Olivier Messiaen
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1908-12-10
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Olivier Messiaen

Olivier Messiaen Biography (BBC)

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 (1928–9) 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 (1940–41). 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 (1946–8) 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 (1959–60). And Messiaen’s love of birdsong – for him, a symbol of the resurrected soul in flight – flowered in the piano cycle Catalogue d’oiseaux (1956–8).

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 (1965–9); Des canyons aux étoiles … (1971–4) for piano, horn, xylorimba, glockenspiel and chamber orchestra; an immense opera-as-fresco, Saint Francis of Assisi (1975–83); and the orchestral cycle Éclairs sur l’Au-delà … (1988–92).

Profile © Malcolm Hayes

Olivier Messiaen Biography (Wikipedia)

Olivier Eugène Prosper Charles Messiaen (,,; December 10, 1908 – April 27, 1992) was a French composer, organist, and ornithologist, one of the major composers of the 20th century. His music is rhythmically complex; harmonically and melodically he employs a system he called modes of limited transposition, which he abstracted from the systems of material generated by his early compositions and improvisations. He wrote music for chamber ensembles and orchestra, vocal music, as well as for solo organ and piano, and also experimented with the use of novel electronic instruments developed in Europe during his lifetime.

He travelled widely and wrote works inspired by diverse influences ranging from Japanese music, the landscape of Bryce Canyon in Utah and the life of St. Francis of Assisi. He said he perceived colours when he heard certain musical chords (a phenomenon known as synaesthesia in its literal manifestation); combinations of these colours, he said, were important in his compositional process. For a short period Messiaen experimented with the parametrisation associated with "total serialism", in which field he is often cited as an innovator. His style absorbed many global musical influences such as Indonesian gamelan (tuned percussion often features prominently in his orchestral works).

This entry is from Wikipedia, the user-contributed encyclopedia. It may not have been reviewed by professional editors and is licensed under an Attribution-ShareAlike Creative Commons License. If you find the biography content factually incorrect or highly offensive you can edit this article at Wikipedia. Find out more about our use of this data.



Olivier Messiaen Tracks

Olivier Messiaen
Le Merle Noir
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Le Merle Noir

