Review from the Archive: Our first Visions, 1994. Back in the repertoire for 2013
Two-Piano work is well realised: Messiaen Visions de l’Amen
The recital given by duo pianists Alistair and Colin Noble at the School of Music on Saturday afternoon provided a rare opportunity to hear a unique composition of the 20th century, the Visions de l'Amen for two pianos by French composer Olivier Messiaen.
Composed in 1943 shortly after Messiaen was released from a German prisoner-of-war camp where he had written the Quartet for the End of Time, it inhabits the same musical and mystical world as that work, being similarly based on passages from the Apocalyptic writings of Saint John.
It was first performed by the composer, with the second piano played by Yvonne Loriod, who was to become his wife, and in its conception and execution is one of his most intensely personal works.
Each piano plays distinctive material..... Because of these factors it demands a highly committed and expressively sympathetic realisation, and that is exactly what it received on this occasion.
The Amen of the Stars, a brilliant and vigorous dance, was firmly delineated, while the ecstatic expression of the Amen of Desire was powerfully depicted with keen understanding between the two pianists. There was beauty in the Amen of Angels, Saints, and Song of Birds, in which one piano, in its high register, depicts the trilling of birds over a song-like theme in the other.
The Creation Theme, enunciated at the start of the work and reappearing throughout, reaches its apotheosis in the final movement as a long chorale over which pianistic embellishments appear like a sparkling dance of light.
It brought to a conclusion a performance of this unusual work that was constantly arresting and rewarding.