Bertrand Chamayou published in Erato the “Vingt regards sur l’Enfant-Jésus” by Messiaen.
Composed in 1944, the cycle of Vingt regards sur l’Enfant-Jésus (Twenty glances on the Infant Jesus) is one of the great works of the piano repertoire, being on a par with such fundamental pieces as Bach’s The Well-Tempered Clavier or Beethoven’s 32 Piano Sonatas in its scope. Composed at a time of great human suffering and personal deprivation (Messiaen composed it in 1944, after his release from the Stalag VIII-A prisoner-of-war camp in Görlitz, where he wrote the Quartet for the End of Time, but still under Nazi occupation of Paris), the work is a celebration of the Nativity and of the importance Messiaen, as a devout Catholic, attached to the birth of Christ.
This new version for the Erato label, by the French pianist Bertrand Chamayou (Toulouse, 1981), includes, in addition to the twenty pieces in the cycle, his interpretations of five pieces composed by five other composers in homage to Messiaen: Anthony Cheung (Live Ear Emission! from 2001), the late Toru Takemitsu (Rain Tree Sketch II, from 1992, written after Messiaen’s death for a tribute concert at Les Semaines Musicales Internationales d’Orléans), Tristan Murail (Cloches d’adieu, et un sourire…, another work composed the same year as Messiaen’s death), György Kurtág (Humble regard sur Olivier Messiaen, from 1993) and Jonathan Harvey (Tombeau de Messiaen, from 1994).
Chamayou first performed Vingt regards sur l’Enfant-Jésus in 2008, the centenary year of Messiaen’s birth, and defines the work as “a gigantic fresco, a kind of odyssey […] an experience more mystical than religious… It arouses the same kind of awe as entering a magnificent cathedral or watching a glorious sunset. You feel like time stands still […] I think I can safely say that the Vingt regards… have played a crucial role in shaping the way I play, the sound I produce and my approach as a performer”. His interpretation oscillates between gentle revelation (Regard du Père, the first of the Messiaen pieces on the disc) and radiant exaltation (Regard de l’Eglise d’amour, the last of the twenty “glances”), conveying spirituality to this music through its tonality, which we could compare to the gradation, nuanced or contrasted, of the luminosity of the stained-glass windows of a church…
Bertrand Chamayou will perform this cycle of Vingt regards… on 15 June at the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées, in Paris, and then on 26 June at the Rencontres Musicales d’Evian, as well as at several festivals this summer, including the Festival Messiaen au Pays de la Meije, where he will also give a concert with soprano Barbara Hannigan.