After her recent concert of Bach, Berg, Haydn, and Vivier, Barbara Hannigan returned to the Barbican with the LSO in another exquisite programme juxtaposing two of the Great Composers of our age (notes here).
Messiaen’s L’ascension, his first major work for orchestra, * introduces his unique sound-world, opening with hieratic brass chords (E major!!!), closing with ecstatic sustained string writing—another addition to my Messiaen series (starting here).
Majesté du Christ demandant sa gloire à son Père
Alléluias sereins d’une âme qui désire le ciel
Alléluia sur la trompette, alléluia sur la cymbale
Prière du Christ montant vers son Père.
In my Mahler series I’ve already written about the 4th symphony at some length, featuring performances by Mengelberg, Walter, Barbirolli, Bernstein, Tilson Thomas, and Abbado. OK, I go on a lot about Indian raga and jazz and all that, but to hear Mahler symphonies live is always overwhelming. I admired Ms Hannigan’s dramatic taste, always cultivating the feel of chamber music, and the divine slow movement of the 4th was every bit as spellbinding as it should be. As it ebbed away, blending magically into the instrumental intro of the finale, Aphrodite Patoulidou walked on stage to sing—the kind of attention to detail that makes a difference— adopting just the right tone, neither too soprano-like nor a parody of childlike innocence, the final verse in a hushed E major.
The concert (to be broadcast on BBC Radio 3 on 24th March) made a moving chapter in Ms Hannigan’s relationship with the LSO.
* He also made a version for organ—here’s his own performance (cf. La nativité du Seigneur, and French organ improvisation). Two drôle BTL comments there:
I think the key signatures are just for show…