Olivier Messiaen - Hebrides Ensemble - The Scotsman

Tucked away among the many lip-smacking tracks on this recording by the Scots-based Hebrides Ensemble of chamber music by Olivier Messiaen is a work that has rarely seen the light of day, the fiery Fantasie for violin and piano.

Written in 1933 for his then wife, Claire Delbos - a violinist who died in 1959 after a long period of mental illness - it bears a similarity of style to the better-known Quartet for the End of Time, and with that an intrinsic, dynamic tunefulness that is hotly pursued in this performance by violinist Alexander Janiczek and pianist Philip Moore. The Fantasie was only published recently after Messiaen's widow (his second wife, Yvonne Loriod) discovered the music among his papers, so this is a highly significant recording.

But there is much more to this timely disc than one rediscovered piece. The Hebrides, who mark its launch later this month with a live show at London's Wigmore Hall, include many more Messiaen delights - the affectionate Thème et Variations for the same duo combination; the beguiling Le Merle Noir for flute (Rosemary Elliot) and piano; the vigorous Pièce pour piano et quatuor á cordes; and last but not least, Quartet for the End of Time, famously written and first performed in a German prison camp. It is played here with vibrant intensity and genuine belief in the music.

09 May 2008