Hardly a concerto in the traditional sense, the work presents further chapters in the composer's great catalogue of birds, featuring the soloists as obbligato players in its sequence of four-tone poems. Much of the music harks back to earlier days: the harmonic world of Poemes pour Mi, composed over 50 years ago, is in evidence and the ecstatic dancing of Turangalila- symphonie, while the second movement is an exquisite orchestration of his early Vocalise for voice and piano.
The musical symbols will have been familiar to anyone conversant with the composer's style: New Zealand's Grey Warbler chattering away on three xylophones and piano, the mystery of nature in quiet gong strokes and magically chiming bells, and a dawn chorus of an ad libitum cadenza for the four soloists in the fourth movement. But if all of this suggests that the mixture was as before, it must be said that Messiaen's characteristic freshness of vision allows him to illuminate yet again those aspects of the natural world which had proved a life-long fascination.
The performance by Loriod, Paul Edmund-Davies, flute, Roy Carter, oboe, and Tim Hugh, cello, with the London Symphony Orchestra under Kent Nagano was a devoted one, and in response to the audience's applause, Vocalise was given a second airing, reinforcing one's opinion of its affecting lyricism.
After the interval, Nagano directed a high-tensioned and brilliant performance of Berlioz's Symphonie Fantastique, in which the orchestra brought a dazzling virtuosity to bear upon the work's revolutionary invention. The ultimate in speed, precision and attack was demanded during the final cavortings of the "Witches Sabbath", and the orchestral response was electrifying, while the more delicate invention of the "Reveries" that open the symphony was no less finely addressed. If anything was missing from this exuberant interpretation, it was a sense of genuine symphonic breadth during the first movement. Nagano seemed so intent upon urging the music forward that the passion seemed a little breathless rather than powerfully focused. Still, this was an interpretation to excite and unnerve, doubtless one of Berlioz's prime intentions.Reuse content