MESSIAEN: Catalogue d’oiseaux, Book I, Nos. 1-3. Song Thrush and Thekla Larks.* Golden Oriole &Garden Warbler.* GORTON: Ondine. SZYMANOWSKI: Piano Sonata No. 3. ANON.: Postlude* / Roderick Chadwick, pno; *Peter Sheppard Skærved, Shir Victoria Levy, vln / Divine Art 25209
British pianist Roderick Chadwick has chosen here music of birdsongs by Messiaen, a piece by David Gorton based on the water nymph Ondine, and Karol Szymanowski’s Third Piano Sonata, interspersed with two independent pieces by Messiaen and ending with an original Postlude. These latter three pieces are played with two violinists.
Chadwick takes an unusual approach to Messiaen’s music, more angular and “”wide-awake” and less softly impressionistic, but this is an approach that I liked very much, as it brings out the structure in the works without sacrificing a legato feeling. It is similar to the way Joanna MacGregor plays this composer’s music. In addition to bringing out the structure better, it also brings the composer’s music more in line with contemporary works which are built around the same sort of atonal framework combined with a rhythmic pulse. His touch on the keyboard is also more delicate than MacGregor’s in this sort of music. But the one thing it does not do is to evoke a mood; thus, if this was Chadwick’s intent, it misses the mark.
The Messiaen pieces played by the violins, however, are also crisp performances, in fact using straight tone. Straight tone in 20th century music? I have no idea if this is what Messiaen called for, but somehow I doubt it but, again, it is effective in its own way.
Gorton’s Ondine sounds a bit like atonal Debussy, and is actually played with more atmosphere than the Messiaen pieces. It’s a fascinating work, an early piece by this composer and very interesting in the way he carefully places his notes so that they make an attractive pattern despite the atonality.
Chadwick’s performance of the Szymanowski Piano Sonata No. 3 is absolutely superb, catching the breathless feeling and ambiguous feeling as if one were floating in a sea of atonality perfectly.
A good album, then, well worth exploring.
—© 2020 Lynn René Bayley
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