Now Playing: Simon Rattle is the best thing that could have happened to the Berlin Philharmonic.
Topic: Simon Rattle-BerlinPO
Since taking over as artistic director in 2002, Rattle has pushed the orchestra's boundaries by steadily introducing it to repertoire far removed from its standard Germanic diet. Judging from this performance of Olivier Messiaen's final masterpiece, Eclairs sur l'au-dela... (1987-91), the orchestra is positively reveling in its new horizons. Eclairs (Illuminations of the Beyond...), is one of several late pieces by Messiaen that seem to sum up his life's work. Over the course of an hour, the listener is guided along a path to paradise leading through this composer's distinctive world of sound, full of birdsong quotations (listen to the Ninth Movement, where woodwinds impersonate 25 birds at once) and Catholic mysticism, and juxtaposing an expanded percussion section with serene meditations for strings alone. Eclairs has less Technicolor exotica than Messiaen's other great orchestral pageant, the better-known "Turangalila" Symphony, but it achieves levels of sublime tranquility that equal or surpass many of his other works.