A belated happy birthday to Olivier Messiaen, who would have turned 100 yesterday. As many of the figures who worked around him seem to be declining in stature, Messiaen stands out as one of the greatest creative artists of his time.
I will write shortly on my trip to Montreal's Automne Messiaen festival, where I had the wonderful experience of hearing sixteen hours of his music within a two-day period. It is with some bitterness, however, that I must report the utter failure of our national broadcaster to commemorate the event appropriately - have a look at the grisly playlist for yesterday's daytime classical show, which included the following:
Messiaen: Lounge à l'immortalité de Jésus (the sole Messiaen piece)A schizophrenic mixture of pieces which are not linked together in any intelligent way, which have nothing in common with each other except a conservative harmonic language and pretty tunes. An appalling tokenist presentation of modern music, with Messiaen's Quatuor being the only piece on the programme not to be performed in its entirety - would it have killed them to present the entire quartet, or a shorter piece like L'Ascension? And to place Messiaen's serious, genuinely sacred work alongside a piece of schmaltzy, nineteenth-century kitsch like the Bach/Gounod "Ave Maria" is so glaringly inappropriate that I cannot even fathom a sane human being making the decision.
Sibelius: Symphony No. 2
Vaughan Williams: Fantasia on Christmas Carols
Beethoven: Cello Sonata No. 3
Grieg: Holberg Suite
Tchaikovsky: Violin Concerto
Handel: Music for the Royal Fireworks
Templeton: "Bach Goes to Town"
Bach/Gounod: Ave Maria
The "trial period" for the new CBC is officially over. I am disappointed that they failed to mark the Messiaen anniversary day appropriately, but more than that: I am tired of a classical show designed to be nothing more than pleasant background noise. I am tired of the brainless presentation on the program, which tells us nothing about the pieces played except that they are pretty. I am tired of being talked down to by corporate executives who show blatant disregard for the intelligence and good taste of the Canadian public. I emphatically refuse to support radio programming designed expressedly for the creampuff classical music listener, programming that is overtly anti-intellectual and anti-artistic. Goodbye.