If you like Olivier Messiaen, you missed out on a phenomenal performance of his epic organ work Livre de Saint Sacrement on Tuesday night in New York. The performance was by Paul Jacobs, and took place in The Church of Saint Mary the Virgin, just off Times Square. It was an impressive performance of a Messiaen’s very personal late-life (1984) magnum opus, and the cathedral was an ideal space for it.
Of course if, like me, you don’t like Messaien, you can be glad you stayed home and organized your sock drawer or whatever you did, because that piece is frickin’ interminable. It’s about an hour and a half of pointless, pedantic noodling intercut with loud for the sake of loud, with no meaningful or satisfying dramatic structure. There’s about a minute worth of actual good material spread through the piece, but of course it’s immediately abandoned in favor of more noodling. And then there are the sections which sound like nothing so much as Mario collecting those gold coins. By the time it finally ended I was ready to confess to where I hid the WMD.