April 7, 2017
AKOKA: Reframing Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time RECEIVES ITS FIRST INTERNATIONAL & REMASTERED SACD RELEASE ON THE PENTATONE OXINGALE SERIES
First released in North America to great acclaim in 2014, clarinetist David Krakauer and cellist Matt Haimovitz’s “brilliantly inventive” (The New York Times) live recording, AKOKA, is remastered and released on SACD internationally on the PENTATONE Oxingale Series. AKOKA lifts Messiaen’s transcendent Quartet for the End of Time – in a “shatteringly beautiful performance” (The Jewish Week) – out of the polite context of a chamber music performance, and bookends it between Akoka, Krakauer’s improvisational, Sephardic-tinged piece, and Meanwhile…, a re-mix by hip- hop/klezmer artist Socalled. Henri Akoka – the Jewish clarinetist who premiered the Quartet for the End of Time with Messiaen himself at the German prisoner-of-war camp in which they were both interred – is the inspiration for this recording, which brings out the human aspect of this composition, seen through the eyes of one individual caught up in terrifying events beyond his control.
As the forces of fundamentalism, intolerance and violence intensify in today’s world, this mounting of Messiaen’s great work only increases in its relevance. David Krakauer comments: “In June 1940, Henri Akoka was captured by the German army along with Messiaen and two other musicians – a cellist and a violinist – and imprisoned in Stalag VIII-A, a prisoner-of-war camp in Görlitz, Germany (now Poland). The Quartet for the End of Time was premiered with the composer at the piano at the camp on January 15, 1941 in front an audience of about 400 fellow prisoners and guards. When the French prisoners of war were allowed to return home, Akoka was told that because he was Jewish, he was going on a “different train” to a destination in the east – surely a concentration camp. In the dead of night, Akoka jumped off the train – with his clarinet! – and miraculously made his way back to Paris where he survived the war. In “Akoka,” we musically juxtapose the story of one lone human being caught up in world conflagration, fleeing for his life, with the huge concepts of the Apocalypse and the end of time itself that are depicted in Messaien’s Quartet. By framing it with my wailing, quasi-improvised piece and Socalled’s nightmarish electronic new work, we feel like we have created a unique way to present Messiaen’s towering masterpiece.”
The new release on the PENTATONE Oxingale Series also features new liner notes by Matt Haimovitz, and by Rebecca Rischin, author of the book For the End of Time: The Story of the Messiaen Quartet, as well as commentary on the Quartet by Messiaen himself.