Hebrides Ensemble - Olivier Messiaen – Chamber Works (4 stars)

Hebrides Ensemble - Olivier Messiaen – Chamber Works

(Linn Records)


The Hebrides Ensemble are now firmly established as Scotland’s leading contemporary music group, and their stock is rising well beyond their native turf as well. The enthusiastic acclaim for their recent imaginative Wigmore Hall concert that paid homage to Messiaen in his centenary commemoration and living centurion Elliott Carter is further recognition of that status, and this recording will only add further lustre to their reputation.

The centrepiece is the great ‘Quartet for the End of Time’, given a darkly expressive and finely nuanced reading that reflects the work’s grim genesis in a concentration camp in 1941 while simultaneously affirming the life-giving qualities of the music. It takes its place among the best interpretations of the work on disc, and is supported by a substantial selection of four less well-known pieces, including the premiere recording of the recently re-discovered ‘Fantaisie’, as well as the late ‘Pièce pour piano et quatuor à cordes’.

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