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DOT NOT BUY THIS
on 10 December 2008
Hands up all those who would put money on a one-time music director of the Paris Opera being able to distinguish between semiquavers and demi-semiquavers? Well, Myun-Whun Chung can't here, and I suggest you keep your hands on your wallets.
Messiaen concludes his Preface to the Quatuor with some `Advice to performers', in which he recommends that, having read his commentaries and theoretical explanations, they then forget about all that: `it is enough for them to play the text, the notes and exact durations, and to be sure to play the nuances indicated.' Also, in the two slow movements (V and VIII) they must `maintain the extremely slow tempos implacably'. One wonders what else he could have written for his wishes to be taken seriously.
Myung-Whun Chung's substitution of semiquavers for demi-semiquavers throughout the last movement is only one example of many in this recording of durations and nuances being altered, presumably with a view to `self-expression' (listen to Erich Gruenberg and Michel Beroff - on the first recording of the piece - to hear how this last movement should go). And durations not only of notes, but of rests, which are just as important in Messiaen as in Webern or Boulez.
Frankly, I'm not prepared to waste my time or yours on a detailed expose of the many textual errors. Suffice to say that the violin is horribly out of tune in bars 11 and 12 of the last movement, that the clarinet changes pitch perceptibly on the long crescendos on single notes in III, and that the cellist at the end of IV begins his glissando a quaver early, leading to a shambolic cadence. Really one expects a more responsible attitude to the text from such experienced musicians, and Deutsche Grammophon should be ashamed of putting out such a sub-standard disc.'
Roger Nichols (Gramophone)