Messiaen’s ‘Neuf Regards’

Yes, I know he wrote 20 of them. So does pianist Cordelia Williams, but her promoters chose not to inform us of the difference between them in advance of her concert at Kings Place on Monday night. I’ve rarely experienced such a feeling of deflation in a concert hall as when I sat down, opened the programme booklet and realised I’d be leaving again at least an hour earlier than expected. And what is an evening devoted to Vingt Regards without the brazen, contrapuntal engine of creativity that is the Sixth Regard, ‘Par lui a tout été fait’?

Cordelia Williams, whose Messiaen 2015 project has included seminars, poetry and painting

Cordelia Williams, whose Messiaen 2015 project has included seminars, poetry and painting

The music of Olivier Messiaen lends itself ideally to the kind of multimedia project created by Cordelia Williams. His titles tell stories of terror and redemption, Man, men, God and angels. His chords burst with colour, not only the green and gold of Christmas or the red and purple of Crucifixion but the pulsing of a slow journey, stripes of redemption, layers of wakefulness. The only drawback is that the composer himself was very sure about what those stories and colours were, leaving little room for later interpreters to add their own perspectives.

You can read the rest of my review for The Arts Desk here.