I felt as if I'd been transported back to La Trinite this afternoon when I entered the vestibule of St. Thomas Church for the third of six Messiaen organ recitals performed by John Scott. Aside from the massive portraits of the composer, the program included two works I heard performed in Paris this past May: Offrande au Saint Sacrament and Le Banquet Celeste. This is Messiaen at his most meditative: gentle and spacious, with an almost-Wagnerian sense of breadth. The kind of music you'd want played at your funeral: sad and sublime, all at once.
Contrast that with the half-hour long Messe de la Pentecote, which shows Messiaen at his most experimental, employing all sorts of surreal sounds and rhythms. At one point, Scott pulled out a stop that produced a guttural, grotesque groan (the "Beast of the Apocalypse"); at another, he unleashed a piercing high note that made everyone around me wince. By far the strangest organ music I've ever heard.
Scott is taking the next two weeks off, but will return three weeks from today with a program that includes the mind-blowing Apparition de l'Eglise Eternelle. Go here if you want to a sense of what you're in for. (More pics after the jump.)