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Olivier Messiaen
La Nativité du Seigneur: 9. Dieu parmi nous (extract)
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La Nativité du Seigneur: 9. Dieu parmi nous (extract)
Olivier Messiaen
Vingt Regards sur l'enfant-Jésus, 3rd Mvt
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Vingt Regards sur l'enfant-Jésus, 3rd Mvt
Olivier Messiaen
O sacrum convivium
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O sacrum convivium
Olivier Messiaen
Selection from Vingt Regards sur l'enfant-Jésus
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Selection from Vingt Regards sur l'enfant-Jésus
Olivier Messiaen
Theme and Variations for violin and piano
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Theme and Variations for violin and piano
Olivier Messiaen
Des Canyons Aux Étoiles
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Des Canyons Aux Étoiles
Olivier Messiaen
Des canyons aux etoiles
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Des canyons aux etoiles
Olivier Messiaen
Quatuor pour la fin du temps for clarinet, piano, violin and cello
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Quatuor pour la fin du temps for clarinet, piano, violin and cello
Olivier Messiaen
Turangalila-symphonie
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Turangalila-symphonie
Olivier Messiaen
Turangalila-symphonie
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Turangalila-symphonie
Olivier Messiaen
Turangalila-symphonie
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Turangalila-symphonie
Olivier Messiaen
Feuillets inedits for Ondes Martenot and piano
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Feuillets inedits for Ondes Martenot and piano
Olivier Messiaen
Des Canyons aux etoiles for piano, horn and orchestra
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Des Canyons aux etoiles for piano, horn and orchestra
Olivier Messiaen
Des Canyons aux etoiles for piano, horn and orchestra
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Des Canyons aux etoiles for piano, horn and orchestra
Olivier Messiaen
Des Canyons aux etoiles for piano, horn and orchestra
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Des Canyons aux etoiles for piano, horn and orchestra
Olivier Messiaen
Trois petites liturgies de la Presence Divine: 1. Antienne de la conversation intérieure
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Trois petites liturgies de la Presence Divine: 1. Antienne de la conversation intérieure
Olivier Messiaen
Turangalila symphony (Finale)
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Turangalila symphony (Finale)
Olivier Messiaen
Louange à l'Éternité de Jésus (No 5, Quatuor pour la fin du temps)
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Louange à l'Éternité de Jésus (No 5, Quatuor pour la fin du temps)
Olivier Messiaen
Joie du sang des etoiles from Turangalila
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Joie du sang des etoiles from Turangalila
Olivier Messiaen
Praise to the Eternity of Jesus (Quartet for the End of Time)
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Praise to the Eternity of Jesus (Quartet for the End of Time)
Olivier Messiaen
Quartet for the End of Time
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Quartet for the End of Time
Olivier Messiaen
Abîme des oiseaux (Quatuor pour la fin du temps)
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Abîme des oiseaux (Quatuor pour la fin du temps)
Olivier Messiaen
Turangalila Symphony - V Joie du Sang des Etoiles
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Turangalila Symphony - V Joie du Sang des Etoiles
Olivier Messiaen
Le Merle Noir
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Le Merle Noir
Olivier Messiaen
L'Ascension (Alleluia sur la trompette)
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L'Ascension (Alleluia sur la trompette)
Olivier Messiaen
Transports de joie (L'Ascension)
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Transports de joie (L'Ascension)
Olivier Messiaen
Quatuor pour la fin du temps: V. Louange à l'Eternité de Jésus
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Quatuor pour la fin du temps: V. Louange à l'Eternité de Jésus
Olivier Messiaen
Vingt Regards sur L'Enfant-Jesus: XX. Regard de l'eglise d'amour
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Vingt Regards sur L'Enfant-Jesus: XX. Regard de l'eglise d'amour
Olivier Messiaen
Quatuor pour la fin du temps - 8th mvt: Louange a l'immortalite de Jesus
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Quatuor pour la fin du temps - 8th mvt: Louange a l'immortalite de Jesus
Olivier Messiaen
Catalogue d'Oiseaux Book 1 - 2. Le loriot
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Catalogue d'Oiseaux Book 1 - 2. Le loriot
Olivier Messiaen
Un Oiseau des arbres de vie (Oiseau tui)
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Un Oiseau des arbres de vie (Oiseau tui)
Olivier Messiaen
Poemes pour mi
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Poemes pour mi
Olivier Messiaen
Joie du sang des étoiles (Turangalîla-Symphonie)
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Joie du sang des étoiles (Turangalîla-Symphonie)
Olivier Messiaen
Excerpts from 'Vingt Regards sur l'enfant-Jésus'
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Excerpts from 'Vingt Regards sur l'enfant-Jésus'
Olivier Messiaen
Preludes
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Preludes
Olivier Messiaen
Cantéyodjayâ
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Cantéyodjayâ
Olivier Messiaen
Turangalila (Finale)
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Turangalila (Finale)
Olivier Messiaen
Quatuor pour la fin du temps - Intermede
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Quatuor pour la fin du temps - Intermede

Quatuor pour la fin du temps - Intermede

Performer
Maryvonne Le Dizes, Pierre Strauch and Alain Damiens
Olivier Messiaen
Turangalila Symphony: v) Joie du sang des Etoiles
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Turangalila Symphony: v) Joie du sang des Etoiles
Olivier Messiaen
Quatuor pour la fin du temps; no.8; Louange a l'immortalite de Jesus
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Quatuor pour la fin du temps; no.8; Louange a l'immortalite de Jesus
Olivier Messiaen
Turangalila Symphony: VI. Jardin du sommeil d'amour
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Turangalila Symphony: VI. Jardin du sommeil d'amour
Olivier Messiaen
Quartet for the End of Time
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Quartet for the End of Time

Quartet for the End of Time

Performer
Annalien Van Wauwe
Ensemble
Amatis Trio
Olivier Messiaen
Turangalila Symphony (7th mvt) (excerpt)
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Turangalila Symphony (7th mvt) (excerpt)
Olivier Messiaen
Dieu parmi nous (La Nativité du Seigneur)
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Dieu parmi nous (La Nativité du Seigneur)
Olivier Messiaen
O sacrum convivium
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O sacrum convivium
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