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Now Available: Live Recording of Messiaen’s Des canyons aux étoiles…

Bethany Taylor / 5th August 2016 / Journal

Last summer, as Artist-in-Residence of the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival, Alan Gilbert led an all-star orchestra of 44 superlative musicians in an account of Olivier Messiaen’s monumental and otherworldly twelve-movement, 90-minute orchestral masterpiece, Des canyons aux étoiles… (From the Canyons to the Stars…). Marking a major milestone in the festival’s history, the performance – featuring the largest ensemble ever gathered there for a single work – was recorded live for release and is now available on the Entertainment One Music label.

On the recording, Alan conducts an orchestra that includes many of his close musical friends and collaborators. In a work requiring staggering virtuosity from all players, his frequent collaborator Inon Barnatan plays the notoriously challenging piano part, including the fourth and ninth movements [“Le cossyphe d’Heuglin” (“The white-browed robin-chat”) and “Le moqueur polyglotte” (“The mockingbird”)], which are scored for solo piano.

Commissioned by art patron Alice Tully for the U.S. bicentennial and premiered at Lincoln Center in 1974, Canyons celebrates the awe-inspiring beauty of the great canyons of southwest Utah, which include Cedar Breaks, Bryce Canyon, and Zion National Park. Encompassing a characteristically Messiaenic mix of birdsong, modernist experimentalism, and religious mysticism, the work expresses the composer’s faith in the power of nature to communicate the very essence of God.

Listen to Des canyons aux étoiles… here on Apple Music, here on Amazon, and here on Spotify.

Photos: © Chris Lee

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