Friday, May 02, 2008

The Mystical Colors of Christ

Every time someone starts talking about Olivier Messiaen, I say oh sure sure he is great.

Inside, I'm thinking: "I don't know anything about this subject, I can't name a single piece by him, I don't own a single CD, I don't really get all this hysteria, and I'm hopelessly ignorant on this obviously important guy."

So thank goodness for Paraclete Press. They have released a new CD to celebrate Messiaen's centenary. It is called "The Mystical Colors of Christ." It has three essential works, recorded at the Church of the Transfiguration, Orleans, MA. The organists are James E. Jordan, David Chalmers, and SharonRose Pfeiffer.

The sound quality is amazing and the compositions so wonderfully inspired. I'm excited to listen to this CD regularly for a month or so, so that I can get with the program here. But there is more than social status at stake. This music offers penetrating spiritual experiences as well, topically arranged: Trinity, Ascension, Nativity, and Pentecost. And the musical language here unites old and new in the most beautiful and challenging way.

The organ doesn't transfer to CD too well in my experience. It is often music you have to hear live, in my view. But the engineers have done an excellent job here. So far as I can tell, this is the CD I've needed all along. Soon I'll be able to talk about Messiaen intelligently.

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