mon 22/07/2024

LSO, Rattle, Barbican Hall review – visions of the beyond | reviews, news & interviews

LSO, Rattle, Barbican Hall review – visions of the beyond

LSO, Rattle, Barbican Hall review – visions of the beyond

Serene meditations from Messiaen, energised by the joyous sound of birdsong

Simon Rattle: expert coordination© Mark Allan for the Barbican

Simon Rattle has a knack for unearthing large-scale orchestral works that pack a punch. Olivier Messiaen’s Éclairs sur l’Au-Delà … (Illuminations of the Beyond …) was completed in 1991, a year before the composer’s death, and is both a reflection on mortality and a summation of his life’s work.

Quotations from the Book of Revelation head many of the movements, and Messiaen envisions the heavenly world through expansive string movements, with muted violins intoning long, plaintive melodies. Huge percussion and brass sections provide weight and colour, though the mood remains serene.

Best of all, the woodwind add birdsong into the mix. Birdsong had been an obsession for the composer throughout his adult life, and in 1988, at the age of 80, he visited Australia for the first time, and was introduced to a whole new continent of birds. For this final orchestral work, he embraced this new resource, transcribing many Australian birdcalls into joyous and raucous choruses.

His communication with the orchestra was efficient and relaxed

The concert was the third in a week-long series, in which the London Symphony brought their summer touring repertoire back to the capital to open the winter season. So Rattle and the players already knew this music well. Rattle waxed lyrical in praise of Éclairs sur l’Au-Delà …. He introduced the work from the stage, and recalled how, when he first heard it, he wept uncontrollably for almost the entire piece. Fortunately, he has the technique to marshal such strong emotions, and to shape this expansive music. His communication with the orchestra was efficient and relaxed. Often, no beat was required at all, and he would just cue the woodwind players, as each entered with a new birdcall. In one movement, flute and clarinet players came out of the orchestra to perform their birdcalls around the audience, a rich and immersive aural experience, all expertly coordinated by Rattle from the podium.

Messiaen eventually achieves closure for this complex aural tapestry, with a final movement scored only for strings accompanied by a light triangle, “Christ, Light of Paradise”. Again, muted violins perform broad, almost static melodies, at the quietest dynamics and with the utmost control of tone and texture. The harmonies are ambiguous, but eventually settle on a consoling consonance, the timing of that final resolution perfectly judged by Rattle and expertly delivered by the LSO strings. Exquisite.

  • This concert was recorded by BBC Radio 3 for broadcast on Thursday 19 September



heard the LSO with Rattle do Eclairs @ the Barbican last night No problem at all with the performance But Rattle's introductory address seemed to me redundant as though we had not pitched up for the show innocent of what we were to hear.: Why did he think we were there? Such an address seems to me patronising and self indulgent. Whom the gods would destroy they first make mad. It is the job of the management of our most contributing artistes to protect them from such excesses. No access to the LSO itself to comment. I hope you will forward this to the orchestra management. Heard Rattle do Bruckner 4 with wonderful emotion and discrimination. We owe it to our artists to protect tj#hwm from the blandishments of the ego.

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