MESSIAEN: Poèmes pour Mi; Les offrandes oubliées; Un sourire – Anne Schwanewilms, soprano/ Lyon National Orchestra/ Jun Markl, cond – Naxos 8.572174, 52:48 ****:
Poèmes pour Mi was written in 1936 as a cycle of love songs to his then wife Claire Delbos, affectionately called “Mi”. These songs have much more than just a “love” connotation however, venturing, as the biblical Song of Songs does, into love of the Divine as well. This is the orchestral version, orchestrated the same year it was composed though it had to wait until 1949 to get a hearing. The most popular current recording is that of Pierre Boulez on DGG (which I have not heard). Surely the voice of Anne Schwanewilms is a match for that one, a gorgeously balanced instrument that brings the full range of Strauss-like opulence to these equally deserving songs.
The Forgotten Offerings is the composer’s first published work that deals in three movements with Christ on the cross, a testimony of man’s plunge into sin, and the redemption found in the Eucharist. It is actually quite similar in temperament to his 1991 piece A Smile, written for the Mozart bicentenary year. Myung-Whun Chung offers both of these pieces in a DGG disc that has slightly better sound, but overall I cannot complain about these performances, and the price can’t be beat. A fine introduction to Messiaen.
— Steven Ritter