Giacomo Susani

Giacomo Susani
Giacomo Susani (Photo by Luciano Tomasin, 2015)

Tuesday, November 03, 2015

Olivier Messiaen: Quatuor pour la fin du temps – Trio Oriens, Richard Nunemaker (HD 1080p)

Trio Oriens & Richard Nunemaker

Messiaen was 31 years old when France entered World War II. He was captured by the German army in June 1940 and imprisoned in Stalag VIII-A, a prisoner-of-war camp in Görlitz, Germany (now Zgorzelec, Poland). While in transit to the camp, Messiaen showed the clarinetist Henri Akoka, also a prisoner, the sketches for what would become Abîme des oiseaux. Two other professional musicians, violinist Jean le Boulaire and cellist Étienne Pasquier, were among his fellow prisoners, and after he managed to obtain some paper and a small pencil from a sympathetic guard (Carl-Albert Brüll, 1902-1989), Messiaen wrote a short trio for them; this piece developed into the Quatuor for the same trio with himself at the piano. The combination of instruments is unusual, but not without precedent: Walter Rabl had composed for it in 1896, as had Paul Hindemith in 1938.

The quartet was premiered at the camp, outdoors and in the rain, on 15 January 1941. The musicians had decrepit instruments and an audience of about 400 fellow prisoners and guards. Messiaen later recalled: "Never was I listened to with such rapt attention and comprehension".

Brüll provided paper and isolation for composing, and he also helped acquire the three other instruments. By forging papers with a stamp made from a potato, Brüll even helped the performers to be liberated shortly after the performance. After the war, Brüll made a special trip to visit Messiaen, but was sent away and told the composer would not see him.


Ο Ολιβιέ Μεσιάν συνέθεσε το «Κουαρτέτο για το τέλος του χρόνου», ένα από τα σημαντικότερα έργα μουσικής δωματίου του 20ού αιώνα, κρατούμενος σε στρατόπεδο συγκέντρωσης στη Σιλεσία. O ασυνήθιστος συνδυασμός οργάνων (πιάνο, βιολί, βιολοντσέλο, κλαρινέτο) οφείλεται στις συνθήκες του στρατοπέδου – αυτοί οι μουσικοί υπήρχαν. Μετά από λίγες πρόβες που πάντα γίνονταν κάτω από πολύ δύσκολες συνθήκες, το έργο παρουσιάστηκε μπροστά σε εκατοντάδες κρατούμενους-ακροατές. Ο συνθέτης δήλωσε αργότερα ότι ποτέ άλλοτε κοινό δεν άκουσε έργο του με τόση προσοχή και κατανόηση. Στο συμβολικό αυτό έργο, με το οποίο έθεσε τα θεμέλια για καινοτομίες που θα επηρέαζαν τη μουσική μετά το '50, ο συνθέτης πέτυχε τη σύζευξη θρησκευτικού και μουσικού βιώματος, αναζητώντας τα τεχνικά μέσα απόδοσης μιας κεντρικής για το έργο του σκέψης: της άρσης του χρόνου με μια φευγαλέα ματιά στην αιωνιότητα. Απέδειξε ότι, ακόμη και σε ακραίες συνθήκες, ο άνθρωπος μπορεί να διατηρήσει την αξιοπρέπειά του και να απελευθερωθεί από ένα βασανιστικό παρόν.

Το «Κουαρτέτο για το τέλος του χρόνου» του Ολιβιέ Μεσιάν ερμηνεύουν το εξαιρετικό Trio Oriens (με μουσικούς από την Ταϊβάν) και ο διακεκριμένος Αμερικανός κλαρινετίστας Richard Nunemaker.

Olivier Messiaen (1908-1992)

♪ Quatuor pour la fin du temps / Quartet for the end of time (1940-1941)

i. Liturgie de cristal
ii. Vocalise pour l'ange qui annonce la fin du temps
iii. Abîme des oiseaux
iv. Intermède
v. Louange à l'éternité de Jésus
vi. Danse de la fureur pour les 7 trompettes
vii. Fouillis d'arcs-en-ciel pour l'ange qui annonce la fin du temps
viii. Louange à l'immortalité de Jésus

Richard Nunemaker, clarinet

Trio Oriens:
Johnny Chang, violin
Olive Chen, cello
I-Ling Chen, piano

St Thomas University, Houston, November 15, 2011

(HD 1080p)

First publication: November 3, 2015 – Last update: November 9, 2017

Olivier Messiaen, 1945
Olivier Messiaen was born in Avignon; his father taught English, his mother was a poet. During the First World War the family moved to Grenoble in the French Alps – a landscape to which Messiaen would constantly return throughout his life in order to compose. The other constant in his life was a deep Catholic faith, which he found early and which never left him.

In 1919 Messiaen entered the Paris Conservatoire, where his teachers included Marcel Dupré (organ and improvisation) and Paul Dukas (composition). There he discovered the key elements of his composing technique: Indian rhythmic cycles, and "modes of limited transposition" (exotic scales constructed differently from the traditional Western major and minor ones). Le banquet céleste (1928) for organ, a set of piano Préludes (1928-1929) and the orchestral Les offrandes oubliées (1930) already show the trademark features of Messiaen's mature style: slow meditation in richly refracted chord-sequences (as an image of eternity); bounding dances of despair or joy; and irregular, objectively unfolding rhythmic sequences (another image of timelessness in musical time).

In 1931 Messiaen was appointed organist at the church of La Trinité in Paris, a post he held until his death. Major statements from this period were La Nativité du Seigneur (1935) and Les corps glorieux (1939) for organ, and the song-cycles Poèmes pour Mi (1936) and Chants de terre et de ciel (1938). When the Second World War broke out, Messiaen was called up as a medical orderly, captured, and sent to a prison camp in Germany. There he met up with a violinist, a cellist and a clarinettist, for whom he wrote the Quatuor pour la fin du temps (1940-1941). The premiere took place, in freezing conditions and with the composer playing a decrepit upright piano, before an audience of fellow-prisoners in Stalag VIIIA.

Repatriated to France, Messiaen taught at the Paris Conservatoire, where his pupils included Yvonne Loriod, his future second wife. Her dazzling pianism helped to inspire the cascade of works that followed – among them Visions de l'Amen (1943) for two pianos, the solo piano cycle Vingt regards sur l'Enfant-Jésus (1944) and the Turangalîla-Symphonie (1946-1948) for large orchestra, piano and ondes martenot. Stimulating contact with the European avant-garde engendered more piano and organ music (notably Livre d'orgue, 1951) and the orchestral Chronochromie (1959-1960). And Messiaen's love of birdsong – for him, a symbol of the resurrected soul in flight – flowered in the piano cycle Catalogue d'oiseaux (1956-1958).

Et exspecto resurrectionem mortuorum (1964) for wind and percussion introduced a monumental, apocalyptic element that pointed towards Messiaen's later works. These included huge, multi-faceted proclamations of his faith that drew together every aspect of his style: the choral and orchestral La Transfiguration de Notre Seigneur Jésus-Christ (1965-1969); Des canyons aux étoiles... (1971-1974) for piano, horn, xylorimba, glockenspiel and chamber orchestra; an immense opera-as-fresco, Saint Francis of Assisi (1975-1983); and the orchestral cycle Éclairs sur l'Au-delà... (1988-1992).

Source: Malcolm Hayes (

Olivier Messiaen (1908-1992)

See also

Olivier Messiaen: Quatuor pour la fin du temps – Martin Fröst, Lucas Debargue, Janine Jansen, Torleif Thedéen (Download 96kHz/24bit & 44.1kHz/16bit)

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