VENERATION – Project Messiaen
Olivier Messiaen is doubtless one of the most important composers of the 20th century.
Moreover he understood himself as ornithologist and rhythmist who was able to recognize and differentiate between 700 different bird voices which he incorporated in many of his works (e.g. Catalogue d’Oiseaux). Furthermore he was a synesthete and could associate colors to sounds. Being professor at the Paris Conservatory Messiaen played an important role in the musical formation of many recognized artists such as Pierre Boulez and Karlheinz Stockhausen. His oeuvre comprises some of the most significant compositions written in music history: his „Quatuor pour la fin du temps“ is considered a key work of chamber music of the 20th century. Olivier Messiaen wrote numerous compositions für orchestra, chamber formations, piano and created a vast and rich repertory for organ.
His 60 year long activity as organist in Paris and his lifelong devotion to catholic faith mark his deep attachment to the church. Messiaen’s compositional style has been notably formed and influenced by lessons with teacher Paul Dukas as well as by the studies of works by Igor Stravinsky, Maurice Ravel and Claude Debussy:
as an eleven years old boy he was given a score of Debussy’s opera “Pelléas et Mélisande”, an event which Messiaen later described as “a thunderbolt” and “probably the most decisive influence on me“.
Moreover the french composer found inspiration coming from studies on numerology, indian rhythms, gregorian musicology and Gamelan sounds.
There are many parallels between Debussy and Messiaen: the two composers share the love for nature and its pastoral sceneries had a keen interest in exotical music as well as in ancient writings.
The „Visions de l’Amen“ were composed in 1943, shortly after Messiaen had been released from war inprisonment. Together with his wife Ivonne Loriod he performed his work over 40 times all throughout Europe.
Messiaen explains the different roles of the two piano parts as the following: he assigned the primo part all “rhythmic difficulties, chord clusters, all that has speed, charm, and quality of sound”.
The secondo part he assigned “the principal melody, thematic elements, all that demands emotion and strength“.
Claude Debussy had been asked by Pierre Louys to compose the music for the parisian premiere of greek poems by courtesan Bilitis- pieces of literature that had been translated into French by the young writer. Following his suggestion Debussy composed twelve short pieces for two flutes, two harps and celesta in 1901 which he could later utilize partly for the „Six épigraphs antiques“ for piano four hands.
The suite originates from Debussy’s late productive period and consists of six very different movements, whose titles reflect his interest in greek mythology and closeness to nature. Renouncing every kind of opulence he searched for pure and transparent sounds and created an utterly colorful and aesthetic piano version.
Claude Debussy :
Six épigraphes antiques
1.Pour invoquer Pan, dieu du vent d’été
2.Pour un tombeau sans nom
3.Pour que la nuit soit propice
4.Pour la danseuse aux crotale
6.Pour remercier la pluie au matin
Olivier Messiaen : Visions de l’Amen
1. Amen de la Création
2. Amen des étoiles, de la planète à l’anneau
3. Amen de l’agonie de Jésus
4. Amen du Désir
5. Amen des Anges, des Saints, du chant des oiseaux
6. Amen du Jugement
7. Amen de la Consommation