Pierre-Laurent Aimard; Tamara Stefanovich
Pentatone PTC5186957 (pentatonemusic.com/product/visions/)
Released on Pentatone, long-time collaborators Pierre-Laurent Aimard and Tamara Stefanovich release Visions, an album of music for two pianos centred around Messiaen’s intoxicating Visions de l’amen. With each work using the sound of bells as thematic material, a sound that often produces a mesmerizing effect, the duo certainly deliver an alluring sonic experience throughout the entirety of the release.
Messiaen’s masterpiece is accompanied by Enescu’s Carillon Nocturne, Knussen’s Prayer Bell Sketch and a selection from Birtwistle’s massive Harrison’s Clocks. With both soloists captivating audiences around the world, this release is a treat for listeners who appreciate large works with a pianistic virtuosity. While the selected works certainly have their obvious comparisons with respect to towering vertical chords and striking timbre, each piece creates interesting and unexpected contrasts and connections – one work mapping new meaning onto another as filtered through breathtaking pianism. With each work presenting mighty musical edifices often remaining in emotional distress or ecstasy (or both), the high level of performance perfectionism reveals the importance of the overall structures without allowing the heavy emotional content to blur the composers’ poetic intentions.
If Messiaen’s work is meant to represent hope in dark times, one can certainly use this recording as a temporary respite from the gloomy state of current affairs – the two pianists deliver with extraordinary bravura making even Messiaen’s joyful and ecstatic offerings shine with new light.