To say that Messiaen's Vingt Regards sur L'Enfant-Jesus (Twenty Contemplations on the Infant Jesus) is a masterpiece is a gross understatement. Over sixty years after its composition, it has rightfully earned the recognition of being one of the most important piano works of the 20th century. ... [It] is one of the most personal and intimate pieces Messiaen ever wrote, and it gives the listener a close look at Messiaen the person. Messiaen was a deeply religious person, and although his faith influenced every single piece he wrote, the Vingt Regards is almost like his own personal spiritual diary. - Keith Kerchoff [more inside]
The irony in a way is that Messiaen used this great romantic organ for his most modern experiments. For Messiaen, this was a great sort of sonic paintbox, if you like, and he would come here and experiment with the extraordinary sounds that he could conjure out of this amazing instrument. [more inside]
Frederic Mompou (1893 -1987) composed many often exquisite and mysteriously adventurous minatures for piano. Born in Barcelona, he then went to Conservatory and spent several decades in Paris, and of course was influenced first by Gabriel Faure and Chopin, then Maurice Ravel, Claude Debussy, Francis Poulenc, and notably Erik Satie. Yet, unlike them, he never quite became a "household name" in classical music. [more inside]
To me, he embodies The classical guitarist with all the clichés attached. But he can also make any material his own, or use forms with humor. He's got good compositions too.