"...creating a sort of superpiano full of sparkling resonances..." LA Times

Pianist Bertrand Chamayou has recorded Jonathan Harvey’s tribute to titan of twentieth-century French music Olivier Messiaen as part of his acclaimed recording of Vingt Regards sur l’Enfant-Jésus, released in June on Warner Classics. Listen to Tombeau de Messiaen here.

Alongside Messiaen’s two-hour meditation for solo piano on Christ, Chamayou includes five tributes to the composer written following his death in 1992, from Toru Takemitsu, Tristan Murail, György Kurtág, Anthony Cheung, and Jonathan Harvey. In 2019 Chamayou performed Harvey’s 2001 work for piano, electronics and ensemble Bird Concerto with Pianosong with the Orchestre national de Metz conducted by David Reiland in Strasbourg at the Festival Musica.

Harvey’s Tombeau de Messiaen is for piano and electronics and was written for Philip Mead in 1994. Harvey called the 9-minute piece “a modest offering in response to the death of a great musical and spiritual presence.” The steady tread of the chords in the piano echoes Messiaen’s own style.

Harvey’s piece reflects his view of Messiaen as a proto-spectralist composer, fascinated by the colours of the harmonic series and the distortions arising from it. The electronic component of the work is composed piano sounds tuned to the harmonic series – twelve in total, matching each pitch class. The live piano joins and distorts these series, never entirely belong, but nor wholly separate either. Mark Swed described the effect of the piece in the LA Times as “creating a sort of superpiano full of sparkling resonances that might occur if you could change the tuning of the piano as you played it.”