Steven Osborne has already made his name as an outstanding interpreter of Messiaen with his ecstatic recording of the Vingt Regards sur l’Enfant Jésus (Hyperion, CDA67351/2), which was described by Gramophone as ‘one of Hyperion’s finest piano recordings—quite an achievement in a catalogue of outstanding piano discs’. Here he is joined by Martin Roscoe in an equally revelatory account of Messiaen’s other great religious piano cycle, this time for two pianos, the Visions de l’Amen, composed a year before Vingt Regards in 1943. Their combination of emotional power, religious austerity, keyboard colour and dazzling pyrotechnics makes for an overwhelming and physically exhilarating experience. The listener is given an insight to what it must have been like to have heard the premiere of this work, played by Messiaen with his future wife, the immensly gifted 19-year-old Yvonne Loriod, to a strictly invited audience in Occupied Paris.
Steven Osborne plays three solo pieces to complete the disc. The Rondeau was composed at the same time as Visions de l’Amen, but is much less musically (although no less technically) ambitious. The other two pieces were composed in the 1930s, one in a more light-hearted vein, the other a contribution to a memorial volume for Paul Dukas, who died in 1935.