Catalog of Birds
Catalogue d’oiseaux (Catalog of Birds) is a work composed for piano solo by Olivier Messiaen. It features thirteen pieces, written between October 1956 and September 1958. It is devoted to the composer’s love of birds and dedicated to his second wife Yvonne Loriod.
My Reel Club brings this work to NativeDSD Music in a 3-album set featuring pianist Laszlo Borbely. Due to the length of the works, NativeDSD is bringing the album to our listeners in 3 parts.
Olivier Messiaen’s piano cycle, Catalogue d’oiseaux (Catalog of Birds), besides being one of the monumental creations of modern music, is one of the greatest ‘cathedrals’ among works ever composed for the piano (or any keyboard instrument).
For a pianist like me, the interpretation of such a complex masterwork is a special event. It is an extreme undertaking in the mental, spiritual, and physical sense alike. The structural complexity of the work, however, never becomes disturbing, considering that the ‘complexity’ of this music results in the continuous extension of the horizon in the listener, who then becomes part of a sounding coordinate system himself. This complexity is a flash of Order, where Time itself, similarly to Salvador Dalí’s melting clocks, expands.
‘Tout est vrai (Everything is real)’ we read in the author’s preface to the first recording of this work. Messiaen, who collected the song of birds from all corners of the world, notated them in the minutest possible detail in his works as literal quotations. For him, this was the only possible way compatible with his religious conviction, and ‘Tout est vrai’ symbolically means that it is not he but God who is the creator of his works. The composer can only be the means, a medium. I can only write about this work with the greatest admiration. It has transformed my identity as a pianist and this transformation is going on to this day. My first meeting with Messiaen turned my whole life away from its earlier direction in the blink of an eye. The reason may be that Messiaen knows what only the truly greatest know: that each element of his music builds up an individual dimension, a sounding, colorful aura around the given notes, similarly to the haloes in Italian Renaissance paintings which almost ‘tip out’ of the plane of the canvas.
Messiaen often chooses ‘impalpable’ as a performance direction. It is no accident; in his works, we enter the visible and tangible transcendent through the intangibility of the invisible. We are faced here with something which is seemingly incompatible with our existence.
This recording is dedicated to the memory of my mother.
In an interview with the composer, published on 15th February 1958 in Figaro LListeriae Messiaen stated that birdsong in his music serves the same role as folk music in Béla Bartók’s art. Bartók differentiates three levels of artistic employment of peasant music in his 1931 essay, ‘The Influence of Peasant Music on Modern Music’. The highest level, according to Bartók, is when ‘neither peasant melodies nor imitations of peasant melodies can be found in his music, but it is pervaded by the atmosphere of peasant music.
In this case, we may say, he has completely absorbed the idiom of peasant music which has become his musical mother tongue. He masters it as completely as a poet masters his mother tongue.’ Just as folk music became the mother tongue for Bartók, Messiaen’s musical mother tongue was the song of birds.
TracklistPlease note that the below previews are loaded as 44.1 kHz / 16 bit.
Total time: 01:01:15
Hapi, Merging Technologies
AEA R84 Ribbon
|My Reel Club
|Original Recording Format
Steinway & Sons Model D Grand Piano
Robert Zoltan Hunka
Live recording at the Supersize Recording Studio, Hungary April 25, 2020 and April 30, 2020
Pyramix, Merging Technologies
|Recording Type & Bit Rate
|August 4, 2020
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