fait’ (VI) is the result more of an almost detached introversion and reverence for the music, than any lack of confidence.

The Vingt regards is music central to the composer’s mystical form of Christianity … reverential, full of awe, meditative and passionate. Written towards the end of the second world war in Nazi-occupied Paris, the twenty separate pieces range in length from two and a half to eleven minutes and are connected as much by musical virtuosity - extremes of tempo, harmony and mathematically-inspired effects - as doctrine. It is indeed the totality – in the end, the wholeness of tonal integrities – that makes the impact, not the pyrotechnics of any one ‘regard’.

By the end of the sublime ‘Le baiser de l’enfant Jésu’, a tender translation of spiritual devotion into melodic atmosphere has been almost perfectly achieved where it counts most – in your head. It takes an empathy with the composer’s intentions to achieve that. Austbø has it. He is able to make the music stand still on its axis, so to speak, without slowing it down – by playing each phrase in such a way that, although the next does not follow immediately, your anticipation fills the pause.

There are times when the actual sound of the piano, particularly when Austbø is enthusiastic about some of Messiaen’s characteristic chords, verges on the harsh with little left in reserve dynamically. This is not true in the case of perhaps the most serious contenders for first choice, Loriod on the Warner Classics (62162) ‘Messiaen Edition’ and Serkin (Rca Victor Red Seal, 62316). But then see how Austbø’s confidence (which is definitely not bravado) brings ‘Regard des hauteurs’ to light with a delicacy that never veers into tentativeness or becomes twee, which can happen if interpreters try to over-colour Messiaen’s tones.

Mark Sealey, MusicWeb International
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Works on This Recording

1. Vingt regards sur l'enfant Jésus by Olivier Messiaen
Performer:  Haakon Austbö (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1944; France 
Date of Recording: 08/1993 
Venue:  St. Martin's Church, East Woodhay, UK 
Length: 132 Minutes 43 Secs. 

Sound Samples

Vingt regards sur l'Enfant-Jesus: I. Regard du Pere
Vingt regards sur l'Enfant-Jesus: II. Regard de I'etoile
Vingt regards sur l'Enfant-Jesus: III. L'echange
Vingt regards sur l'Enfant-Jesus: IV. Regard de la Vierge
Vingt regards sur l'Enfant-Jesus: V. Regard du Fils suer le Fils
Vingt regards sur l'Enfant-Jesus: VI. Par lui tout a ete fait
Vingt regards sur l'Enfant-Jesus: VII. Regard de la Croix
Vingt regards sur l'Enfant-Jesus: VIII. Regard des hauteurs
Vingt regards sur l'Enfant-Jesus: IX. Regard du temps
Vingt regards sur l'Enfant-Jesus: X. Regard de I'Esprit de joie
Vingt regards sur l'Enfant-Jesus: XI. Premiere communion de la Vierge
Vingt regards sur l'Enfant-Jesus: XII. La parole toute-puissante
Vingt regards sur l'Enfant-Jesus: XIII. Noel
Vingt regards sur l'Enfant-Jesus: XIV. Regard des Anges
Vingt regards sur l'Enfant-Jesus: XV. Le baiser de I'enfant Jesus
Vingt regards sur l'Enfant-Jesus: XVI. Regard des prophetes des bergers et des mages
Vingt regards sur l'Enfant-Jesus: XVII. Regard du silence
Vingt regards sur l'Enfant-Jesus: XVIII. Regard de I'onction terrible
Vingt regards sur l'Enfant-Jesus: XIX. Je dors, mais mon coeur veille
Vingt regards sur l'Enfant-Jesus: XX. Regard de I'Eglise d'amour

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