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Olivier Messiaen: Visions de l'Amen; Claude Debussy: En Blanc et Noir / Ralph van Raat & Hakon Austbo, pianos

Album Summary

>Debussy, Claude : En blanc et noir
>MessiaenOlivier : Visions de l'Amen for 2 pianos, I/25
Performers Composers

Notes & Reviews:

Both the works on this recording were written during wartime. Debussy's 1915 En blanc et noir, composed during a late creative burst, is his musical response to the horrors of World War I. Messiaen's revolutionary Visions de l'Amen from 1943, written to be performed by the composer and his teenage pupil, Yvonne Loriod, is a profound religious meditation whose emotional intensity is overwhelming. The role of the two pianos is clearly divided. Melodic and expressive elements are confined to the second piano, Messiaen's part, whereas all that is percussion, brilliance and rhythmic development is heard in the first piano, Loriod's part. Dutch pianist and musicologist Ralph van Raat has won, among other awards, Second Prize and Donemus-Prize (for Contemporary Music) of the Princess Christina Competition (1995); Stipend-Prize Darmstadt during the Internationale Ferienkurse für Neue Musik in Darmstadt (1998); and First Prize of the International Gaudeamus Interpreters Competition (1999). Of Norwegian origin, Håkon Austbø was the first non-French artist to win the Concours National de la Guilde Française des Artistes Solistes in Paris (1970), and in 1971 he gained international attention when a unanimous jury awarded him the first prize of the Olivier Messiaen Competition for Contemporary Music in Royan, France.

The Guardian
Their approach, characterised by fierce dynamic contrasts, jagged phrasing and explosive fortissimos, suits Messiaen's highly coloured extremes of rapture and religious awe far more convincingly than it does Debussy's much more svelte textures, in which van Raat and Austbo seem to mistake capriciousness for emotional turmoil.

Gramophone Magazine
[In the Messiaen] Van Raat and Austbo shape the first movement's long paragraphs wth a patience, sensitivity and rhythmic exactitude that slowly build to a climax...At piano 2, Austbo has most of the tunes and he particularly shines in the fourth movement's extended solo...collectors interested in this coupling of works can't go wrong.

Fanfare Magazine
What is great, however, is the playing of van Raat and his piano partner, Håkon Austbø. They sound as one, produce glowing colors and sensitively shaped lines, and make as strong a case for both works as one could hope. ... to my mind, a better buy.

American Record Guide, September / October 2012
We are fortunate to have some of the best piano sounds I've heard from Naxos here - and they are normally very good. Capturing this kind of dynamic range with clarity and fullness is a rare feat. At the price this is indispensable for anyone with a liking for this kind of music. I will return to it often.

BBC Music Magazine, August 2012
Austbo's affinity with Messiaen is frequently apparent: the Norwegian pianist's hushed, nuanced voicing in 'Amen du desir' suggests his deep awareness, too, of Catalogue d'oiseaux...Austbo and Van Raat launch into Debussy's En blanc et noir with bristling enthusiasm, and there is much charm on display.

MusicWeb International, June 2012
Good programming this, as Messiaen's musical language owes much to the harmonic adventurism of his illustrious compatriot...Impressive, well-presented performances; just a little short on fervour and insight.

Notes & Reviews:

Recording information: Haitinkzaal, Amsterdam, The Netherlands (07/06/2010-07/08/2010).


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Works Details

>Debussy, Claude : En blanc et noir
  • Performers: Hakon Austbo (Piano); Ralph Raat (Piano)
  • Notes: Haitinkzaal, Amsterdam, The Netherlands (07/06/2010-07/08/2010)
  • Running Time: 15 min. 18 sec.
  • Period Time: Post Romantic
  • Written: 1915

>MessiaenOlivier : Visions de l'Amen for 2 pianos, I/25
  • Performers: Hakon Austbo (Piano); Ralph Raat (Piano)
  • Notes: Haitinkzaal, Amsterdam, The Netherlands (07/06/2010-07/08/2010)
  • Running Time: 45 min. 54 sec.
  • Period Time: Modern
  • Written: 1943