Sunday, August 21, 2011

Messiaen and the Quartet for the End of Time

Olivier Messiaen was a 20th Century French composer.  During World War II, he was taken as a prisoner of war by the Nazis and spent a good amount of time in a Nazi prison camp, and it was during this time that he composed "Quartet for the End of Time."

The piece was even first performed in a German prison camp.

It is in eight movements, and it expresses the perception that the world around him was ending.  A lot of people likely thought that the Nazis were bringing about the end of all things, and hope is a rare commodity in a Nazi prison camp.

Here I've included only one of the movements, this one titled "Praise to the Eternity of Jesus."  Keep in mind that this was composed and first performed while he was a prisoner of war.  The human mind never ceases to amaze me.


Karen Howes said...

What a cool post, Jack, thanks! I'm ashamed to admit I was totally unaware of Messiaen and his music before now.

The piece is properly somber.

Karen Howes said...

BTW, is that Yo Yo Ma?

Karen Howes said...

Nope, it isn't-- never mind. :-)

Jack Camwell said...

I didn't know about it until a friend of mine who is a composer told me about it.

I highly encourage you to listen to all 8 movements. It's very interesting.

Anonymous said...

Hey, Jack!

Wonderful to learn that you are a fellow devotee of serious music. There aren't many of us around these days. I left you a post just a few moments ago on the Stravinsky thread hoping it was better late than never.

This Messiaen -- and your observations about it -- are glorious. "Intensely serene" is the way I would have to describe the movement you posted. Reaches great depths. Marvellous!

I studied piano at Juilliard Preparatory School as a child, and went on to take two degrees in piano performance and composition. In addition to giving concerts I also spent over forty years playing and composing music for the Church. I started paying services at age 12, believe it or not. The Church has been a central focus of my existence, but mostly because of the fantastic music I got exposed to there from early childhood. Music is the express route to spiritual awareness. Goethe, Albert Schweitzer and Albert Einstein -- among others -- agree with me on that.

Anyway, Messiaen has been most familiar to me as a composer of brilliant, deeply expressive organ music. If you've never heard Eternal Designs, The Outburst of Joy and the Celestial Banquet, I'm sure you'd enjoy them.

Thanks for sharing this part of yourself with us. Great Music, Art, Architecture, Literature and Growing Plants are the only things that give me any hope for the future.

~ FreeThinke

Jack Camwell said...

That's very interesting to know about you FreeThinke.

Although I have no formal training in music or composition, I'm glad to know people like you who do =)

I read your other response to the Stravinsky piece, and my friend makes me listen to Berg and Schoenberg as well. I'm lucky to have such friends who can expand my horizons.

Did you miss my posting about Beethoven's string quartet 132?