Lucidity and Conviction
Karis Stretton plays Messiaen,
impressing MIKE WHEELER
A late contribution to the Messiaen centenary celebrations, pianist Karis Stretton's lecture-recital exploring Messiaen's piano music was also the first in what is intended as a series of Saturday afternoon music events in Derby Cathedral (Derby, UK, 7 February 2009).
Inevitably the afternoon was dominated by both the influence of Messiaen's Catholicism and his love of birdsong, focusing on two pieces each from the collections Vingt regards sur l'enfant Jésus and Petites esquisses d'oiseaux. These, in turn, were the starting-point for an in-depth look at his characteristic harmonic, rhythmic and melodic techniques, illustrated by a duplicated sheet of relevant music examples distributed among the audience, and touching on Messiaen's use of number symbolism and his associations of colour and harmony.
The performances were as illuminating as the spoken material. Première Communion de la Vierge combined delicacy and power, while the resonating left-hand gong chords of Regards des Prophètes, des Bergers et des Mages built up a thrilling level of clamorous excitement. The first two pieces from Petites Esquisses ... received limpid, agile playing.
Karis Stretton not only clearly knows Messiaen's music inside-out but, whether playing or speaking, communicates her understanding with both lucidity and conviction.
Copyright © 16 February 2009
Mike Wheeler, Derby UK