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Olivier Messiaen (1908-1992)

Olivier Messiaen, composerOlivier Messiaen was a French composer, organist, teacher, and ornithologist whose music is distinguished by his deep devotion to Catholicism, exoticism, and nature. In synthesizing an individual style, Messiaen discovered in the music of Debussy the properties of "exotic" modes such as the whole-tone and diminished scales, calling them "modes of limited transposition." The inherent symetricalities of these modes enabled Messiaen to create progressions and melodies free of the tonic-dominant polarity of traditional tonal music, while remaining independent of the twelve-tone system as well. Messiaen was gifted with a strong sense of "synaesthesia" or hearing in colors. He often described his music in terms of "color progressions," also equating key signatures and collections (sets) of pitches with specific colors. At an early age, Messiaen developed a strong interest in rhythm, particularly fostered by Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring. His rhythmic investigations ranged from Gregorian chant, to ancient Greek poetic meters, to Indian raga, to gamelan music. He soon left regular metric divisions behind, although repetition remained an integral part of his rhythmic vocabulary. All of these elements are explained in great detail in his 1944 publication, Technique de mon langage musical (Technique of my musical language). In 1940, while a prisoner of war of the Germans, Messiaen composed Quatuor pour la fin du temps (Quartet for the End of Time). The quartet's unique instrumentation of piano, clarinet, violin, and cello was written for, and premiered by Messiaen and three fellow inmates while in detention; it became one of the great chamber works of the twentieth century. Messiaen was one of the first composers to apply serial techniques to parameters other than pitch (such as duration, register, and dynamics) in Mode de valeurs et d'intensités (1949) for solo piano. His interest in plain chant and rhythm led him to the ancient Greeks and Hindus, where he discovered processes such as nonretrogradable, additive, and subtractive rhythms. The Turangalila-symphonie of 1948 is the most synthetic of his early works. It features rich orchestration, imaginative use of tonal colors, Hindu rhythms, and a formal scheme that unfolds in large, block-like structures. Also of note here is one of the earliest uses of the Ondes Martenot, an electronic instrument capable of producing eerie glissandi, as well as monophonic melodies. Messiaen had a deep love of birdsong, and spent much time in the wild making extensive transcriptions, many of which would surface in his works, most notably in an arresting orchestral passage in Chronochromie (1960) and the monumental Catalogue d'oiseaux (Catalog of the Birds) (1958) for solo piano. His large body of organ music, composed primarily during his tenure as organist at the Sainte Trinite Cathedral, is highly idiomatic, colorful in harmony and registration, and rhythmically ingenious.
-  Todd McComb, All Music Guide

