Saturday, December 19, 2015

Olivier Messiaen - Twenty Visions of the Baby Jesus - XX Vision of The Religion of Love

Anton Batagov, piano

This is the last of the pieces in the cycle, putting the many themes in the previous pieces into their proper context.  In my recent posts I went over the statement of Jurgen Habermas in which, in contradiction to the distortions of what he clearly said by other atheists, that modern egalitarian democracy had its origin and its only source of nourishment from the Jewish tradition of justice as channeled through the Christian ethic of egalitarian love, that so difficult ideal of loving everyone including your enemies as they are attacking you, of those who commit wrong, of those whose existence is of no value to you or anyone else.  I certainly haven't achieved anything like that, who knows if my several decades in the sterile wilderness of willfully blind agnosticism hampered what might have otherwise been possible.  I would likely have been a lot less witty and cruel, I'd certainly have been more politically realistic.  In that I think my personal experience is a microcosm of why the left has been in wandering in the political wilderness for about as long.

Messiaen's intent that people listen to the entire cycle in a single performance is seldom realized, though it is shorter than many things people sit through, such as many movies, the density of material, the uncompromising treatment of the subject makes a rarely attempted thing for a pianist, I've never heard a complete performance except on disc.  There are several which have been issued, the recording by Olivier Messiaen's colleague and wife, Yvonne Loriod, of course, has to take first place, no one had anything like the access to the original source of the music that she did.  The others I've heard in excerpts are quite good too.  This isn't music you take on professionally without being prepared, I doubt anyone undertakes the entire cycle without the intent to reflect the composer's meaning, though there are performances of individual pieces or sections of it which do sort of seem like an empty athletic performance, the same is true of any music which gains the reputation of being a feat instead of communication of the composer's ideas.  The music and its intent, though, survives those kinds of misuse, other performers respect its intended meaning.

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