Selections from Vingt Regards sur l'Enfant-Jesus

Olivier Messiaen




“Evan Hirsch ... brings forth the very essence of Messiaen's vision. From the outset, we are given the impression of a pianist 'breathing' freely into the piano, such that we hear a succession of tension and release without the strictures of a metrical grid. Hirsch achieves this meditation-in-sound by crafting the dynamic profile with painstaking detail — with moment-to-moment variations in intensity that flow effortlessly one into the next… we are left feeling removed from all earthly concerns, yet highly aware of our surroundings. In the composer's words, we sleep as our hearts keep watch”
Andrew Schartmann, Music & Vision [December 2013]
“[Hirsch] gives sensitive and forceful consideration to the trajectory of pieces included here. They are presented…with an acute ear for contrasts of mood and effect. Hirsch goes far beyond Messiaen’s cascades of notes. His command of texture is masterly and he’s always alert to the panoply of expressive worlds, from angry and defiant to anguished and ecstatic. Hirsch is in firm control [of dynamics] achieving massive and gleaming sonorities at peaks of volume. At the opposite end of the spectrum, when Messiaen evoks the ethereal, the pianist sustains lines and harmonic gestures with hushed beauty.”
Donald Rosenberg, Gramophone [April 2013]
 “the quality of Hirsch’s performance isn’t subject to debate. Much of this music is wildly virtuosic, as it needs to be to convey ‘scintillation, poundings, powerful sound of huge trombones’ and all of Messiaen’s other colorful conceits. Hirsch’s performance is certainly virtuosic. But the pianist is also moved by the more intimate music on offer… I became aware of Evan Hirsch’s artistry from his excellent survey of George Rochberg’s piano music on Naxos; I find his approach to the music of Messiaen just as satisfying. And the MSR engineers have managed to capture big, imposing piano sound at Spaulding Auditorium of Dartmouth College, where Hirsch served as visiting professor… this selection and performance are nonetheless special, providing insight into the interpretive choices and skills of a very fine pianist. I’m pretty sure this CD will often figure into my listening when I want to hear Messiaen on piano.”
[ * * * * ] Lee Passarella, Audiophile Audition [April 2013]
“…I won’t be parting with this selection, primarily because Hirsch is such a sensitive Messiaen pianist. How well he balances the soft chords of the chorale, with its Ravelian tolling bell notes, that constitute No. 1, Regard du Père (here programmed as the fourth track). Occasional sprays of decorative notes, notably in Le baiser de l’enfant-Jésus , display the poise and color one imagines Michaelangeli might have brought to this music…  Hirsch retains admirable control of his triple and quadruple fortes and is even more impressive at the opposite dynamic extreme, where most of this music sits…”
Phillip Scott,  Fanfare [January 2013]
“...Authoritative performances” [ ***** ]
BBC Music [2010]
“...Evan Hirsch plays brilliantly”
Fanfare [2010]
“...Mr Hirsch’s performances are exemplary”
American Record Guide [2010]
(on Rochberg: Piano Music, Volume II)

Ever since my early adult years, the Vingt Regards sur L’Enfant-Jésus has held a cherished place in my solo repertoire. I find that, perhaps more than any other music of its time, it speaks to me viscerally and directly: The unmetered phrasing feels natural, as with speech, and the poignant harmonic language is unique, yet comfortably tonal. The structure of each Regard can range from narrative to abstract, yet each is emotionally clear and dramatically compelling. Although the title suggests the possibility of exhaustive theistic scrutiny, the work is anything but tedious in its musical portrayals. This music transcends cultural and national boundaries. Even though Messiaen’s
musical heritage and education were patently French, he clearly sought to develop a style and vocabulary that existed on their own. That is why his music is so unique and identifiable. More importantly, his passionate and humanistic treatment of the religious figures in the Vingt Regards pushes this music well beyond the sphere of sacred music, into a universal realm in which those who don’t fully identify with the composer’s faith can nonetheless embrace its fervor and depth.

American pianist Evan Hirsch performs extensively as both recitalist and chamber player, in such venues as Jordan Hall in Boston, Muson Centre in Lagos and Palazzo Savelli Chigi in Ariccia. As member of the Hirsch-Pinkas Piano Duo (with wife, Sally Pinkas), he has toured China, Nigeria, Russia, Israel and Europe, and has commissioned, premiered and recorded works by Martin Pearlman, Kui Dong, Peter Child and Thomas Oboe Lee for the New Albion, Otherminds and Albany labels. Summer festival credits include Kfar Blum in Israel, Pontlevoy in France, Officina Scotese in Italy and ppIANISSIMO in Bulgaria. His extensive discography features multi-disc compilations of works by Daniel Pinkham (Arsis) and George Rochberg (Naxos). Hirsch holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts from SUNY Purchase, and a Master of Music from the New England Conservatory. He teaches piano and chamber music at Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts, and has held Visiting Professor appointments at Dartmouth College in 2007 and 2011.

XV.  Le baiser de L’Enfant-Jésus
XIV. Regard des Anges
IV.   Regard de la Vierge
I.     Regard du Père
V.    Regard de l’Esprit de joie
XI.   Première communion de la Vierge
XIX. Je dors, mais mon coeur veille


MSR Classics