COMPOSITIONS                                     Messiaen  Links     ~ ~ ~     Works by Genre    ~ ~ ~    Messiaen on Messiaen
La dame de Shalott, piano (1917)
Deux ballades de Villon, voice and piano (1921)
La tristesse d'un grand ciel blanc, piano (1925)
Esquisse modale, organ (1927)
Fugue in D Minor, orchestra (1928)
L'hôte aimable des âmes, organ (1928)
Prélude, organ (c.1928;discovered in 1997)
Le banquet eucharistique, orchestra (1928)
Le banquet céleste, organ (1928)
Variations écossaises, organ (1928)
8 Preludes, piano (1928-29)
Trois melodies, voice and piano (1930)
Diptyque, organ (1930)
La mort du nombre, soprano, tenor, violin and piano (1930)
Trois offrandes oubliées, orchestra (1930) [piano version, 1930]
Offrande au Saint Sacrement, organ (1930/35)
Simple chant d’une ame, orchestra (1930)
Le Tombeau resplendissant, orchestra (1931)
L'Ensorceleuse Cantate, soprano, tenor, bass and piano/orchestra (1931)
La Jeunesse, chorus (1931)
Apparition de l'Eglise éternelle, organ (1932)
Fantaisie Burlesque, piano (1932)
Hymne au Saint Sacrement, orchestra (1932)
Theme et variations, violin and piano (1932)
L'Ascension, orchestra (1932) [organ version, 1933-34]
Fantasie, violin & piano (1933)
Mass, 8 sopranos and 4 violins (1933)
Morceau, piano (1934)
La Nativité du seigneur, organ (1935)
Piece pour le tombeau de Paul Dukas, piano (1935)
Vocalise, voice and piano (1935)
Poème pour Mi, soprano and piano (1936) [orchestral version, 1937]
O sacrum convivum!, chorus and organ (1937)
Fêtes des Belles Eaux, 6 Ondes Martenots (1937)
Chants de terre et de ciel (song cycle), soprano and piano (1938)
Deux monodies en quarts de ton, Ondes Martenots (1938)
Les corps glorieux, organ (1939)
Quatuor pour la fin du temps, violin, clarinet, cello and piano (1940-41)
Choeurs pour une Jeanne d’Arc, chorus (1941)
Musique de scène pour un Oedipe [Dieu est innocent], Ondes Martenot (1942)
Rondeau, piano (1943)
Visions de l'Amen, 2 pianos (1942)
Trois petites liturgies de la présence divine, 18 sopranos, piano, ondes Martenot and orchestra (1943-44)
Vingt regards sur l'enfant Jésus, piano (1944)
Harawi, Chant d'Amour et de Mort, soprano and piano (1945)
Piéce, oboe and piano (1945)
Tristan et Yseult - Théme d'Amour, organ (1945)
Chant des déportés, voice and orchestra (1946)
Turangalîla-Symphonie, orchestra, ondes Martenot and piano (1946-48)
Cinq Rechants, 12 voices a capella (1948)
Canteyodjaya, piano (1948)
Messe de la Pentecôte, organ (1949-50)
Quatre Études de rythme, piano (1949-50)
Livre d'orgue, organ (1951)
Le merle noir, flute and piano (1951)
Timbres-durées, electronic/musique concrete (1952)
Réveil des oiseaux, for piano & orchestra (1953)
Oiseaux exotiques, 2 clarinets, xylophone, percussion and wind orchestra (1956)
Catalogue d'oiseaux, piano (1956-58)
Chronochromie, orchestra (1960)
Verset pour la Fête de la Dédicace, organ (1960)
Sept Haïkaï, piano, xylophone, marimbas and small orchestra (1962)
Couleurs de la Cité Céleste, piano, wind orchestra and percussions (1964)
Monodie, organ (1963)
Et exspecto resurrectionem mortuorum, winds, brass and percussion métalliques (1964)
Prélude, piano (1964)
La transfiguration de Notre Seigneur Jésus-Christ, chorus, orch, pf, vibraphone., marimba, xylorimba (1969)
Méditations sur le mystère de la Sainte Trinité, organ (1969)
La fauvette des jardins, piano (1970)
Le tombeau de Jean-Pierre Guezec, horn (1971)
Des Canyons aux étoiles, horn, xylorimba, glockenspiel and orchestra (1970-74)
Saint-François d'Assise, opera (1975-83)
Livre du Saint Sacrement, organ (1984)
Petites esquisses d'oiseaux, piano (1985)
Un vitrail et des oiseaux, orchestra (1986)
Chant dans le Style Mozart, clarinet and piano (1986)
La ville d'En-haut, orchestra (1987)
Eclairs sur l'au-delà, orchestra (1988-92)
Un Sourire, orchestra (1989)
Concert à Quatre, flute, oboe, cello, piano and orchestra (1990-91)
Pièce pour piano et quatuor à cordes (1991)

Hymne des passereaux au lever du jour, clarinet (unknown date of composition)


WORKS BY GENRE                                    Messiaen  Links    ~ ~ ~    Messiaen on Messiaen     ~ top of page ~
Dramatic/Theater
Saint-François d'Assise, opera (1975-83)

Orchestra

Fugue in D Minor, orchestra (1928)
Le banquet eucharistique, orchestra (1928)
Simple chant d’une ame, orchestra (1930)
Trois offrandes oubliées, orchestra (1930) [piano version, 1930]
Le Tombeau resplendissant, orchestra (1931)
Hymne au Saint Sacrement, orchestra (1932)
L'Ascension, orchestra (1932) [organ version, 1934]
Trois Petites Liturgies de la Présence Divine, 18 sopranos, piano, ondes Martenot and orchestra (1944)
Turangalîla-Symphonie, orchestra, ondes Martenot and piano (1946-48)
Oiseaux exotiques, 2 clarinets, xylophone, percussion and wind orchestra (1956)
Chronochromie, orchestra (1960)
Sept Haïkaï, piano, xylophone, marimbas and small orchestra (1962)
Couleurs de la Cité céleste, piano, wind orchestra and percussions (1964)
Et exspecto resurrectionem mortuorum, winds, brass and percussion métalliques (1964)
Des canyons aux étoiles, horn, xylorimba, glockenspiel and orchestra (1970-74)
Un vitrail et des oiseaux, orchestra (1986)
La ville d'En-haut, orchestra (1987)
Eclairs sur l'au-delà, orchestra (1988-92)
Un Sourire, orchestra (1989)

