Roderick Chadwick: La Mer Bleue

This technical and slightly self-involved album revolves around Catalogue d’Oiseaux (“Catalogue of birds”), a work for piano solo by Olivier Messiaen. The full work is 13 pieces, devoted to birds and dedicated to his second wife Yvonne Lorio.

The CD takes in the first three, the Alpine chough (chocard des Alpes), The Eurasian golden oriole (loriot d’Europe) – there must be some punnery there between loriot and the future Mrs Messiaen, Ms Lorio – and the blue rock thrush, aka merle bleu and possibly an equally punning reason for the album title.

It’s erratic and angular; the birds each represent a French province so we assume the music is meant to capture something of the essence of each area. However, while technically impressive it’s a little too jarring to create an atmosphere, as the listener is always too aware of the instrument, though it does mellow towards the end. The sleeve notes give a full explanation (and can be downloaded from the Divine Art website).

English composer David Gorton follows, fitting in nicely with the Messiaen, but his piece, Ondine, being less intrusive and more atmospheric. Ondine is a water spirit and the music captures the sound of water splashing spiritedly.

Karol Szymanowski closes the programme and it’s a smoother ending, and although the piano never lets the listener relax Szymanowski works in what we thought was perhaps a jazz air but the sleeve notes say was a result of his visits to Persia. Either way the starker piano is gradually replaced by a richer and fuller sound. An interesting and substantial album, maybe better aimed at people who like the technical side of the piano as opposed to a nice tune.

Out on Divine Art, DDA 25209.

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