BRUCKNER: Symphony No. 8; MESSIAEN: Couleurs de la Cité Céleste – London Symphony Orchestra / Simon Rattle (cond) / Pierre-Laurent Aimard (piano) – LSO Live 

Two very different composers in one concert by the LSO.

BRUCKNER: Symphony No. 8; MESSIAEN: Couleurs de la Cité Céleste – London Symphony Orchestra cond. by Simon Rattle – pianist Pierre-Laurent Aimard – LSO Live Blu-ray and DVD LSO 3042 TT: 104 minutes (5/11/18)  ***:

Sir Simon Rattle and the London Symphony Orchestra are joined by French pianist Pierre-Laurent Aimard in a concert that brings together music by Anton Bruckner and Olivier Messiaen: two composers as united in their devotion to the Catholic faith as they are different in their style of music. The disc begins with Bruckner’s Symphony No.8, with Rattle leading the LSO through its 1939 edition. The eighth was Bruckner’s last complete symphony, it has since become characterized by its explosive, dramatic nature and immense scale. Taking Bruckner over five years to compose and revise, it would only be performed three times whilst he was alive.

In rather stark contrast to the magnitude of Bruckner’s eighth, Messiaen’s Couleurs de la Cité Céleste lasts just over quarter of an hour. The 20th century work comprises sequences of short episodes and serves as a microcosm of the composer’s various preoccupations, from birdsong to the book of Revelations. Centered on the piano and performed by a reduced orchestra, Pierre-Laurent Aimard offers an a nicely rendered  keyboard  performance of Messiaen’s often overlooked work.

The disc comes with both a Blu-ray and a standard DVD. For this review I used the Blu-ray disc. The video is of high quality and expertly directed. The cameras move fluidly and are in the right place at the right time.

The orchestra does fine with this challenging music, and Sir Simon is an expressive composer and fun to watch, making a video presentation a good way to experience this concert.

Surprisingly, this disc has only a stereo track, where I would have expected a modern surround track from a concert recorded in 2016. Still the music sounds fine, with deep bass and very lush and warm strings. For my listening I checked out the disc in its native 2 channel mix, then expanded the sound through my music system to a 7.1 presentation, which I thought sounded far richer.

The only other comment I have is that this seems like a very juxtaposed program. People who love Bruckner might not be equally captivated by Messiaen. If your classical tastes are wide enough, this disc will be a good choice. If not, you might look elsewhere.

—Mel Martin

 

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