Soloist(s) w/Orchestra
Trois Petites Liturgies de la Présence Divine, 18 sopranos, piano, ondes Martenot and orchestra (1944)
Réveil des oiseaux, for piano & orchestra (1953)
Concert à Quatre, flute, oboe, cello, piano and orchestra (1990-91)

Chorus w/Orchestra
La transfiguration de Notre Seigneur Jésus-Christ, chorus, orch, pf, vibraphone., marimba, xylorimba (1969)

Choral
La Jeunesse, chorus (1931)
O sacrum convivum!, chorus and organ (1937)
Choeurs pour une Jeanne d’Arc, chorus (1941)
Cinq Rechants, 12 voices a capella (1948)

Chamber
Fêtes des Belles Eaux, 6 Ondes Martenots (1937)
Quatuor pour la fin du temps, violin, clarinet, cello and piano (1940-41)
Pièce pour piano et quatuor à cordes (1991)

Solo Instrument
Hymne des passereaux au lever du jour, clarinet (unknown date of composition)
Theme et variations, violin and piano (1932)
Fantasie, violin & piano (1933)
Deux monodies en quarts de ton, Ondes Martenots (1938)
Musique de scène pour un Oedipe [Dieu est innocent], Ondes Martenot (1942)
Piéce, oboe and piano (1945)
Le merle noir, flute and piano (1951)
Le Tombeau de Jean-Pierre Guezec, horn (1971)
Chant dans le Style Mozart, clarinet and piano (1986)

Organ
Esquisse modale, organ (1927)
L'hôte aimable des âmes, organ (1928)
Prélude, organ (c.1928;discovered in 1997)
Le banquet céleste, organ (1928)
Variations écossaises, organ (1928)
Diptyque, organ (1930)
Offrande au Saint Sacrement, organ (1930/35)
Apparition de l'Eglise éternelle, organ (1932)
L'Ascension, orchestra (1932) [organ version, 1934]
La Nativité du seigneur, organ (1935)
Les corps glorieux, organ (1939)
Tristan et Yseult - Théme d'Amour, organ (1945)
Messe de la Pentecôte, organ (1949-50)
Livre d'orgue, organ (1951)
Verset pour la Fête de la Dédicace, organ (1960)
Monodie, organ (1963)
Méditations sur le mystère de la Sainte Trinité, organ (1969)
Livre du Saint Sacrement, organ (1984)

Piano
La dame de Shalott, piano (1917)
La tristesse d'un grand ciel blanc, piano (1925)
8 Preludes, piano (1928-29)
Trois offrandes oubliées, orchestra (1930) [piano version, 1930]
Fantaisie Burlesque, piano (1932)
Morceau, piano (1934)
Piece pour le tombeau de Paul Dukas, piano (1935)
Rondeau, piano (1943)
Visions de l'Amen, 2 pianos (1942)
Vingt regards sur l'enfant Jésus, piano (1944)
Canteyodjaya, piano (1948)
Quatre Études de rythme, piano (1949-50)
Catalogue d'oiseaux, piano (1956-58)
Prélude, piano (1964)
La fauvette des jardins, piano (1970)
Petites esquisses d'oiseaux, piano (1985)

Vocal
Deux ballades de Villon, voice and piano (1921)
Trois melodies, voice and piano (1930)
La mort du nombre, soprano, tenor, violin and piano (1930)
L'Ensorceleuse Cantate, soprano, tenor, bass and piano/orchestra (1931)
Mass, 8 sopranos and 4 violins (1933)
Vocalise, voice and piano (1935)
Poème pour Mi, soprano and piano (1936) [orchestral version, 1937]
Chants de terre et de ciel (song cycle), soprano and piano (1938)
Trois petites liturgies de la présence divine, 18 sopranos, piano, ondes Martenot and orchestra (1943-44)
Harawi, Chant d'Amour et de Mort, soprano and piano (1945)
Chant des déportés, voice and orchestra (1946)

Electronic
Timbres-durées, electronic/musique concrete (1952)


