Last night when I played Vingt Regards sur l‘Enfant Jésus by Yvonne Loriod downstairs at the same time as I was watching Essendon beat Melbourne in Round 9, 1996 – Messiaen defeating football for the attention of my ears – my brother said Vingt Regards was like a cat chasing a mouse inside the piano! My mother said Vingt Regards sur l‘Enfant Jésus – the French of which I have always been dreadful at pronouncing – was like a cat on drugs playing the piano, although unlike with Catalogue d‘Oiseaux I was listening to the very performance recommended in 1001 Classical Recordings You Must Hear Before You Die.
Tonight I have tried to look for cases of a cat playing the organ as opposed to the piano – after all it was with Messiaen’s organ works that the notion of a cat playing first occurred! As I said in the previous post, Messiaen’s organ works are much more inaccessible and mystical than his piano pieces with their dramatic dynamics that are oddly accessible and to me likeable.
If you listen briefly to real Messiaen after hearing this, you can think it is a bit like this, but a really careful listen to Jennifer Bate will show that she is much, much further removed from any sort of cat playing the organ than such pianists as Håkon Austbø, Roger Muraro (who looks on the cover like a monk), Martin Zehn or Carl-Axel Dominique could! The dynamics in real Messiaen organ pieces, though quiet, are much more planned and softer than a cat could ever be!