Performances of Messiaen’s “La Nativité du Seigneur”, his monumental nine movement organ work for Christmas are rare because the music is demanding for both performer and audience. So this free recital at St Mary’s Cathedral in Sydney on the 14th of December was a treat.
Clean, intelligent and the sensuality that Messiaen’s composition demands
St Mary’s organist Oliver Brett is not even 30, but already has a musical pedigree longer than your arm. Kings College Cambridge, Westminster Cathedral, Durham Cathedral etc. And it shows. The playing was clean but intelligent, and brought out the sensuality that Messiaen’s composition demands. Some sections are fiendishly difficult; the “Les Anges” (The Angels) movement comes to mind, but they were played with confident ease. The final movement with its toccata sections was a thrilling and momentous climax.
Time to respect the musician and performance
The only thing that marred the performance is that visitors to the Cathedral were allowed to wonder around freely; kids running up and down, people talking or rattling metal gates and loudly dropping coins into donation boxes. This would never happen at an organ recital in other places; either the church would be closed to the public or they would be supervised while watching quietly from a roped off section near the main doors at the far end of the nave. I do not really expect tourists to know how to behave, but whoever allowed this situation either actively or by omission, showed incredible disrespect, especially to the organist and to the audience who had to put up with the noise and disruption to the music. A free concert should be afforded the same respect as a paid one.
A phenomenal work and excellent performance. If you get a chance to hear Oliver Brett in recital, grab it. Sydney is very lucky to have an organist of this calibre.
Review of: Dave Elton (trumpet), Oliver Brett (organ/piano), Thomas Wilson (organ), St Mary’s Cathedral, Friday 14 December 2014