MESSIAEN  LINKS                                           Works by Genre    ~ ~ ~    Messiaen on Messiaen      ~ top of page ~
20th-Century Agenda: Messiaen (Alex Ross, The Rest is Noise)
An Early Christmas Present from Olivier Messiaen (Michael E. Lawrence, New Liturgical Movement)
Birdsongs: Olivier Messiaen (Paris Logue)
En souvenir . . . Olivier Messiaen, 1908-1992 (Gillian Weir)
French Composer Olivier Messiaen Turns 100 (Sarah Canice Funke, Suite101.com)
In Search of Olivier Messiaen (On an Overgrown Path)
Make a Joyful Noise (George Benjamin, The Guardian)
Messiaen at 100: Colours of Paradise (Robert Rival, New Creations Festival)
Messiaen Obituary: An Appreciation (Julian Anderson, The Musical Times)
Olivier Messiaen (Julie Williams, MusicWeb International)
Olivier Messiaen: A Force of Nature (Jessica Duchen, The Independent)
Olivier Messiaen – ‘Plain Old Propaganda’? (Peter Bannister, Thinking Faith)
Olivier Messiaen: A Research and Information Guide (Vincent Perez Benitez, books.google.com)
Olivier Messiaen: The Pursuit of Divine Dazzlement (Ivan Hewett, Telegraph)
Olivier Messiaen: Twenty Gazes on the Infant Jesus (Unborn Word of the Day)
Olivier Messiaen, Visionary (Stephen Brookes, The Washington Post)
Olivier Messiaen's Turangalîla (Philharmonia Orchestra)
The Poetry of Olivier Messiaen, on His Centennial (the glade of theoric ornithic hermetica)
Thoughts, Words, Music (Chandler Branch)

Composer website (Messiaen 2008)
Composer website (Boston University Messiaen Project, Andrew Shenton, editor)
Composer website (site by Malcolm Ball)

Messiaen @ Wikipedia
Messiaen @ About.com
Messiaen @ Allen Forte
Messiaen @ Answers.com
Messiaen @ Boosey & Hawkes
Messiaen @ Carnegie Hall    see also here
Messiaen @ Classic Cat
Messiaen @ Classical.com
Messiaen @ Classical Archives
Messiaen @ Classical Composers Database
Messiaen @ Classical Music Pages
Messiaen @ Classical Musical Midi Page
Messiaen @ Classical Net
Messiaen @ ClassicsToday
Messiaen @ composition:today
Messiaen @ Culture Catch
Messiaen @ Dr. Estrella's Incredibly Abridged Dictionary of Composers
Messiaen @ Essentials of Music
Messiaen @ Everything2
Messiaen @ Facebook
Messiaen @ Hauptwerk
Messiaen @ IMDb (Internet Movie Database)
Messiaen @ Infography
Messiaen @ InfoPlease
Messiaen @ Karadar Classical Music
Messiaen @ The Kennedy Center
Messiaen @ Mahalo
Messiaen @ Media Art Net
Messiaen @ Medieval Music & Arts Foundation
Messiaen @ Music & Vision
Messiaen @ Music Academy Online
Messiaen @ MusicWeb International    also    here
Messiaen @ MySpaceMusic
Messiaen @ NationMaster
Messiaen @ Naxos
Messiaen @ The New York Times
Messiaen @ NNDB
Messiaen @ W.W. Norton
Messiaen @ Philharmonia Orchestra
Messiaen @ Piano Society
Messiaen @ REAL.com
Messiaen @ REC Music Foundation /The Lied and Art Song Texts Page
Messiaen @ St Peter's Church, Nottingham
Messiaen @ SMCQ (Société de musique contemporaine du Québec)
Messiaen @ The Ensemble Sospeso
Messiaen @ Universal Edition
Messiaen @ VisWiki
Messiaen @ The Washington Post

Publisher
Messiaen @ Alphonse Leduc
Messiaen @ Durand
Messiaen @ Henry Lemoine
Messiaen @ Theodore Presser
Messiaen @ Universal Edition

Streaming Audio
Messiaen @ The Classical MIDI Connection
Messiaen @ Classical Music Archives
Messiaen @ Classical Musical Midi Page
Messiaen @ Kunst der Fuge
Messiaen @ last.fm
Messiaen @ NPRmusic
Messiaen @ PRX (Public Radio Exchange)
Messiaen @ Rhapsody
Messiaen @ WNYC

Recordings
Messiaen @ ArkivMusic
Messiaen @ CD Universe
Messiaen @ ClassicsOnline
Messiaen @ Discogs

Video
Messiaen @ YouTube
Messiaen @ Google Video
Messiaen @ Vimeo    also    here (via Google Advanced Search)
                                                                                                                                                                     ~ top of page ~
Messiaen on Messiaen: On Debussy and Colour (VIDEO)







Messiaen on Messiaen: On Birds I (VIDEO)







Messiaen on Messiaen: On Birds II (VIDEO)







. . . and check out more    Composers Speak on the Web    at Pytheas

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