Nonken and Rothenberg Craft Exquisite "Vision de l'Amen"
Olivier Messiaen's approach to writing for the piano is boldly expansive. At times the instrument evokes the conceptual (timelessness, serenity), the pictorial (religious scenes, birds) and perhaps most notably, the piano becomes an immense orchestra whose gestural repertoire includes abrasive woodwind chords, elegant vocal melodies and thundering brass lines.
Marilyn Nonken and Sarah Rothenberg beautifully convey all of these qualities in their recently-released recording of Messiaen's "Visions de l'Amen" for two pianos (Bridge 9324). During the many bombastic moments, such as in the second movement, "Amen des étoiles, de la planète à l'anneau," and the seventh movement, "Amen de la Consommation," Nonken and Rothenberg create an all-encompassing sound that captures the appropriate grandeur with great warmth and depth. Equally sculpted are the more serene textures. In the third movement, "Amen de l'agonie de Jésus," wringing circles of upper-register chords float gently above exquisitely articulated melodies below. A similarly crystalline sound is achieved via gently rippling rolled chords early in the fifth movement, "Amen des anges, des saints, du chant des oiseaux."
Throughout the recording, the listener is able to simultaneously discern multiple layers of activity. Secondary and tertiary lines emerge from the texture in a way that complements and emboldens the emphasized melodies. This impressive level of clarity is a testament to the attention to detail exhibited by Nonken and Rothenberg as well as the sound engineers.
Not surprisingly, my great regard for this recording is being echoed in multiple publications including the New York Times and the San Francisco Chronicle. Marilyn Nonken and Sarah Rothenberg will perform "Visions de l'Amen" live at Le Poisson Rouge in New York City on August 2nd at 6:30pm. Tickets are $15 in advance and $20 at the door. Click here to access the Bridge Records Web Site