Olivier Messiaen, Messiaen: Complete Bird Music For Piano Solo

Todd Burns

By Todd Burns

on 04.22.11 in Reviews
Is that the sound of a bluebird?

Aside from teaching composition to noted European mavericks like Pierre Boulez, Karlheinz Stockhausen and Iannis Xenakis as a professor at the Paris Conservatoire, Olivier Messiaen did double duty throughout his career as both composer and ornithologist. For many years, he traveled all over the world to perform music, but also to transcribe the calls of exotic and rare birds. In these solo piano compositions, he combined the two interests, basing each piece on the call (and the surrounding environment) of one bird. The results are hugely complex works, which is why Carl-Axel Dominique, the pianist here, is so important. Luckily, Dominique is a noted interpreter of Messiaen's bird compositions and he does an excellent job of presenting the notoriously difficult tone poems, imbuing them with feeling and empathy.