Michael Gielen conducts Messiaen / Leonard, Gielen, ORF Vienna Radio Symphony

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What makes Olivier Messiaen’s œuvre so special is, to a great extent, his ability to coalesce various influences, inspirations, and convictions into a wholly individual and perfectly coherent musical language. This includes the development of the modal harmonies of earlier centuries as much as it does an engagement with rhythms from non-European traditions. The wealth of colors in his works stems, in part, from Messiaen’s synaesthetic ability to perceive chords as various shapes and colors. As an enthusiastic ornithologist, he spent much time in nature, notating birdsong and then working those, in stylized form, into his compositions. But most importantly, Messiaen’s work is governed by his profound faith. Messiaen once said of himself that he didn’t primarily see himself as a composer but as an “ornithologist and rhythmist”.


This CD shows Michael Gielen as an outstanding Messiaen interpreter. Les Offrandes Oubliées is played in an atmospherically strong, expressive, and beautifully transparent manner.

Poèmes pour Mi is sung by soprano Sarah Leonard with great warmth, passion, and internalization. Gielen and the orchestra wonderfully distill the spirituality of the work.

Even in Chronochromie, Gielen traces the moods in the music, although Messiaen is more austere and experimental. At the same time, the spontaneity, dynamic control, concern for color values, and ultimately the tonal beauty of the music are also impressive.


This release provides a fine survey of Messiaen's output from the first half of his career. Les Offrandes Oubliées, composed in 1930, is his first substantial work for orchestra. It was preceded by some earlier pieces that have remained unpublished and possibly unheard until now. It was a resounding success at its first performance in Paris, although it was later heard rarely, if at all.

Poèmes pour Mi is a quite impressive and deeply-felt piece of music; however, Chronochromie moves still further. [It] is a mighty, impressive piece of music that will certainly remain amongst the least performed pieces by Messiaen although it is a quite gripping, nervous, often aggressive work that does not leave anyone indifferent. The complexity and technicality of the music are quite demanding...I must say that Michael Gielen and his orchestra work wonders in this most difficult, though ultimately rewarding, piece of music.

It may be difficult to realise that these performances are already some twenty to thirty years old, but they do sound very well indeed. The performers have the full measure of the music, while Sarah Leonard and Michael Gielen are evidently on familiar ground.

In short, this fine release is likely to appeal to anyone wanting to explore Messiaen's output from the period 1930-1960 – and is also a fine opportunity to hear the rarely recorded Chronochromie.

--MusicWeb International (Hubert Culot)

Product Description:

  • Release Date: July 01, 2022

  • Catalog Number: ORF-C250131

  • UPC: 4011790250212

  • Label: Orfeo

  • Number of Discs: 1

  • Period: 20th Century

  • Composer: Olivier Messiaen

  • Conductor: Michael Gielen

  • Orchestra/Ensemble: ORF Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra

  • Performer: Sarah Leonard


  1. Les offrandes oubliées

    Composer: Olivier Messiaen

    Ensemble: Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra

    Conductor: Michael Gielen

  2. Poèmes pour Mi

    Composer: Olivier Messiaen

    Ensemble: Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra

    Performer: Sarah Leonard (Soprano)

    Conductor: Michael Gielen

  3. Chronochromie

    Composer: Olivier Messiaen

    Ensemble: Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra

    Conductor: Michael Gielen