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on 4 June 2001
After being introduced to Messiaen by Myung -Whun Chung's marvellous recording of Turangalila, I instantly bought this new version of the Quartet before I read the complete savaging it received at the hands of Gramophone. Completely out of order - this recording is simply spellbinding. I still find it hard to believe that four instruments can conspire to create sounds of such beauty. Ignore the Gramophone snobs and buy this NOW - it is simply wonderful (in a weird kind of way!)
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on 29 November 2007
This deeply moving account of the work can well match the acclaimed RCA recording by Tashi Quartet. Main difference is that Shaham's ensemble allows more freedom of expression for individual instrument and every movement is much slower than Tashi ( DG Timing 3'01 / 5'31 / 8'51 / 1'43 / 10'00 / 5'38 / 8'18 / 9'17 ).

Another advantage of this recording is the very realistic sound quality of each instrument. I'm particularly pleased with the piano part which has amazing presence throughout the music, providing rich, almost orchestra-like sonority, well balanced with other three instruments (not restrained as mere background support like in so many other recordings).

Shaham's rendition of the last movement is one of the most moving performances I ever encountered, capturing the sense of infinity and eternity so profoundly like no other violinist could do. Commentary includes facinating account of musical life surrounding the first performance, by one of the musicians who gave premiere concert in the prisoners' camp.

Overall, this performance is a welcome addition to the amazing classic account by Tashi which is also well worth listening for its entirely different approach, deep spirituality and especially for the synthesiser-like sonority accidentally achieved in the 6th movement where all players join in unison. So get the both recordings and see the same music can be played in totally different ways, both very inspired in its own way.
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on 6 October 2001
It's hard to believe this wonderful music could have been conceived in a prisoner of war camp in World War 2 Germany, yet Messiaen somehow managed to convey both hope and hopelessness in the eight perfect movements of this work. This recording is a superb reading of the work, with Paul Meyer particularly beautiful on the clarinet.
I sought out a recording of the Quartet for the End of Time before I recently started to rehearse it with some fellow school-age musicians. Needless to say we are finding many difficulties in the complex work, but we can take comfort in the sound of the perfect piece being played outstandingly on this recording. Wholeheartedly recommended.
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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)
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on 13 January 2006
This is a superb modern performance which boast DG's legendary recording quality. It is the primary recommendation from The Penguin Guide - need I say more?
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on 7 October 2000
If you avoid modern classical music, expecting a cacophony of sound, listen to this recording. The accompanying notes are very illuminating as to the meaning of the piece for the beginner. The individual instruments brilliantly claim their own space, yet together, over the length of the recording, they create a sublime experience. This recording has taken me over the bridge into modern classical music.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 7 December 2011
I was fortunate enough to hear this version before reading the highly critical review provided by Gramophone and now I'm adding my voice to the other shoppers blowing a raspberry at whoever provided that misguided drubbing in our most august classical music monthly.

One thing we know about Messiaen is that he could be very precise, in print, about specific details of how a performer should approach his music, and then he'd make a record and basically give himself the latitude to do whatever the hell he liked. I think both he and Loriod, for example, were inclined to scamper through things (Shostakovich was the same).

The team who made this version of the quartet are supposed to have taken all kinds of liberties but as far as I'm concerned they've paid off. This DG recording is one of the most poetic and emotional interpretations to come my way, and it has recently been reissued with Chung's Turangalila on a budget price twofer.

Perhaps it comes down to whether you think musicians should be imaginative servants or simply slaves. If the former, get yourself this free-spirited Quartet For The End Of Time.
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on 25 December 2012
I had always been nervous of Messaien - even though I love such works as Bartok's String Quartets. A chance link by a friend on Facebook led me to this and I really enjoyed it. I will begin to explore more of his works.
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